Tuesday, February 10

Vasant Kunj - missing the Metro ride?

The residents of Rohini - one of the first places to be connected to the Metro - have really taken to using the Metro to travel to CP or the Delhi University on a daily basis. For many years Rohini was a neglected colony towards the west of the city and now it has come alive.

I thought the next logical thing would be to connect up Vasant Kunj. Here was one of the largest colonies with middle class houses and a bad bus service. Also JNU was close by and there would be a large student crowd using the Metro. But no such luck. The metro guys decided on another residential suburb. Dwarka. And they proceeded to make a long chain of stations here. Now that line is the busiest among the three and is running on a profit.

Looking back it made sense. The ideal time to get people to use public transport is when they are shifting to a new place. In Vasant Kunj houses were over 20 years old and most residents had cars. Switching to the Metro would have taken a longer time. But in Dwarka, it is convenient. Public spaces, shops and related activities have now come up along the stations.

In cities like Delhi, Bangalore & Hyderabad how do you get people living in older residential areas to switch to the Metro? In Mumbai and Kolkata it may be easier because a larger propotion already use public transport but what about places where people have gotten used to travel only in cars and do not mind the wait on roads. How do you convince these people?

One positive development can be how businessmen and shop owners in old Delhi have started using the Metro on a regular basis since it is convenient. The other success story is the thousands of students who use the metro to travel to the north campus. Public transport can always be an option if it is clean, safe and convenient. Also once you get off the station you should have rickshaws or buses to ferry you to your final destination.

The next challenge will be when the Gurgaon line opens in 2010. Since it skirts one end of Vasant Kunj will the residents use it connect to the city? Or will it remain untouched by the Metro?

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