Saturday, June 07, 2008

What is the purpose of IT corridor?

(Updated Below)
When the Chennai IT Corridor (Rajiv Gandhi Road or OMR) was originally planned and laid out, I thought of it as an office district. It was supposed to be a 4 lane road with medians, trees on either side, sidewalks and so on. The part that got my attention was the side walks because Chennai as I have noted before is a very pedestrian unfriendly city. The planners have taken lots of trouble to make sure pedestrians get hurt walking in the city streets.

Now that most of the IT corridor is laid out, I am bewildered about the path it has taken. My office is in the middle of it and the government is coming up with a Toll Plaza right at the beginning of Perungudi.
The side walks are not being built and not just that - it is impossible to walk in that road because of all the building construction stuff that is laid out on both sides of the road. You walk at your own risk while IT cab guys threaten you with maddening speeds.
I am not talking about walking the whole length of the IT corridor - people have to get down from buses and walk somewhere, don't they?

Then, they are now laying the medians in such a manner that there are only gaps every one kilometer or so. That means a pedestrian has to walk one kilometer to cross over and double back to a place that is just opposite to them - or, they have to jump over the median. So you always find a bunch of people hanging on for dear life at the edge of the 4 foot tall median.

That makes me angry - the planners are obviously considering the IT corridor as a free way - there are no signals; there is a toll plaza after which you can speed your way where? Where is the IT corridor free way going? This is not the high way people will choose for going to Pondicherry or Mahabalipuram. Was that the original intention? That this is a highway for going somewhere? How moronic is that?

The IT corridor, for all purposes, is being built with IT companies and other technology companies (and supporting services such as restaurants) on either side. It is an office district. It is NOT a freeway. It SHOULD have been laid out with pedestrian crossings. The government is not only giving pedestrians a bad deal - it is actually making sure that services such as restaurants or other shops on either side NEED A CAR or other vehicles to get to. In this age of global warming and all round environmental concern, the planners are laying out a road in an office district that will require a car to cross over.

In the bus stands across the corridor, people are hanging on to the edge of the road as cabs and buses speed past them over taking each other and wildly honking. People have to land exactly at their office door (and never should come out) if they want to live a long life with all limbs intact. Or they should have a car.

This is what our government has become - this was a much talked about seriously planned road and this is what they have come up with. As a utility road to fulfill a base purpose, the planners have completely failed. What they have laid out is a needless freeway going nowhere.

What should actually happen is this:
Ban private cars and IT company buses from going into the corridor at the Velachery link road and Madhya Kailash. These two places are well connected through train (MRTS) and bus.
Have the companies in the corridor pay a sum to the public transport corporation according to their employee strength. Have buses that operate all day long shuttling from Madhya Kailash to Sholinganallur.
This way private IT company buses will be eliminated (many of them travel empty). And the pollution will come down substantially because people are forced to share the road space.

Update I: Two comments are promoted to the front page. I will answer them below:
First, from subbu:
Even though the banning of private vehicles on the corridor seems to be the ideal thing to do,it is impractical to follow, as people have to come till Madhya Kailash on their own. And Chennai doesn't have an effective Mass Rapid Transit System.Think about some one coming from Thiruvottiyur to Navalur. For him sitting in the company bus and sleeping is the better thing to do than catch a bus,train,bus and the shuttle from Madhya Kailash.

The otherway is to have companies operate their buses only till the starting of the corridor but that doesn't solve any problem.The traffic and pollution level inside the city will still be the same.

Secondly from Maheswari:
I think it is premature to comment on the new OMR since lot of things are still under development. I also second Subbu remark of streamlining the private vehicles. BTW the toll plaza is not going to be hard on all sections, if i am right.

To answer subbu - what gave us the impression that there is lots of choice when it comes to controlling pollution? We HAVE to reduce fuel burning at some point - it is not about a person getting on a company bus and sleeping. That is not an acceptable or sustainable "requirement" any longer. If we started from the assumption that there are infinite resources to consume and then proceed to deduce models of transportation, of course, comfort is what you aim for. That is not the case any longer. I think it is clear to most people that we do not have infinite resources and the cost of private vehicles burning fuel at this rate is never going to work out. If you start from that, a person getting into a bus and sleeping without a change-over is the least preferable alternative.
If private vehicles were banned in the OMR, it would lead to people choosing public transportation from home. I agree that public transportation is not perfect, but then the goal would be to make it better - the pressure would be on the government to solve that problem. Now the pressure is to widen, widen, and widen roads so that enough private cars can go through. It is never going to work out.

My answer to Uma is this: How many years should we go before we CAN comment on the OMR? It has been built for the last 3 years.
Let me ask you a simple question - it is obvious that the government is building this road without pedestrian crossings and without signals. Everybody who goes in the road in a car is comfortable, while if you go walking or cross the road, you are in trouble. Did anyone ask the question about the reverse happening? Did anyone wonder why the road was not built with concern for pedestrians actually SHOWING? You think that concern for pedestrians is there and that the government actually is waiting to unveil some magic solution after 3 years. Ok, meanwhile, why are pedetsrians forced to jump over medians while cars streak along? Why do pedestrians get a raw deal every time? Why can't car drivers be forced to wait at a signal? What is the big problem here?

The truth is obvious - the government does not care about pedestrians for the same reason that it pays more attention to airports than busstands - the IT corridor is really meant for "foreigners" who can streak through in their taxis and land at office doorstep. It is not meant for you and me.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Worthy conversations

I remembered this conversation I had in Boston last year in a buffet. It stands out for the deep insights it offers into the human condition.

I step around and see an office colleague at the buffet.

"Hi..How ARE you?"
"Good..Good. How are you doing?"
"Very good. How is everything?
"Going fine."
"Excuse me."
"Bless you"
"Thank you"
"Well..see you around"
"See you too"
"Nice running into you"
"Same here"

And then we walked apart.