As Mumbai Builds A Metro Network, Last-Mile Travel Is The Next Bump
When Line 1 of Mumbai Metro was commissioned nearly six years ago, commuters travelling from Mumbai’s western suburbs to east found a way to avoid clogged roads, crowded buses and local trains and crawling traffic. The relief, however, was fleeting.
That’s because the last-mile connectivity at the 12 stations along the 11.4-km route between Versova and Ghatkopar in the east proved a major problem. Commuters, primarily office-goers, had to wait inordinately for buses, autorickshaws or taxis to get to their offices from the metro stations and back.
“Stations along Line 1 lack adequate transport facilities,” Vivek Pai, transport consultant and member of the think-tank Mumbai Mobility Forum, said. The buses run irregularly and are often crowded, he said, adding autorickshaws either don’t ply or refuse to halt there. “If the government wants to improve the metro’s ridership, it must ensure availability of good commuting options and integration of different transport modes.”
Mumbai is now building 12 other metro lines as it looks to decongest the world’s worst traffic and ease pressure of a suburban rail network that ferries more than 75 lakh people every day. Work on lines 2A, 2B, 4, 4A, 5, 6, 7 and 9 has started, while a detailed project report has been commissioned for lines 8, 13 and 14, according to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. But despite the experience of Line 1, last-mile connectivity wasn’t considered at the first stage even though the metro lines pass through crowded areas with not enough space on roads.
The MMRDA—the agency that’s building 12 overhead metro lines across the city—didn’t officially comment.
According to a senior MMRDA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he isn’t authorised to speak to the media, there wasn’t an integrated approach to last-mile connectivity as the government did not plan all the routes simultaneously. It wasn’t possible to get everything right on day one, he said, adding that the city will see an optimum benefit once all the lines are operational.
Plans Invited For Three Lines
The MMRDA has started consultations for the two stretches—Line 2A from Dahisar to DN Nagar and Line 7 from Andheri East to Dahisar East—that will be operational by December. The agency invited tenders to aid last-mile journeys of commuters.
An area within a 100-metre radius of the 30 stations on these two lines would be developed at a cost of Rs 10-15 crore each to set up dedicated pick-up points for pre-paid taxis, pedestrian bridges, bicycle parking area and wider footpaths, the MMRDA official cited earlier said. The agency will also ensure a good frequency of BEST buses to help commuters to reach nearest metro station, the officer said.
Mumbai Metro Rail Corp. Ltd. that’s building Line 3—the city’s sole underground line which spans 34 km between tony Colaba in the south to Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone in the western suburbs—has also appointed consultants to submit a report by July on ways to improve connectivity to and from metro stations.
A team of consultants is studying five stations: Vidyanagri, Marol, MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp.), Seepz and JVLR (Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road), R Ramana, executive director (planning), MMRCL, told BloombergQuint. These stations, he said, are part of phase-1 of the Line 3 which will be operational by December 2021.
The agency said it will also focus on restoration of area above the stations and ensure bus connectivity. “We also plan to have dedicated pick-up and drop points for pre-paid taxis, for which operators would have to pay a premium,” Ramana said. “This practice is already being followed at the (Mumbai) airport’s pick and drop points.”
The metro rail authority has also invited real estate developers to construct direct connections between their commercial or mixed-use properties developer to the nearest metro station. So far six-seven developers have expressed interest and MMRDA is considering a similar proposal. A similar plan has worked in Bengaluru, where the metro operator has tied up with the Embassy Group to connect the stations with its tech village project.
The metro rail authority is seeking suggestions from all quarters, and not just the consultants. It has also collaborated with think tank like Observer Research Foundation on the issue of last-mile connectivity. It also sought ideas through a competition among students of town planning, architecture and engineering.
The MMRDA, meanwhile, also plans to improve the first- and last-mile connectivity along Mumbai Metro Line 1.
The stations would be developed on a pilot basis by three startup teams that won the recently concluded Station Access and Mobility 2019 challenge—jointly conducted by WRI India Ross Centre and Toyota Mobility Foundation. The will suggest technology-driven solutions on movement of passengers, faster platform-to-platform connectivity and how to quickly disperse passengers to taxi and bus pick-up points or parking lots, RA Rajeev, metropolitan commissioner of the MMRDA, said in a statement . The pilot project is expected to start by mid-January.
While planning for last-mile connectivity should be undertaken at the beginning, it’s never too late, Sonal Shah, an architect and urban planner, said. Mumbai already has a robust system of auto-rickshaws and taxis and they can be provided spaces near the metro stations, Shah said. The first- and last-mile connectivity will improve the ridership of the metro, taking pressured off the roads, she said.
Along with this, Sudhir Badami, transportation analyst, suggested last-mile onnectivity through BEST-operated micro-buses with a capacity of 10 persons and easily accessible to a wheelchair user. These must be subsidised, he said.