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Measures for successful Transit Oriented Development in India

Roads can be developed to favor both cars and non-motorized forms of transport. Photo courtesy of SGA Architects.

The concept of transit-oriented development (TOD) as a planning tool is new to Indian cities, where quality mass rapid transit systems are relatively recent.

The primary goal of transit-oriented development is to shift the auto-centric realm of urban living to a transit-centric realm of urban living. The main indicator of a city’s auto or transit orientation is the mode share – the proportion of daily trips made by private motorized vehicles in comparison to public and non-motorized transport. TOD interventions aim to significantly shift the mode share away from private motorized vehicles.

Transit-oriented development has emerged in India in response to the poor air quality and congestion of the last decade. Delhi, in particular, is looking to TOD as a solution to its mobility and air quality issues. The city recently prepared a TOD policy document regarding the development of Delhi metro stations. TOD is being championed by Delhi’s Development Authority (UTTIPEC) as a solution to congestion, environmental degradation, and inequitable housing.

India’s mode share is comparatively good

TOD guidelines for Delhi indicate a desire to achieve a 70-30 modal share in favor of public transportation by 2021 (70% for public transport, 30% for individual vehicles).

In comparison with cities around the world, Indian cities have a pretty good ratio of car trips to public transport. In Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai, less than 25% of trips were made by private motorized vehicles. Only Tokyo had a lower private transportation share at 12%. In many ways, Delhi already has a desired mode share with only 19% of tips made by private vehicles. Additionally, the Delhi metro ridership is at an all-time high at 2.4 million passengers a day.

Indian metro systems need to focus their TOD policies if they aim to move the 25% of commuters that drive automobiles to public transit. The greatest potential for a significant shift would be in cities where private transit still dominates – Ahmedabad (42% private transport) and Bangalore (25% private transport) are good candidates. TOD strategies in Delhi and Mumbai would need to focus on making existing localities more inviting to non-motorized travel, while removing incentives for motorized vehicle ownership.

To be effective, TOD policy formation should begin with setting quantifiable benchmarks that best represent the objectives and goals of the city. While shifting the mode share is a prominent TOD benchmark, other benchmarks should also be considered, especially for Mumbai and Delhi, where the mode share is already quite favorable. Benchmarks that quantify the following strategies can be utilized to measure the success of TOD policies:

  • Matching Station Area development capacity to the Mass transit carrying capacity. Matching the jobs and housing development capacity around transit stations, to the transit systems’s carrying capacity will help create a balanced system, avoiding increases in congestion by over-intensifying certain locations.
  • Setting mix land use goals. Diverse land use is the cornerstone for pedestrian and transit-oriented communities. A benchmark for a desirable mix would measure existing transit-supported single-use neighborhoods and would aid them in changing over time to attain the desired mix without necessarily intensifying beyond an optimal density.
  • Setting benchmarks for increasing cycle/rickshaw infrastructure. Rather than focusing on a private to public travel mode-shift, settings goals for increasing non-motorized modes could be more effective in changing travel habits. In many cities where proper investments are made in pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure, non-motorized transport increases significantly. Bogota, Copenhagen, Portland, and Curitiba are prime examples of this.
  • Identifying TOD ready areas. Old, resettlement and traditional neighborhoods may already have ‘good bones’ for TOD, with good street connectivity, mixed-use and density. By adding transit connectivity, and minimal infrastructure interventions, they could become transit-oriented communities.
  • Setting a benchmark for affordability along the corridor . One of the goals set by the Delhi Development Authority’s TOD policy is housing for all. Affordability in urban metros should include the cost of housing and transportation. If redevelopment of existing slums is part of a TOD project, the resettlement should account for both the cost of housing and transportation from the new housing to the existing job centers of the displaced residents. If the cost rises beyond an established benchmark, alternatives should be considered.

These strategies, though not comprehensive, are crucial for making transit-oriented development successful in urban India. Setting benchmarks will provide targets that city planners and administrators can aim for when appraising policies or projects. Periodic, quantitative evaluation of TOD progress will help to ensure that the city is transformed into an equitable, multi-modal environment.

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  • Prakash Apte

    As far back as in 1997, I had submitted a research paper at an invited workshop held by the Ministry of Urban development, Government of India at New Delhi outlining “Alternatives to Master Plan”. The concept of TOD (Transit Oriented Development) was for the first time initiated by me in that paper.

    My experience in the review of Mumbai’s MasterPlan in 1988 as a member of the government appointed committee (D’Souza Committee) was reflected in the concept. Development of suburban rail station areas was suggested in the review and TOD ready areas were later identified and incorporated in a plan submitted to the World Bank for country credit.

    The Committee ,at myinitiative also recommended mixed landuse, for the first time departing from the age old rigid “zoning” ideas of the Mumbai Development Plan. Benchmarks were set up in my subsequent treatise on “Transportation Strategies for Mumbai” whichcalled for two wheeler parking at suburban rail stations and reservation of lanes for this traffic in the East-West direction in the development plan of
    One of the basic principles incorporated in my concept of ‘Alternatives
    Approaches to Master Plan’ was reservation of ‘reception areas’ for immigrants
    to the cities along the major arteries of transport introducing the concept of
    affordability along the TOD. All these ideas are set down in my books titled
    “Urban Planning & Development: An Indian Perspective” and “Urban Growth Strategies: Mumbai Lessons”

  • Ronnie

    I stay in HSR Layout in Bangalore. This is a relatively new development (~ 6-8 years old). I wouldn’t say it is modelled anywhere even near the TOD philosophy but I have noticed that some of ideas of mixed use, small block sizes for easy neighborhood movement have been factored in quite well. I move around in this area on my bicycle or walk and am able to do many of my errands without getting out of HSR – within 2-2.5 kms radius max.

    Being a new locality, it will be much easier to use some of these measures that you have mentioned. For a start,
    1. We could make safe and wide paths for the non-motorized mode – walking and cycling.

    2. There should be notified areas for street vendors. I see the carts (read ‘rarees’ sprouting up everywhere on the wider roads – 17th cross esp.

    3.More on the TOD point, there are some highly frequent BMTC bus services that could run along the edge of this locality but I don’t know for some reason, the route is planned in such a way that these buses use the flyover instead and completely skip this edge of HSR Layout (running from Mantri Sarovar to 8th Main HSR Layout). For those familiar with Bangalore, I am referring to the 500 series of buses. If you notice, you will see that after crossing the Agara Depot ( next to Mantri Sarovar), they take the flyover completely skipping the main entrance into HSR from Koramangala. Now, there is excellent transit facility/service here, just a slight change in the route can considerably improve access to HSR from the ORR.

    My 2 cents.

  • Debargha Sengupta

    Nice article, Bharat.
    I always thought that in India (and
    probably many other places especially in the developing world), TOD is a
    tough sell since transit has always been
    trailing development – a phenomenon that can be best described as “development oriented transit”. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with it, if it is done smartly. In
    my home town of Kolkata, the newer satellite cities and townships are continuing that practice.
    At best, a case can be made for transit oriented
    RE-development in mature urban settlements. A case in point, where my parents live, just inside the
    southern border of Kolkata, redevelopment started rapidly as plans of a new bypass barely hit the
    streets. Age-old homes in this relatively close-knit quiet
    community suddenly started making way for the only mixed use Kolkata
    knows – G+x. “G” or the ground level is used for either garages or shops – depending on how far you
    are from the main thoroughfares; “x” is the number of upper levels that the road/street would allow, and these levels are typically used for residential or sometimes, offices.
    I cannot agree more on the need for innovative designs for road infrastructure that is not clone of the western forms that do not account for the modes or the needs specific to urban India. Cycles, rickshaws and pedestrians need to be accommodated.
    The land use should not
    disregard the roadside shoppers – like it or hate it, they form a sizeable chunk of the local
    economy and are a source of income for many.
    An ideal roadway design should take into account the unique interaction among the users (bicyclists/pedestrians and these shoppers).