Over the past two decades, cities of Tamil Nadu have seen a rapid increase in personal motor vehicles. This has been, in large part, due to the lack of investment in creating quality infrastructure for walking, cycling, and public transport, along with little or no regulation of motor vehicle parking.
Streets are getting more congested with every passing day and air is turning unbreathable. Road crashes and fatalities are at an all-time high; Tamil Nadu is at the top of the list in India. But now, a small revolution seems to be on the anvil: a state-led programme that aims to transform urban roads into ‘Complete Streets’ in cities across the state.
Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu Commissionerate of Municipal Administration (CMA), with technical assistance from ITDP India Programme, initiated the Transforming Tamil Nadu project. ITDP began working with ten of the state’s most populous cities other than Chennai—Coimbatore, Erode, Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Tiruppur, Trichy, and Vellore —to create Complete Streets master plans.
Based on this, the state has now announced its intentions to raise financing of the order of Rs 20,000 crore to redevelop 1,700 km of urban streets to improve safety, accessibility, and liveability for all road users.
Why complete streets make cities smart
As of 2018, Tamil Nadu has around 25 million registered motorised vehicles and are growing annually at 2.5%, surpassing the state’s population growth. While personal motor vehicles—two-wheeled as well as four-wheeled—account for approximately 90% of the total vehicle fleet, they serve only 28% of the daily trips made by people of Tamil Nadu. In contrast, 67% of all trips are made on foot, cycle, and public transport—modes of transport that efficiently use limited street space and are environment-friendly. Yet, thus far, transport planning and the design of streets has been unfriendly to these modes.
Here is where concepts such as Complete Streets help cities meet these sustainable development expectations. Not only do they support sustainable transport modes such as walking and cycling, but the design standards also lay emphasis on equal access to streets—regardless of their age, gender, ability, or mode of transportation.
The main components of Complete Streets are the wide and continuous footpaths, safe pedestrian crossings, separate cycle tracks (where applicable), bus stops designed to enhance convenience, designated on-street parking, organised street vending, and properly-scaled carriageways.
These streets are designed to offer the best of convenience and comfort based on local needs and offer spaces for relaxation, recreation, and interaction. And in the process, ensuring safety through equitable allocation of space for all users, keeping emission levels at a check, and promoting sustainable means of transport among the community.
Getting things started on the ground
In April 2018, the ITDP India Programme, in association with GIZ Smart-SUT, conducted a state-level workshop on ‘Designing streets for walking and cycling’ on behalf of the CMA. Commissioners and senior municipal staff from all ten cities learnt about the need for Complete Streets and the way to plan and implement them.
Realising the transformative potential of Complete Streets, the CMA launched the Transforming Tamil Nadu project. The cities were commissioned to engage with ITDP India Programme to identify, map, plan, and implement city-wide networks of Complete Streets that prioritise walking, cycling, and access to public transport.
Over a period of nine months, the India Programme held ten workshops that saw participation by over 300 officials.
These workshops helped facilitate a joint discussion between various stakeholders—corporation engineers, Traffic Police, Highways Department, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL),Tamil Nadu Water Supply And Drainage Board (TWAD), as well as civil society organisations—to work together to develop a joint vision for their city’s future.
Each of these interactions began with sensitising the officials, as most were naturally inclined to believe that motor vehicles dominated the paradigm of urban planning. They were presented with statistics that represented the present conditions. One such tidbit: a third of all trips in Tamil Nadu are made on foot! But how many footpaths are designed to cater to pedestrians or how many streets even have footpaths for that matter?!
This dialogue left a resounding impact on the audience.
Once the foundation to the concept was laid, officials were engaged in a participative mapping exercise to identify streets for redevelopment. This exercise allowed various authorities to work in collaboration, and deliberate upon conceptual walking and cycling network plans for their respective city. The data that came about, by means of this participatory session, was processed into GIS maps and analysed to understand block estimates about the streets available for transformation and tentative project budget.
As a result of this mapping exercise, officials from these then cities identified a network of 1,700 km of streets that could be transformed into sustainable, liveable spaces!
How things are shaping up
“Over the past two years, we’ve spent over Rs 20,000 crore in providing basic infrastructure with projects worth Rs 50,000 crore in the pipeline. In addition to that we require about Rs 20,000 crore for development of Smart Roads, which we are seeking from development banks,” said the state minister for Municipal Affairs and Water Supply (MAWS) and Implementation for Special Projects, Thiru SP Velumani, at a workshop held on 21 December 2018.
The workshop, conducted in partnership with Asian Development Bank, aimed to sensitise officials from urban local bodies on the Governance Improvement and Awareness Component (GIAC) of the Tamil Nadu Urban Flagship Investment Program (TNUFIP).
ITDP India Programme’s work with these ten cities helped in identifying a draft network of 1,700 km of city streets to be redeveloped into Complete Streets. Given the potential of this initiative, the Tamil Nadu government is reaching out to prospective funders. To set precedent, ITDP India Programme will work with GIZ Smart-SUT to create detailed city-wide plans for walking and cycling in three pilot cities which will then be scaled to the other cities.
As stressed upon by the CMA, during this workshop, these streets will have to be redesigned as per complete street design standards for underground utility and surface design, to gage a lasting impact on the liveability of the city.
As it is said, action speaks louder than words and Tamil Nadu’s action details its aspiration to become the walking and cycling capital of India. This giant leap by the state to create high-quality city-wide networks of Complete Streets for its citizens is commendable!
Written by Rohit James
Edited by Kashmira Medhora Dubash
“I used to take my two-wheeler to travel the 3 kilometers between my house and the railway station. I’m now able to walk the stretch, thanks to the continuous footpath. Best part – I’ve lost 5 kilos and my diabetes!” Mr. Manimaran, a resident of Egmore in Chennai, is thrilled at the tremendous change that a safer and better footpath has brought about in his life.
The year 2017 witnessed many such impactful changes in the field of sustainable transportation all around the country, including cities which ITDP India Programme has been closely working with. Thanking all our supporters, we take a look at the year that passed by.
Pune broke ground on its ambitious Complete Streets networks – a 100km-network with its own financial resources and 45km through support from the National Smart Cities Mission. The first phase of these street design projects on JM Road and DP Road has already been lauded by the country, owing to the vibrancy of these redesigned streets. Pune’s Bicycle Plan, recently approved by the General Body, paves way for the creation of a 300km bicycle-track network in the city.
Having accomplished over 40km of Complete Streets, Chennai initiated the next phase of street design by inviting tenders in late October to redesign 22km of streets. The city tested out the design of 5 key intersections through a tactical urbanism approach – quick, temporary, on-ground interventions. Chennai also conducted another trial run of the proposed pedestrian plaza in Pondy Bazaar, the success of which fetched the project a sanction of of Rs 55 crores (~US $9 million) under the Smart Cities Mission.
Smaller cities have also made remarkable progress this year in their Complete Streets programmes – Nashik appointed nationally-acclaimed urban designers to redesign its proposed street network of 50 kilometers, with 10 kilometers tendered out; and Coimbatore commenced construction of its Model Roads and hosted an interactive exhibition to inform the people of the design of the roads while collecting feedback. Coimbatore also started developing detailed implementation plans for its Greenways and Lake Restoration Project, which includes a 30km network of greenways (exclusive walking and cycling infrastructure) that crisscross the city and connect 8 water bodies.
Becoming one of the pioneering cities in parking management in the country, Ranchi implemented a progressive on-street parking management system on its busiest thoroughfare, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, with a twelve-fold increase in revenue. Inspired by the success of the pilot, the city has proposed to refine and expand the system to cover all key locations. The state of Jharkhand has also proposed to adopt a state-level parking policy.
Chennai recently invited tenders to select an operator for its proposed on-street parking management system covering 12000 equivalent car spaces on Bus Route Roads across the city. Since Pune is also working towards parking management, ITDP, in collaboration with GIZ-SUTP, facilitated and managed a two-day workshop on the topic, with international parking expert, Dr Paul Barter in the city. Participants included municipal officials, traffic police, public officials from other agencies as well as various local stakeholders.
An increase in demand for better public transport has provided the fillip to cities across the country to increase and improve their transit services. Chennai made considerable advancement in its BRT planning, with the interim report for Phase I approved by the state and a series of public consultation programmes organised to explain the significance of BRT to people and get their feedback on the various corridors.
In Pune, around 130 crore rupees was sanctioned to construct 13 new bus terminals to facilitate better integration of bus services with the proposed Metro Rail network. The city also commenced work on expanding the existing 38km Rainbow BRT by an additional 15km. Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) initiated the process of adding 200 feeder buses to its fleet, to improve connectivity between the city and the surrounding towns.
Public bicycle sharing (PBS) is emerging as a popular mode of public transit across the country. Pune piloted a dockless PBS system with 275 bicycles and signed an MoU with 4 vendors dealing with dockless systems. Two other cities are preparing for the installation of a PBS system – Ranchi and Chennai invited operators to submit proposals for setting up 1264 bicycles in 122 stations (Phase 1) and 5000 bicycles in 378 designated parking areas, respectively.
Successful and sustained on-ground changes invariably require the backing of well-framed guidelines, policies and financial plans – 2017 was marked by many of these. Two sets of guidelines – the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) planning and design guidelines, and the Guidelines on Control and Regulation of Mixed Traffic in Urban Areas – prepared by ITDP, were approved by the apex committee of the Indian Roads Congress. These guidelines will apply for all cities across India and guide them towards low-carbon mobility.
The Government of Jharkhand adopted an inclusive TOD policy that focuses on equitable development of cities in the state, so that a majority of the population lives and works in areas with safe and accessible walking and cycling facilities integrated with reliable and high-quality public transport.
The Government of Maharashtra published a draft of the State Urban Transport Policy, which promotes low-carbon & equitable mobility and urban development by prioritising public transport (PT) and non-motorised transport (NMT). Furthermore, over half of Pune’s total transportation budget of 1100 crore rupees was allocated towards sustainable transport development for the financial year 2017-18. In the South, Coimbatore adopted a Street Design and Management Policy that focuses on creating equitable and sustainable mobility options and expanding their use.
The realisation that sustainable urban development will remain elusive without integrating women’s safety and comfort in urban transport, has generated momentum to include gender as a key factor in transport planning. Bringing this subject to the fore and as a first of its kind, a paper on Women and Transport in Indian Cities was created by ITDP and Safetipin, and released at a national workshop on gender and transit conducted by the two organisations. This paper identifies indicators, service level benchmarks and processes for integrating a gender perspective in urban transport projects, policies and programs along with good practice case studies.
2017 was a year of radical planning indeed, with many grand plans conceived, developed and initiated for sustainable transportation. With all these plans set to materialize in the coming months, 2018 will be a year of implementation and tangible transformation. Looking forward to a great year ahead: Happy New Year!
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a splash two years ago when he announced a plan to tackle his nation’s expected rapid urbanization. 100 smart cities would bloom across the world’s second most populous country, with the first 20 serving as “lighthouses” that would inspire the estimated 4,000 cities that are home to one-third of the population – a share that is expected to climb to over 40% by 2030.
Enshrined in a flagship program called the Smart Cities Mission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched a city challenge with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. In an effort to change entrenched corruption at the municipal level, cities would compete against each other to deliver the best proposals for a share of a whopping US$15 billion allocated by parliament.
As the ministry’s Secretary for Smart Cities, Sameer Sharma is at the nerve center of this massive undertaking. ITDP spoke with him about how India has refined the smart city concept.
ITDP: The theme of the recent MOBILIZE Santiago conference was “just and inclusive cities become the new normal.” How do Indian cities measure up to this ideal?
Sameer Sharma: India’s Smart Cities Challenge invited cities to propose developments that transform existing areas, including slums, into better-planned ones, or explore the potential for new development of greenfield sites outside city boundaries to accommodate a growing urban population. Apart from setting the core objective of improving basic hard and soft infrastructure and introducing smart solutions to Indian cities, the Smart Cities Mission set out a broader ambition to “improve quality of life, create employment and enhance income for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities. ”
Contrary to the assumption that smart cities project would only be taken up in affluent areas, most cities have chosen neighbourhoods with substantial slum areas, dense and ill-provisioned inner city zones, and railway stations. For example, slum redevelopment forms a major component of the Ahmedabad plan. The redevelopment proposal for Wadaj slum includes housing for 8,000 slum dwellers and development of a community centre, schools, aanganwadis [mother and child care center], and complete infrastructure improvement including open spaces in the area. 12 out of the 20 lighthouse cities have cumulatively proposed affordable housing projects offering around 55,000 housing units.
ITDP: What do you see as the role that the national government should play in helping cities achieve these goals?
Sameer Sharma: The London School of Economics studied India’s Smart City Challenge and found that it was perceived as being instrumental in promoting a degree of agency and flexibility for city governments and encouraging them to take initiative while operating within an established federal framework. Many respondents felt that the competitive component of the Smart Cities Challenge allowed cities considerable space to develop their proposals. This greater flexibility was also reinforced by the encouragement to identify financing mechanisms independent from state or national sources.
The Smart Cities Mission was perceived as a localized program that gave city governments the space to shape their city’s proposals without much intervention from the central government. This can be attributed to the center’s capacity building initiatives, and the competitive format itself that generated enthusiasm and involvement at the municipal level. On the whole, the central government’s role in the competition phase appeared to be limited to competition guidelines and capacity building exercises through which it shared best practices, ideas and modes of financing projects. Overall, the Smart Cities Challenge signaled a shift in the balance of power between city, state, and central government.
How do you define smart cities? What are the key things that make a city smart?
A smart city has a different connotation in India than in, say, Europe. Even in India, a smart city means different things to different people and the conceptualization of a smart city varies from city to city, state to state, and region to region, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, and resources and aspirations of the city residents. No single definition can capture the diverse conceptualizations of city residents, especially in the unique Indian culture containing dynamic, diverse, and contextual rules in use. A survey by the Center for Study of Science, Technology & Policy found that there are nearly four-dozen ways of defining a smart city. Therefore, the Indian Smart City Mission did not start with a definition of a smart city but invited cities, through a competition, to define their idea of “smartness” and the pathway to achieve it.
As a result, drawing on the Smart City Challenge proposals, the following definition has been derived: The Indian Smart Cities Mission adapted and redefined the global discourse around ‘Smart Cities’ to create its own unique take on a ‘Smart City’, one that features but is not centered exclusively on technology and includes a strong emphasis on area-based development, citizen preferences, and basic infrastructure and services.
What cities around the world are you most interested in today? Who is doing innovative work in your field?
Several cities are doing remarkable work in the field of ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’ urban development. I am impressed with Copenhagen on walkability, Adelaide for place-making, integrated command and control centers in New York and Berlin, how Oakland has tackled liveability, Bilbao’s strategies for urban renewal, and Barcelona’s overall urban transformation.
Is the challenge approach fueling innovation within Indian Cities?
An important innovation in the competition process was that it allowed state governments to select cities to participate, while municipal governments had to demonstrate enthusiasm in order to be successful. A second innovative development of the Smart Cities Challenge was that it sidestepped the issue of forcing state governments to devolve funding by allowing convergence of funding from other schemes. By requiring agency and alignment from both city and state, the Smart Cities Challenge encouraged cooperation and led to increased municipal initiative while allowing the continued role of the state government.
“When it’s not a car-free day, where is the space to walk?”, asked a resident of R.S.Puram in 2015, at a stakeholders’ discussion about the Car-Free Sunday event in Coimbatore, prior to its launch. The Happy Streets Car-Free Day initiative has since enhanced awareness among the citizens about the infrastructure needed for cycling and walking – in other words, non-motorised transport (NMT). This level of support and buy-in for NMT from the public encouraged the Corporation to initiate the Model Roads pilot project in Coimbatore in 2015.
For this first phase, 6 roads have been selected by the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation: DB Road, TV Swamy Road, Sanganoor Road, NSR Road, Masakalipalayam Road and Race Course Road. A total of 13.1 kms is to be revamped with broad pedestrian-friendly pathways, allocated zones for parking and vendors, safer crossings and better provisions for utilities.
In the wake of rapid motorisation a few years ago, the cities of Tamil Nadu realised a need to address mobility challenges. In 2013, the Commissionerate of Municipal Administration (CMA) thus hosted Sustainable Cities through Transport, a planning workshop organised in partnership with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and with support from ICLEI–SA South Asia. The objective was to develop sustainable transport plans and create municipal transport budgets for five cities in Tamil Nadu including Coimbatore.
The Coimbatore Corporation engineers attending the workshop concluded that the city should aim to increase its share of public transport, cycling and walking to 60% by 2018. As a step towards achieving this, a network of Complete Streets, including the Model Roads, was proposed. The proposal comprised a target of 49 kms of footpath upgrade,19 kms of street pedestrianisation, 37 kms of greenways and 31 kms of cycle tracks. Furthermore, to ensure the prevention of vehicle encroachment for the success of these NMT projects, 5 zones were identified for better parking management.
For implementation in the first phase, the Corporation identified 6 streets in its jurisdiction, based on right of way — 12 m or more — and pedestrian demand. CCMC empanelled architects for the first time, with the assistance of ITDP, early in 2016. The 5 firms – Padgro, Design Consortium, VeraCITY, Arth Agam and Yanapada – were assigned the work of redesigning the streets.The architects carried out various surveys and developed conceptual designs, which was later tested on-site through line drawings to check for feasibility.
In order to get work started on the ground, CCMC conducted the first coordination meeting early in August, 2016. This meeting brought together the Corporation engineers, architects, ITDP and partner association RAAC (Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore). The engineers along with ITDP reviewed the designs presented by the architects. Since then, coordination meetings are being held once every month to ensure the smooth progress of the project.
An important milestone in the execution of the Model Roads Pilot project was the resolution passed by the CCMC at the Council Meeting held later that month. The Corporation sanctioned Rs.5.47 crores to take up D.B and T.V Swamy roads in the first phase of construction. The tenders to start work on these roads are have been floated in November. Implementation of the Model Roads project will soon be rolled out.
Moving forward, the Corporation is looking to host a 3-day exhibition in early December, showcasing visualisations of the proposed designs of the Model Roads. The exhibition aims to inform public regarding the many transport-related initiatives that CCMC is taking for the development of the city. Feedback collected from the citizens during the event will be used to shape the final design of these people-oriented projects. With all these plans in place putting pedestrians and cyclists at the top of the hierarchy, Coimbatore is showing the way for other Indian cities!
Ranchi, capital of Jharkand- one of India’s youngest states, is taking incredible strides to transform itself into a livable, healthy, and sustainable city in a very short span of time. With focus on improving the quality of life for its citizens, Ranchi is embracing people-centric planning practices including strengthening public transport services, implementing a progressive parking management system and adopting transit-oriented development principles for urban planning. These efforts were reflected in the city’s Smart City Proposal (SCP), which was selected in the fast-tracked second round of India’s Smart City Mission in May 2016.
Originally, Ranchi was not among the first twenty cities to be selected under the Smart City Mission. The proposal, which selected a greenfield development with focus mainly on drinking water, sanitation, sewage and solid waste management, failed to address the challenges of urban mobility posed by Ranchi’s rapidly growing urban population.
Until recently, the city’s transport problems were on the back burner. Although half of all the trips in the city are made on foot or cycle, footpaths and cycling lanes are almost non-existent. In the absence of a formal bus service, high polluting and unsafe informal paratransit caters to two thirds of all the motorised trips. Further, the limited financial capacity of the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) has been a major hindrance in changing the status quo.
However, in mid 2015, the city began to take its first steps towards a sustainable transport transformation. RMC assumed responsibility of overseeing city bus operations and is working towards expanding and improving the service. The city has also initiated the process to adopt a progressive parking policy to tackle traffic congestion. To test the policy, the city is working towards implementing priced parking on a heavy traffic commercial zone. The parking prices, which are pegged to parking demand, are approximately four times higher than the current rates. Building on these initial steps, Ranchi’s revised SCP, improved with technical inputs from ITDP, embraced multiple sustainable transport initiatives.
Caption:The rendering (above) shows the proposed design of a major intersection, Albert Ekka Chowk (existing photo), on the Main road in Ranchi—with all elements of a complete street.
Over the next five years, Ranchi aims to increase its modal share of public transport to 50% by expanding its bus fleet by more than five times—from existing 65 buses to almost 375 buses. An intelligent traffic management system will help improve efficiency and service of its bus fleet. Further, to provide comfortable access to its public transport and encourage walking and cycling in the city, Ranchi aims to redesign 31.5 km of its streets as ‘Complete Streets’ with wide, safe and continuous footpaths, safe crossing facilities, clearly demarcated parking bays, and uniform carriageways.
The greenfield area based development is proposed to adopt a transit-oriented development (TOD) approach with dense, mixed-use neighbourhoods planned along frequent, fast, and reliable high capacity mass transport lines. The smart city proposal reinforces the city’s intention to curb private vehicle use by managing parking through market-based pricing.
With definite funding from the national and state governments towards these tangible improvements planned in the city, Ranchi is en route to transforming itself into a sustainable and equitable city. ITDP is a proud partner to the city in its mission to embrace this bright future.