Social welfare, equity, and inclusivity are core to Tamil Nadu’s DMK-led Government. TN Budget 2022-23 builds on these ideals and has proposed several new initiatives for urban transport and urban development.
Here’s our take on what these proposals could do, why we’re glad for some, and what we recommend for others.
An amount of Rs.322 crore has been provided towards post-matric scholarship for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities students and an amount of Rs.162 crore towards supply of free bicycles, in this Budget.
Why we’re glad
Bicycles can enable students to easily access education and other opportunities. As India moves towards a net-zero future, it is crucial that we encourage low-to-zero emission modes such as walking, cycling, and public transport.
Along with the free bicycles, it is also important to provide the right ecosystem and infrastructure that support cycling, not just for students but for everyone! Creating a network of safe cycle lanes, making junctions safer, developing cycling-friendly neighborhoods, allocating cycle parking stands, and providing affordable cycle repairs are a few steps that cities can take.
The Government will develop 500 parks to create public recreational spaces and enhance the quality of life in urban areas.
Why we’re glad
Chennai currently has less than 10% of the national standard of open space per person.*
Since COVID-19, there’s been great emphasis on protecting and preserving our physical and mental health, and parks enable and maintain active lifestyles. Not just that, parks and green spaces help boost local economies, revitalize neighborhoods, lower crime, and also prevent flooding.
* Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines
The 50-metre wide stretch of land adjoining the eastern side of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) from Minjur to Vandalur with a length of 62 kms will be developed as a Development Corridor.
This presents a unique opportunity to design safe, compact, vibrant, and mixed-use neighbourhoods that connect people with work and play without the hassle of long commutes.
Developing robust local area plans with a well-designed network of walking, cycling, and public transport facilities that reduce dependence on personal motor vehicles can go a long way in creating and sustaining healthy and happy communities.
In order to encourage transit-oriented development (TOD) in certain corridors such as metro rail, suburban rail, national highways and bye pass roads, the Government has decided to raise the existing Floor Space Index (FSI) in adjoining areas.
TOD brings people, activities, buildings, and public spaces together, with shorter walking and cycling connections between them and high-quality public transport to the rest of the city. When TOD planning is inclusive, people of all ages, genders, abilities, and income levels thrive. We hope that CMDA’s Third Master Plan will achieve that in Chennai!
While the initiative is great, TOD is easier conceptualised than implemented. For a successful TOD, interdisciplinary elements such as infrastructure, street, building planning, and design, building codes, regulation reform, and finance must be aligned. This requires participation from decision & policymakers, experts, developers & investors, future residents, and civic organisations.
As a result of the announcement by the Hon’ble Chief Minister to provide free bus service to women, the share of women passengers has increased from 40 per cent to 61 per cent. The scheme has had a huge impact on the socio-economic status of women. In the Budget, Rs.1,520 crore will be provided as subsidies towards free bus travel for women, Rs.928 crore as subsidy for student concession in bus fare and Rs.1,300 crore as diesel subsidy.
The scheme has empowered several women, transgender people, and persons with disabilities. In Chennai’s MTC Ordinary Bus services alone, they have benefitted with over 16.3 crore free tickets.
However, these buses tend to be overcrowded, and clearly, we need more frequent Ordinary Services. By using ITDP India’s People-Near-Transit Analysis Methodology, TN cities can map frequent bus services and their coverage, understand the gaps, and augment the fleet accordingly. Our analysis shows that 4 out of 10 people in Chennai do not have access to frequent buses within a 10-min walking distance.
Under the ‘Climate-Friendly Modernisation of Buses in Major Cities of Tamil Nadu’ Project being implemented with KfW assistance, 2,213 BS-VI new diesel buses and 500 new electric buses will be procured.
Expanding our fleet with over 2700 low-to-zero emissions buses is a great start, but we still need many more buses. As per MoHUA’s benchmark of 60 buses/lakh population, Tamil Nadu’s 8 major cities (Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy, Salem, Erode, Tiruppur & Tirunelveli) need an additional 12,900 buses (including 4,600 buses as a replacement for the old fleet).
However, amidst the unending traffic caused by cars and motorcycles, bus passengers suffer too. What if our buses could move in their own lane, separate from all that congestion? More on this in our next recommendation.
To decongest the increasing traffic on the East Coast Road, it is necessary to widen the four-lane road up to Akkarai as a six-lane road…The remaining stretches covering Neelangarai, Injambakkam and Sholinganallur villages will be widened to six-lane at a cost of Rs.135 crore.
Data shows that widening roads does not reduce traffic congestion, rather increases it.
Wide roads attract more vehicles and high speeds-the biggest reason for road crash deaths in Tamil Nadu. Chennai must use traffic calming methods, create well-designed footpaths & cycle lanes, provide crossings, refuge islands, and other facilities to ensure that the ECR stretch is safe and comfortable for all.
Instead of adding more lanes for cars and two-wheelers, Chennai should focus on creating quick-to-install ‘dedicated lanes’ for buses. These bus lanes reduce travel time by 20-30% during peak hour traffic, and help increase ridership and revenue (Bangalore’s NIMBUS saw a 64% increase in ticketing revenue!).
Last year, the TN Budget outlined several reformative initiatives, and Budget 22-23 continues to do that with progressive proposals- such as TOD planning, free cycle schemes, more parks and open spaces, subsidies for bus travel, and more green & clean buses.
ITDP India is committed to supporting Tamil Nadu in its transformation and helping create healthy streets and healthy cities all across the state. We are hopeful that Tamil Nadu’s cities will leverage the initiatives announced in the budget, and become thriving centres for life.