Sunday, July 28, 2013

Solving Last Mile Connectivity

"A developed city is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport"
– Enrique Penalosa, For­mer Mayor of Bogotá

This quote is like the very essence of urban transportation planning. In this regard, Delhi Metro has solved lot of city's connectivity issues. However, the problem of last mile connectivity from Metro station to home/office is still problematic. The feeder buses are uncomfortable and rather complicated. Taxi and Auto-Rikshaw (alias "auto") are much easier and comfortable. At peak hours, almost on each metro station, there are traffic police guys trying to discipline auto-rikshaw drivers. However with limited success, these auto drivers keep creating nuisance not only for metro commuters but also for other vehicles in the area.

Delhi has this advantage that fare for taxi/auto are so much cheaper than in other cities like Singapore, Dubai, any city in US & Europe. Heck! its even cheaper than bus fare in those cities. Hence I dare say, that if this auto/taxi problem is solved then Delhi's public transport would become even better than New York and Singapore.

Delhi traffic police and DMRC have been actively trying to address this problem. There are plans to have dedicated auto/taxi lane in under-construction phase 3. There are also efforts to address this problem in existing metro stations (here is the news article). However they seem to be barking on slightly wrong tree. We can easily observe that dedicated lanes near the bus stops, toll plaza are everywhere are #fail. There is a fundamental flaw in this design. This design assumes that Delhites will follow rules of lane driving! Really? The pre-paid taxis, run by Delhi Police are also largely a failure due to inherent inefficiencies in government system causing long ques and unpleasant user experience. The other flaw with this design is that they are trying to address the difficult problem of disciplining auto drivers. Instead if we tackle the easier problem of disciplining metro commuters (which has been much more successful) then auto drivers will automatically get in line.

The design which has worked really well is system of Radio cabs on Airport. Its such a smooth process of getting out of the airport and taking a taxi. Sometime it is also crowded but I guess that's more an exception than a norm.

So based on these observations and some chai-sutta session brainstorming, here is the proposed design:

  1. Identify an area of about 10,000 SqFt. close to metro station. The area should be away from main roads, but located such that it can be connect to multiple roads. Design the area such that it has pathway to accommodate queue of about 10-50 autos. The exact size will depend on busyness of the metro station.
  2. Create a air-conditioned walking pathway from metro station to that area. Put signage of Auto-Rikshaw/Taxi in that pathway.  
  3. During the design of these two pathways, consider various factors like comfort, safety, women safety, handicap friendliness, maintaining queue discipline etc. 
  4. Designate one/two traffic police guys at the end of that queue to maintain discipline of both commuters and auto drivers. 
  5. Implement this system at one metro station to identify teething issues then copy paste on other stations. 

Voila! Chai khatam, problem solved :) 
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