New guidelines help create safe access to mass transit in Indian cities
Indian cities are often burdened with intense traffic congestion, poor air quality, and inequitable access to transport. Although the country recently invested US$15 billion in the planning and construction of 19 bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and ten metro rail systems nationwide, many transport planners and designers have continued to prioritize private vehicles over pedestrians and cyclists. The result has been numerous mass transit stations that lack safety, security, comfort, and convenience for a large segment of the population.
To address these persistent challenges, WRI India and EMBARQ India recently released Safe Access to Transit Manual Volume 1: Safe Access to Mass Transit Stations in Indian Cities, a manual for developing, maintaining, and evaluating transport stations that are accessible and safe for all. The manual was released in Bangalore on January 31, 2015 and draws on insights from recent case studies, recommending a single participatory process for inter-agency coordination and suggesting methods like workshops, design charrettes, and public exhibitions for identifying stakeholders.
Shifting focus to the human scale
The manual presents a “safe access approach” for developing integrated, multi-modal transit stations. This approach emphasizes non-motorized transport safety and infrastructure, women’s security and accessibility, the role of street vendors, supporting informal bike rental systems, and creating streets as vibrant public spaces.
The Safe Access to Mass Transit Manual equips city leaders with tools for addressing a range of issues unique to Indian cities, like dense urban communities, informal employment, low levels of enforcement, limited public participation, and uncoordinated institutional structures. By shifting focus to the metropolitan level—the manual suggests—mass transit authorities and municipal corporations can coordinate with state and local actors to deliver specialized solutions to these persistent challenges.
The manual stresses the value of consistently and critically evaluating station accessibility and service quality throughout all stages of planning, development, and maintenance. The manual recommends concrete indicators for measuring safety and security, multi-modal integration, feeder bus or auto-rickshaw services, and parking management. With these tools, transport planners and designers will have a new guiding framework for creating mass transit stations that serve as safe, accessible, and enriching public spaces.
Finally, the manual outlines three types of financial mechanisms for implementing station accessibility plans. These include direct financing like budget allocations and funds embedded within projects, indirect financing like leveraging the potential of urban land through land banks and incentives, and the role of the private sector in service provision like public bike-sharing schemes.