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The Last Mile Connectivity Problem

Delhi Metro is the lifeline of Delhi and the most effective public transit system in the country. However, inherent structural defects within our public transport system prevent Delhi Metro from fully realizing its potential as people find it increasingly difficult to get to their final destination from the metro station, referred to as the last mile connectivity problem.

In a country where myopic urban planning clouds the vision of policymakers, it is refreshing to see that our city planners recognized the need for a public transit system that serves the needs of an ever expanding city. About 5 million people ride the Delhi Metro each day. From the white collar workers going to Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida or students travelling to their colleges or travelers going to the airport, Delhi Metro serves everybody. In what comes as a much needed antidote to the car dependency of this city, Delhi Metro serves as a prime example of what happens when policymaking focuses on the movement of people instead of movement of cars.

Delhi Metro’s lines not only serve the affluent city centre but also connect to the low income and dense housing areas in the city’s periphery. Its infrastructure comprises of an impressive 12 lines, spanning 391 kilometers of network length across 286 stations.

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The first hurdle that any transit system aims to solve is the Last Mile connectivity problem. Travelling from our home to the metro station and then from the metro station to the workplace is a major problem for every person. No transit system can be built within walking distance of each housing cluster in a city. It is a simple fact that sometimes metro stations will be 2-3 km from our place of origin or the final destination. However, that should not be a problem if mixed mode commuting is used effectively.

Mixed Mode Public Transportation involves using more than one public transport system during a commute. Usually this means using a slow public transport system like buses, cycling to supplement the rapid transit system like Metro. In a city like Delhi, this means using the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses to solve the last mile connectivity problem. However, lack of coordination between the two authorities prevents the public transport system in Delhi from coupling effectively.

Usually, DTC bus routes are not planned to supplement the metro network. In areas where there are direct bus routes to the metro station, the routes are unreliable due to inconvenient frequency and issues about safety. Moreover, there are inherent limits in using DTC buses as a link to the Delhi Metro due to their size. The low floor Leyland buses have a larger turn radius and are unsuitable for narrow roads, preventing them from truly reaching the last mile. Hence, the commuters will have to walk some distance to their home/workplace from the bus stop which may act as a deterrent to women and old people.

Furthermore, Delhi is not a walkable city meaning it is very hard to get from one place to another via foot. For a sustainable urban area, bus stops and metro stations should be accessible via a short walk (5-10 minutes). Walking is a convenient solution to the last mile connectivity problem for a lot of commuters as it is much more predictable than getting stuck in traffic or in case the bus gets delayed. Factors such as presence and quality of footpaths, street furniture (shades, benches), and volume of traffic all affect an individual’s choice to walk to the metro station. Unfortunately, it is a horrible experience to be a pedestrian in Delhi and almost all areas in Delhi score poorly on the above metrics. There are frequent encroachments on footpaths or the footpaths are broken or dirty. Oftentimes, heavy traffic and high speed of traffic flow poses significant danger to a pedestrian’s life. This is why it is inconvenient to walk to the metro station even from short distances.

Credits: Indpaedia

Lack of land space also provides constraints in using the “park and ride” method of mixed commuting wherein people use their personal cars, bikes and scooters to reach the metro station, park in the designated facility and use their cars to again reach their home in the evening. However, only 95 stations in the Delhi Metro have parking facilities and this method may be unfeasible as this does not reduce car dependency and emissions.

There are inherent structural defects in our public transport system that will not be solved by merely more funding or a few policy amendments. There have been genuine attempts by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to solve the last mile connectivity problem by running feeder bus routes and electric rickshaws but with little success. What we need is widespread changes in our policymaking like encouraging carpooling, building bicycle infrastructure, and making our roads walkable, feeder bus routes that are frequent, safe and reliable for everybody. The Delhi Metro is a staple landmark of Delhi in the whole country; we need to make it a shining example in the world.

Gunjit Verma is a student pursuing Chemistry Honours from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Ambrisha Zubeen

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Written by Gunjit Verma

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