Do Subways, for pedestrian crossing, make sense in Indian cities?








The Bhusari Colony Bus Depot Junction on Paud Road
where the Subway Pedestrian Crossing is proposed.

I am confronted with a dilemma since last week. A subway proposal has been proposed for the Kothrud Bus Depot junction on Paud Road and I have been asked to comment on its design! Keeping in character of not staying within my scope, I have started raking up too many unasked and unanswered questions. And why not? After all, it is my hard earned tax money that will end up in making this subway.

On the face of it, the subway proposal is a great political project – its gives visibility, it is in tune with the principles of sustainability, it promotes safe pedestrian movement and hence indirectly promotes walkability in a city; it represents social equity and it targets the heart of voters by making road crossing safe for school children (and hence woos mothers) and senior citizens.










Pedestrian choose to cross taking risks despite presence of a
pedestrian crossing bridge


But the important aspect that I wish to highlight through this blog post, is the realisation that the mechanics of politics and planning are out of tune when we look at such civic project proposals! The local corporator has been given an outlay of funds for a project – any project that fits the bill and a pedestrian subway project is the one that raises the least eyebrows and is the most politically convenient. After 2.5 years, or half term, the newly elected representatives do need to show something for getting elected and being in office.

Pedestrian Subway in Bangalore – waterlogged and smelly!





So, coming back to my dilemma, do I remain within my scope and suggest changes to some very preliminary and very obvious gaffes in design of the subway proposal or do I exceed my scope and ask my area corporator to stop& think! Should I completely dissuade her from undertaking the project due to its very obvious future failure? Or do I understand that it is a political necessity for her to display visibility through such an ‘all-time-favourite’ project and guide her into a project that can be slightly modified to ensure better success?

Sharing this example, I also want to rake up the issue of how planning of cities and proposing projects are found to be at loggerheads with the third dimension of politics! Further, this also highlights the most urgent need to generate local area plans, micro studies and surveys to understand that ‘blanket’ implementation of certain types of projects will not mean that wards are better planned and managed. Is our political mechanism equipped to undertake these studies? Shouldn’t my area corporator have a planning guidance to be able to understand micro issues of her ward and thereby empower her to make decisions regarding projects?

While we continue to harp on building more and more, often unneeded, infrastructure, we are losing tremendous opportunity to make Plans and Policies that will actually ensure long term development of a ward. While, Planning at the top is weak, political aspiration of being visible is ensuring that bits and pieces of infrastructure dots our cities. Whether we need and will ever use this infrastructure or not, is a question that political circles are yet to ask!

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