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Fresh approach to mobility

The capital's master plan has become more people-centric with time

Fresh approach to mobility
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The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) opened the most-awaited draft Master Plan of Delhi, 2041 (MPD) for public opinion on June 9, 2021, and is inviting suggestions for the next 45 days. The mobility segment of the draft is promising. It has redistributed focus into three new areas: Shared mobility, active travel and parking management.

One might argue these were always part of MPD but we can see an evolution in the approach through MPD 1961, 2001, 2021 and 2041. The methods have shifted from speed mobility (roads) to mobility for mass (public transport), from making space for parking to restraining trips by personal vehicles, from making space for vehicles to making space for people.

Shared mobility

This is the first time MPD has put exclusive focus on the planning pool of shared mobility systems to reduce the effort in undertaking a public transport trip, reduce private trips as a share of total motorised trips and lower per capita emissions.

The strategies proposed are in four categories:

1. Land-use transport integration: This is where land development takes into consideration the choices one can have for making a trip. This thrives on principles of 'transit-oriented development' to achieve a highly accessible and low-carbon mobility network.

2. Improving public transport and shared modes: It focuses on the role of both public and private service providers to make conscious decisions around the provision of mode options.

3. Integrated multimodal transport systems: This focuses on the fact that a trip might consist of more than one mode and hence, needs seamless integration of the physical, operational and information.

4. Disincentivising private vehicle trips through congestion pricing, parking demand management and prioritising pedestrians and cyclists.

MPD 2041 advises application of public transport accessibility level (PTAL) for cities in a progressive approach to integrate quantitative methods into planning. PTAL has been an accepted index globally and is an adopted method for planning by Transport for London (TFL).

Its application in Indian cities and utilization by public transport authorities, however, was unknown so far. It has been a part of many national researches to develop better transport systems, otherwise.

This can be a game-changer, where a nuanced method becomes a prerequisite for better mobility planning.

Active travel areas and walking

It is said that if every neighbourhood in the city is walkable and interconnected, the entire city can be the same. This becomes an integral aspect of planning cities. Very importantly, the draft plan has emphasised, through multiple sections, that active mobility options like walking and cycling should be prioritised in the city, not just as affordable mobility but to cater to all.

The MPD recommended that local authorities should identify high-activity areas with exceptionally high footfall, like intense retail commercial areas and weekly markets, as active travel areas (ATA). It also said that TOD areas, all land-pooling sectors, regeneration schemes and other specific plans will be treated as ATA and will require mandatory preparation of walk plans.

Other areas that need ATA and walk plans are heritage areas, special nodes or residential colonies. These plans should align with area-level traffic management, multi-modal integration station area plans and parking management area plans. City and major roads should have a dedicated walking and cycling network for seamless integration to neighbourhoods.

Parking management

This segment reassured a reformative approach towards planning for low-carbon mobility and ensuring optimal utilisation of land through parking management. It called for city-wide uniform rules and enforcement to eliminate ambiguity and promote a shift towards public transport and shared modes.

It essentially prescribed re-organising parking facilities for maximum utilisation, pricing on user-pay principle, considering the need for all modes and, most importantly, limiting the supply of parking.

The draft envisaged implementation of parking area management plans consistent with the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Place Rules, 2019. The new plans consider uniform management of public parking areas on all on-street and off-street parking, including multi-level car parking (MLCP) provided by public and private agencies. It also advised a seasonal increase in charges considering peak pollution episodes in the city.

It should be noted that 'creation of parking' in the new plan should be to prioritise the movement of pedestrian as well as other vehicles and not hinder circulation. This is unlike earlier plans that advocated for more space for cars.

It also focused on physical demarcation for parking, prohibition of parking on narrow streets and higher public transport accessible areas.

It additionally provided that on-street parking should be expensive, private parking should be rationalised, shared modes should be prioritised, MLCPs should be connected to intermediate public transport, walking and cycling networks.

City-level public transport systems

The larger public transport plan for the city binds the three former focus areas. A very significant point that should be noted here is, draft MPD-2041 envisaged the public transport network as a seamless entity. It is indeed encouraging to vision this. In colloquial terms, roads are termed as a city's arteries. The mobility provision to connect different parts of the city, thus, should also flow seamlessly.

A city's public transport should definitely be in tandem with each other for better mobility and not as a standalone entity competing against each other. Such provisions in the upcoming MPD 2041 are massive steps towards envisioning the integrated functioning of these city-level systems, complementing each other.

MPD 2041 considers the Delhi metro as the spine of the city's mass transit network. It also strategises other mass transit options such as rapid rail, light rail and buses rapid to be planned accordingly. It projects a big role in bus services. Beyond the major bus network, buses should be leveraged to connect less-accessible areas, metro rail stations and also provide feeder services.

Not all areas in a city are served equally by all modes, and interconnecting modes will definitely enhance the integrated network of public transport connectivity. It can provide greater access to areas presently not connected. The draft asked agencies to plan special operational feeder service and routes to connect newly developed areas with feeble bus networks.

Existing practices in cities show that land pockets were developed without the provision of better access and facilities to connect the newly developed areas to larger cities and systems. DTE

Views expressed are personal

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