CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The Indian Express. He says “Mobilising resources and encouraging citizens to opt for public transportation channels depends on various factors, including the presence of stakeholders and supporting institutions.”

Gear up Kochiites! Streamlining multiple modes of transport under one umbrella body, the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) that came into effect on November 1 will ensure seamless last-mile connectivity from your doorstep to your destination and back. The ambitious project is definitely a silver lining for city residents in a discontenting year

Kochi is connected by a vast network of transport channels — roads, trains, metro rail, private and public buses, cabs, autorickshaws, cycles, and most importantly, water transport. But then, integrating all of these modes effectively was considered a laborious process. While urban planners and landscape architects bemoaned the lack of befitting infrastructure, transport authorities have been blaming the lack of appropriate and timely feeder services.

But eventually, the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) decided to give the Tier II city a facelift. The Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), formed a committee for the transport authority and helped draft the bill. The State Legislative Assembly passed the KMTA bill on November 21, 2019, and it became an Act on December 18, 2019. The KMTA Act came into force on April 1, 2020,  paving way for MTAs in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. The primary benefit for commuters will be a smart-card ticketing system. Rationalisation of buses and a comprehensive mobility plan are on the cards.

Tuk-tuks lead way While the Kochi-Unified
Metropolitan Transport Authority(UMTA) constituted under the KMTA, conducted various studies on the integration of transport solutions including water trails and parking policies, it also aggregated private bus owners in the Greater Kochi region into seven bus operating companies and formed the Ernakulam Jilla Autorickshaw Drivers Cooperative Society(EJADCS), unifying six trade unions.

“Involving autorickshaw drivers in the planning and coordination of urban transport was vital. This ensures that we receive the facilities that public transportation seizes. It also channelises mobility and creates a unified system, which is the need of the hour for Kochi. Also, auto rickshaws play a major role, as they can ply in the most remote routes at affordable rates. Currently, we’re amid the implementation of AuSA, an rickshaw ride app which can facilitate last-mile connectivity,” said Simon Edappally, director-board member, EJADCS. 

The EJADCS has registered under its fold nearly 27,000 auto rickshaws in the district. “KMTA also focuses on sustainable transport systems. Shifting to CNG and electrical modes of commutation in the state is imperative. Post-Covid, public transportation in the state will be refurbished,” he asserted.

Many apprehensions lay ahead
However, not all are sure about the Act. Bus operators, who faced incurable losses during the pandemic, are apprehensive about their role in the project. According to K B Suneer, Ernakulam district secretary of the private Bus Operators Association, though the inauguration of the metro rail promised feeder services by private buses, it hasn’t been implemented yet. 

“I believe private buses could provide feeder services, ensuring last-mile connectivity. Instead, the metro has arranged their feeder services to places like Infopark so as to increase their profit. Also, we have qualms about our route permits getting changed to increase a steady flow of passengers to the metro. Currently, we have fewer buses and bare minimum passengers,” he said.

New leadership
Jafar Malik, the CEO of Cochin Smart Mission Limited, who was recently appointed the CEO of KMTA, stressed that the principal challenge would be integrating many initiatives. “That was, in fact, the aim of a single metropolitan transport body. Regardless of the mode, passengers require seamless services. Simultaneously, the current infrastructure may not be ideal for pedestrians and cyclists, which is also the responsibility of KMTA. Existing and future infrastructure has to be modified accordingly,” 
he said.

Jafar also addressed the concerns of stakeholders. “We have observed a tendency wherein the metro is being preferred over buses during the pandemic. This could be attributed to the additional sanitation measures undertaken by KMRL. However, changing bus operators’ permits is not our intention. Discussions will be held with various stakeholders and their concerns will be cleared in the upcoming days,” he added.

STAY IN LOOP
Walkway-Cycling track-Metro train-City bus-Auto Rickshaw-Boat service-Feeder bus- City taxi

How single-ticketing works
To demonstrate how the single-ticket system works, let us travel from  Chottanikkara to Kalamassery and then MG Road.
Bus from Chottanikkara to Vyttila.
From the Vytilla mobility hub, opt for the boat service to Kakkanad
Cycle to Kalamassery, hop on the metro to MG Road
A feeder auto rickshaw takes you to your doorstep.

A wait and watch policy
D Dhanuraj, the chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research, highlighted that the pitiable state of public transportation, buses in particular, is the failure of the state government. “Mobilising resources and encouraging citizens to opt for public transportation channels depends on various factors, including the presence of stakeholders and supporting institutions. Municipal corporations are currently beneath KMTA. Ideally, it should be the other way around. We’ll have to wait and watch what lies ahead. Meanwhile, the public should be educated on KMTA and their discussions should be transparent,” he said.

This news article was published in The New Indian Express on 12 November 2020. Click here to read

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