Solving Srinagar’s Traffic Crisis

  • Mohsin Manzoor Janwari
  • Publish Date: Jun 20 2016 9:48PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jun 20 2016 9:48PM
Solving Srinagar’s Traffic Crisis

 

 

First revamp and then promote public transport system to ease traffic congestion in Srinagar

 

INTRODUCTION

Srinagar city has witnessed spurt in the usage of private vehicles (cars, motorists etc.) particularly in the last one decade. The city commuter’s preference of private vehicles over poor public transport system has broken the user-equilibrium principle resulting in traffic congestion on road networks, apart from average trip delays, wastage of work hours, air pollution etc. It has now snowballed into one of the major challenges facing the government, especially after the Darbar move to the summer capital.

 

Easy access to bank loans and non-strict policies for capping car ownerships has worsened the traffic mess in the city. Ironically, cars have now replaced buses on the roads; cyclists and pedestrians have switched to motorcycles. Pedestrians and cyclists are now treated as the most marginalized commuters on the streets of the Srinagar!

 

Most of the footpaths are absent, making pedestrians most vulnerable road users to fight for road space in the midst of speedily moving vehicles. On-street parking due to absence of parking lots and vendors occupying illegally road space reduce travel speed and mobility. Traffic management and traffic lights do not work anymore. Many analysts and administrators are propounding policies without knowing the actual traffic data of the city.

 

 

 

CITY CHARACTERISTICS

The summer capital is spread over 417 km2 having a population of around 13.9 lakhs comprising of 64% and 38% of the urban population of valley and total state population respectively. The world famous tourist destination is now facing two uphill planning challenges: Mitigating “traffic congestion and floods”. The latter is due to messy planning, illegal constructions, and unregulated colonies on flood basins.The urban sprawl has come up at the cost of wetlands along the low-lying areas ringing flood alarm bells.The result is that a few inches of rainfall now inundate the whole city roads and submerge houses.

 

Being a major trade centre and tourist destination, its central core inner areas comprise of not only commercial structures but also education institutes and civil secretariat that attracts huge inflow of regional traffic from all other districts of Kashmir. Adding to the traffic woes, the city has the poorest public transport system that caters to the major share of the commuter trips. These traffic snarls have turned world’s most beautiful city into a big mess.

 

RISING CAR OWNERSHIPS

The growth of motor vehicles has not only shown exponential rise in Srinagar city but also in most parts of the country. Since 1991, the total number of regis­tered motor vehicles has gone up from 2.1 crore to 14.2 crore – more than six fold increase. Two wheel­er private transport has jumped up from 1.4 crore to 10.2 crore, which is a rise of more than 13 times. Analysis of data of vehicles registered in India reveals that the share of buses has “declined” to 1.1 percent of all registered vehicles in 2011 from 11.1 per cent in 1951 (NTDPC report 2013). The decline has been particularly rapid in the last decade, from 2000 to 2011, and in the same period the growth in two-wheelers and cars was significantly higher across metropolitan cities.

 

The annualised growth rate of cars in Srinagar city between 2006 and 2010 was 12% as number of cars have increased from 29,938 to 48,286. Ironically, now city has 2.6 lakh registered vehicles. Strangely, 12.95 lakh vehicles have been registered by Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) in the state up to August 2015. On an average, about 1.1 lakh vehicles have been annually added to vehicle number since 2012. Considering cities average household size of 5 with 13.9 lakh total city population (2015) indicates nearly every family owns one or other type of vehicle. But the statistics seem misleading as old cars that are not in working condition or whose life has exceeded reflect in cumulative sum of registered car figures. Moreover, people from other districts register their cars in the city. On the contrary, random household survey reflects that 67% households do not possess a vehicle. The use of mini buses by large chunk of city commuters reinforces this fact. One of the main factors leading to the rising number of private vehicles is the liberal car financing by the J&K Bank, enabling lower middle class to own a vehicle and thus, neglect the public transport. According to J&K Bank officials, the bank's car finances have crossed more than Rs 100 crores many years ago.

 

RITES has carried household survey on 12% sample size of city population on random basis for preparing comprehensive mobility plan for Srinagar city in 2011. The figure 1 shows that 67% households do not own a vehicle; while 12.5% own only a car, 11.9% own 2-wheeler, while 4.5% own both a car and 2-wheeler.

  

ROAD NETWORK AND INCOME LEVEL

The distribution of road network as per carriageway width and income patterns is presented in Barchart 2 and 3.Out of total city road network of 715km, 60% (428km) has carriageway width ≤6.5m (i.e. ≤1-lane). Remaining 20% of road network is 2-lane and 6% is 3-lane and 4-lane and remainingis 6-lane.The road divider is available only on 11% of the road network. Only 1% has service lane available and only 19% has street lights located on one side of the road. Moreover, 55% road network is abutted by residential area and about 17% by commercial land use and 23% is abutted by vacant land. Only 27% of sample households have income more than 25,000 per month.

 

 

 

TRAFFIC AND MOBILITY PATTERN

The demand for public transport is dependent on both physical and socio economic characteristics of urban areas. Availability of road infrastructure, geographical spread of the city, mixed landuse patterns, population density, and income distribution are some of the important characteristics that influence public transport demand.

 

Unlike most Indian cities, public transport is the predominant traffic in Srinagar. The road space is shared by at least seven different types of vehicles, each with different static and dynamic characteristics.The comprehensive mobility plan of Srinagar city by RITES (2011) revealed that the share of non-motorized mode of transport (walk trips) is 22%; while share of motorised mode i.e. mini-buses is nearly 60% and remaining 18% trips are shared by cars, taxi, sumo, 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers. The study carried by NIT Srinagar (2011) revealed that 48% trips are by mini-buses; while 20% are walk trips and remaining 17.4% are car trips and remaining 15% are shared by taxi sumo, 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers.

 

 

 

 SOME PROPOSED LONG TERM MEASURES

·        Strengthening of public transport by Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) for a network of 84.5 km as detailed in Table 1.

 

Mass Transport Corridor

Length

  (Km)

Corridor-1PanthaChowk to HMT Junction

18.5

Corridor-2Nowgam Railway Station to Soura Hazratbal  Crossing

23

Total Length (Km)

41.5

Extension of Corridor-1

 

Pantha Chowk to Galandar via Pompora

8.5

(South East Extension)

HMT Junction to Narabal along Baramula Road (North West Extension) (South Extension)

6.1

Extension of Corridor-2

 

Soura Hazratbal Crossing to Pandach

5.8

New Corridor-3

 

Kashmir University to Kashmir University Circular Ring along Dal Lake

22.6

Total Length (Km) Phase III

43

Total Length (Km)

84.5

                  Table1: Proposed Mass Transport Corridors. Source: RITES survey 2011

 

·        Providing bus rapid transit (BRT) for a road network of 102.6 kms will further strengthen the public transport as detailed in Table 2. BRT can cater passenger flow of 4000 to 10000 pphpd (passengers per hour per direction). Three types of BRT have been suggested by RITES study in 2011. The corridor where the carriageway is 30m and 45m, BRT Type I & II having priority at signalized junctions is suggested. On the corridors where the expected demand is likely to be less than 10,000 pphpd and carriageway available is only 20 m, BRT type III is suggested that will have one lane marked for BRT on each side with priority at signalized junctions.

 

Table 2: Proposed BRT network for Srinagar city. Source: RITES survey 2011

Name of Corridor

 Total Length (km)

BRT

type

Pantha Chowk to Kashmir University via Soura along JV Bypass (along proposed Intermediate Ring Road)

29.5

I

Batamaloo to Proposed Motorway Junction near Wathoora

13.3

II

      Ring Road Bus Service - Batamaloo Bus Stand to Batamaloo Bus Stand (along Core Ring Road with bus lanes)

11.6

III

Batamaloo to Wagoora up to proposed Motorway Junction

13.7

II

Airport Bus Service- Batamaloo to Srinagar Airport

10.9

II

Batamaloo to Budgam

7.8

II

Mujgund to Parimpora Crossing

7.8

II

Batamaloo to Soura via Karan Nagar

8

II

Total Length (Km)

102.6

 

 

 

 

 

·     Development of Inland Water Transport (IWT) along Jhelum River. The city is marked on both sides by river Jhelum and on its eastern side there is world famous Dal Lake and Mughal gardens. These water bodies can be utilised for water transport for the length of 34 km.

 

 

 

Table 3:Proposed Inland Water Transport. Source: RITES 2011

S.no

Proposed Water Transport

 Length (km)

 

 

 

1

Pantha Chowk to Chhatabal Weir (Jehlum River)

19.0

2

Budshah Bridge  to Dal Gate to Hazratbal (Chhat Kual  and Dal Lake)

15.0

 

 

 

 Total Length (Km)

34.0

 

 

 

POLICIES AND OPTIONS

Revamp Public Transport System

The city traffic data shows that mini-bus trips are 60% and walk trips 22% which reinforces the need to revamp public transport system and that will require nearly one sixth investment as compared to construction of bridges (60 crore per km).We have already wasted a lot of time and money in constructing a 3.94 km road bridge from Jahangir Chowk to Rambagh that will come up at the cost of Rs. 247 crore. At this cost, the whole public transport of the city could have been revamped.

Special attention needs to be given for optimizing, routing, scheduling and synchronizing problems prevalent in city bus transit. The goal is to provide the best mobility to the commuters at minimum cost by increasing bus frequency. Maintaining a timetable prepared on the basis of demand will improve the reliability by ensuring maximal smooth transfers from one route to another without wastage of time. The objective of an efficient system is to meet the user’s diverse demands and minimize operator’s loss. Low-floor buses with high occupancy need to be procured on urgent basis and the present fleet number increased. Policy makers, researchers and stakeholders should come forward to spread the word among people and create a positive public opinion in order to encourage use of public transport.

 

Introducing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

The proposed BRT corridor for 102km road network will maintain decent speed of buses by giving it separate lane without mixing with other traffic while safeguarding cyclists and pedestrians by encouraging engineered road space along the proposed corridor as detailed in Table 2. It will give high priority to buses and will shift car users to switch to this mode of transport.

Making Tougher Car Ownership Laws

J&K government needs to implement tougher car ownership policies, taking clue from countries like Singapore and China. To cap more than one car ownership, quota system known as “certificate of entitlement” should be implemented which ensures first bid for the certificate before purchasing a new car. If banks make cars as “free goods” available in the market with easy loans, then it will only add to the already existing problems facing urban transport.

Promoting Walk trips and Footpath Improvement

The modal split for walk trips is 20-22%. Srinagar city is surrounded by parks, lakes, and mountains with lukewarm climate and remains abuzz with tourist flow from all over the world. So encouraging walk trips and improving footpaths shall be fruitful. The walk trips will in turn lead to bus trips. Share of cycle traffic is as low as 0.5% and needs to be promoted. The engineered road space in BRT will provide cyclists the outer lane of the road.  The proposed footpath widening along 77 kms of city road is required to be taken up to a minimum width of 2.0 m.

Increase in Parking Lots

Presently there are only 9 parking lots catering to city’s parking demand, having capacity of 1161 ECS, while the peak hour demand is much higher. More parking lots need to be identified and parking charges should be increased to discourage car trips. Residency road, M A Road and Batamaloo to Qamarwari road needs to be turned into a “NO PARKING ZONE”.

 

 

 

Transport Planning Unit (TPU)

 

Presently there is no proper technical body responsible for making policies related to transport planning, traffic engineering, road safety, enforcement and regulation rules and environmental protection. PWD deals with road construction and maintenance. Traffic Police looks after traffic management in the city. There are numerous issues of proper road geometrics, traffic circulation, junction design, traffic signals, road signs/markings, etc., which are not properly addressed by these agencies due to lack of traffic engineering expertise. Traffic planning is a continuous affair. It is therefore recommended that a “Traffic Engineering Cell” be established in PWD having qualified transportation engineers and planners. This will go a long way to improve the traffic flow in Srinagar.

Improvement of present Road Infrastructure

 

Fifteen main intersections in the city need immediate improvement measures like geometrical, rotatory, and signalization improvement. They include Soura crossing, Karan Nagar Chowk, Bemina crossing, Dal Gate Chowk, Jehangir Chowk, Radio Kashmir crossing, HMT crossing, Parimpora junction, Sanat Nagar Chowk, Zewan Chowk and Qamarwari Chowk etc.

 

 

 

Shifting of Bus stand and education Institutes to City Outskirts

 

The bus stand at Batamallo, educational institutes and administrative premises should be shifted to city outskirts, and the space thus acquired needs to be reserved for parking and business establishments. The relocation of government establishments towards outskirts can help establish the city on the pattern of New Delhi.

 

CONCLUSION

 

On the one hand administration is concerned about growing traffic congestion in the city but at the same time the state transport policies continue to encourage use of private vehicles without putting a cap on the upper limit of car ownerships. Bank loans favouring easy car purchases should be stopped and stringent car ownership laws need to be implemented.  Srinagar has captive users for buses and non-motorized vehicles (around 80% of trip makers) who, despite the poor public transport system, continue to board buses, walk, and travel in overcrowded mini-buses. Special attention is needed for optimizing, routing, scheduling and synchronizing problems prevalent in our bus transit system.

 

The bus travel in the city should be made cheap, comfortable and without wastage of much time for the commuters. Maintaining a timetable prepared on the basis of demand will improve the reliability of public transport. Instead of giving more incentive and road space to private vehicle owners and spending lavishly on bridges and flyovers, there is an urgent need to revamp and promote public transport system in the city.

 

 

(Mohsin Manzoor Janwari has an M.tech degree in Transportation Engineering from IIT Delhi and four years of work experience in urban transport sector with RITES, under Ministry of Railways. With additional inputs from Fayaz Ahmad Parray who works in RITES as Assistant Manager).