Indian cities are developing at a rapid pace with the support of various national level schemes and missions. There is a clear shift towards an integrated approach and strategic planning. This is particularly evident in India’s Smart Cities Mission, which is focused on stimulating development and investments in Indian cities. Institutional factors and service level benchmarks at the city level are also discussed.
National Smart Cities Mission
The Smart Cities Mission of India has caught global attention with its scale as well as game-changing interventions that redefine the planning practice in Indian cities. Improving urban mobility and quality of life through transit-oriented development is a recurring theme in many of the cities selectedin the first year of the mission. This section looks at the TOD proposals in some of these cities under the National Smart Cities Mission.
Smart Cities Mission
The National Smart Cities Mission launched by the Government of India is leading the transformation in the urban development scenario in the country. Its aim is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens along with a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘smart solutions’ (Ministry of Urban Development, 2015). The mission aims to develop 109 smart cities in India over a period of 5 years. Out of these, 33 cities are selected to receive funding assistance in the first year of the program (2015-16). Each of these cities will receive Rs. 2 billion each in the first year of the programme (2015-16). These cities called as Lighthouse cities (20 cities) and Fast track cities (13 cities) were selected through a competitive process where cities submitted Smart City Proposals (SCPs) detailing the strategic plan for the city, local area plan for a selected area in the city (called Area Based Proposal) and a city-wide plan of ‘smart solutions’ (called Pan city solution).
In the domain of mobility, previously under the JnNURM, the focus in Indian cities has been on building transportation infrastructure such as Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) and road/highway construction. This increased the mobility options, but a lack of comprehensive approach to integrated mobility left large gaps unaddressed, especially in walk modes and last mile connectivity needs of public transit users.
In the smart cities mission, the SCPs were prepared with wide citizen engagement to identify the most urgent needs in the cities. City authorities solicited citizen suggestions and co-created solutions under area based proposals (ABPs) and pan city solutions (PCPs). Improving urban mobility emerged as one of the most urgent need in the citizen engagement exercises conducted in many of the cities. To address the urgency, using Smart Cities Mission as an opportunity, these cities are now looking forward to creating livable environments with better quality of life by improving the urban mobility scenario and preventing urban sprawl.
The Smart Cities Mission is a step towards that balance between compact, low-energy intensive development, advocating for sustainable primary energy sources. Smart Cities aim to decrease the challenges of resource scarcity, climate change and infrastructure deterioration, particularly healthcare, housing, water and transportation, and demand for better economic opportunities and social benefits. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) as an urban growth strategy is promoted under Smart Cities as a legitimate and effective guide for the future growth of cities. The SCPs acknowledge the relevance of TOD to address these issues, with a focus on integrated mobility and creation of compact, dense, mixed use area in close proximity to transit stations. The detailed breakdown of the projects from the SCPs show that projects such as construction of highways, parking lots and others that encourage private vehicles use are converging funds from AMRUT (National Mission for infrastructure improvement), while projects that orient towards creating walkable communities, reducing the need for commuting, investing in transit oriented developments and preserving and developing open spaces are directly using the smart cities mission funds.
TOD is also identified as a strategy in the area based developments to the pressing problems of urban mobility and several other challenges the cities are facing, in 15 out of the 33 cities. These cities are Ahmedabad, Belagavi, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Coimbatore, Davanagere, Guwahati, Indore, Jabalpur, Kochi, Chandigarh, Raipur, Faridabad and Ranchi. These cities propose TOD in their SCPs to create replicable models of sustainable development in the city. Specifically, TOD is proposed as dense, walkable, mixed use neighbourhoods with significant housing and job opportunities in close proximity to transit stations. The nature of TOD proposals in these cities is briefly described under.
TOD proposal in Ahmedabad is centred around the BRT system. The TOD Influence Zone extends 200 m on either side of the BRTS corridor. In this zone, the FSI would be increased from 1.8 to 4. The SCP focuses on retrofitting of existing physical infrastructure for the densified development as well as extension of public realm in the area. It gives special attention to pedestrian facilities through footpaths, street furniture, street lighting, green and open spaces, and pedestrian bridges.
The idea of the area based development in Belagavi is to decongest the inner city area and create commercial corridor and new growth centres with mixed land-use. The areas will be economically viable while also preserving the rich cultural heritage and promoting sustainable environment. The SCP gives a lot of attention to retrofit of open spaces and water bodies, affordable housing, pedestrian and NMT infrastructure and improvement of public transportation.
Bhopal uses TOD in the business district proposed for the ABD. It will promote mixed-use residential and commercial areas to maximise access to public transport, and encourage transit ridership. The SCP proposes elevated LRT corridor on two sides of the site. The urban design of the site utilises the potential of this transit system to create a TOD. Projects also include walkability with interconnected greenways. Demand management strategies are applied by restricting vehicles to the periphery and by providing alternative public transport. Variety of land-use includes retail plaza, housing, several public plazas, office spaces etc.
Bhubaneswar’s TOD proposal in the ABD envisions to retrofit and redevelop a railway station multimodal hub adjacent to the main railway station in the city. This area is proposed to be walkable and well connected with low-carbon/carbon neutral mixed use development, and built with strong transportation network and green infrastructure. Public realm investments in the area will focus on street, public spaces and public buildings. Specific projects in the area include a bus terminal, dedicated bus lanes, dedicated street vending zone, pedestrian plaza, retail shopping, office and residential spaces, hotel and convention centre, etc.
Area based development in Chennai focuses on the improvement of a CBD area based on the principles of TOD. It adopts long-term development plans that encourage a diverse mix of uses, including employment, housing, regional attractions and public spaces to create a high quality compact urban environment, especially near Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations. Specific TOD projects are landscaping for NMT paths, pedestrianisation, retrofitting of opens spaces, footpath widening along main roads, cycle sharing network, integrating all the public transport and feeder systems such as bus and e-rickshaw, etc.
Coimbatore’s SCP focuses on transit orientation and strengthening of mixed use/compact city dimensions in the city’s planning framework. Under these principles, specific attention is given to non-motorised mobility and improvement in public realm specifically through the city’s water bodies. The project to create a 30 km NMT corridor with green pathways and public cycle sharing connects to vantage points in the site and connects with rest of the city.
In Devanagere, the proposal in the core city area aims to augment the density, while carefully mitigating the problems of congestion through articulated street-design controls, such as walkability, priority to NMT and increased dependency on public transport. Redevelopment of the existing old bus terminal into a central transit hub and retail commercial adjacent to railway station is proposed on the principles of TOD. Some projects aligning to TOD are bike share pods, creation of public plaza and multi-use buildings.
Guwahati plans to retrofit a continuous area adjacent to river as a modern eco-sensitive zone with high density and mixed use communities that serve the growth of the city. The site is designed as a walkable district connected to mass-transit, served by organised IPT and with pedestrian priority in planning along with cycling facilities.
The strategic road-map for Indore revolves around the use of TOD for rejuvenation of urban form, maintaining the architectural integrity, cultural inheritance, economic development and digitalisation while leveraging monetisation of public land to finance urban development. The project includes vehicle-free zones in areas served by BRT line, a proposed metro line through the congested core city area, pedestrian and NMT facilities and creation of public plazas to improve the public realm, and redevelopment into mixed-use high rise buildings adjacent to mass transit system.
ABD in Jabalpur focuses on high density mixed use development based on the principles of TOD to energise and regenerate the CBD. Development around proposed mass transit station along the axis connecting the station to the market includes interventions, such as pedestrian pathways, NMT infrastructure will also link green spaces.
Kochi proposes leveraging the metro rail to develop the station area in the CBD as a TOD housing a population of 31,500 whilst creating about 37,096 job opportunities. Integrated multi-modal transport including metro, bus and ferry systems will improve accessibility supported by NMT and pedestrian infrastructure. Other TOD projects include improvement and development of open and green spaces in the city.
The area with four sectors, including the commercial hub is selected for the implementation of the TOD. The focus is on low carbon mobility, healthy living, social equity and vibrant economy. The SCP proposes leveraging the transit node to create a business environment with a mix of complimentary functions, including convention centre, museum and art gallery, mixed income housing, serviced apartments, office and retail, dormitories etc.
Raipur in the SCP proposes to use TOD to build a re-densified compact, walkable urban form at the city core. Using TOD with land management tools, such as transfer of development right, the selected site will have mixed land-use that promotes walk from home to work communities. Special focus is on improving accessibility with barrier free design, pedestrian and NMT infrastructure, and walk-only streets. Improving open and green areas is another area of focus in Raipur.
In Faridabad, the SCP developed modules focus on low carbon mobility, place making and developing vibrant built spaces using the principles of TOD. Transit oriented, compact, high density, mixed use development is proposed near metro stations along with multimodal hub connecting railway station, metro station, bus terminal and IPT. The SCP also propose barrier free footpaths, public bike share scheme and several other pedestrian and NMT infrastructure.
In Ranchi, greenfield development is being developed on the basis of TOD principles. It aims at promoting mixed use along the trunk roads and improving green and water spaces in the city. The focus is on densification to 158 persons/acre as compared to present 34 persons/acre. The SCP predicts an increase in the share of open space per person and reduction in the distance to work. It also proposes improvements to public transportation, NMT and pedestrian infrastructure.
In addition to these fifteen cities, several other cities have made proposals that incorporate some elements TOD. For instance, Lucknow SCP proposes ‘mobility nodes’ that are areas within the city that facilitate bicycle hiring, host IPT terminals and provide charging points for e-rickshaws. These are located in areas with intense commercial activities. Cities such as Ludhiana, New Delhi Municipal Council, Pune, Solapur, Udaipur, Visakhapatnam and several others propose public bike shares - a step towards improving last mile connectivity - in their area based proposals. Bhagalpur SCP proposes to make the area close to railway station walkable with a mixed land-use. The SCP of New Town Kolkata has propose to leverage metro rail to develop compact zones around metro stations. Several cities are also proposing “Complete Streets”, mixed-use and pedestrian only streets, etc.
In the preliminary analysis of the 33 smart city proposals, it is seen that there is a lot of attention paid to creating dense, compact mixed-use communities served by public transportation and NMT and pedestrian infrastructure. The TOD constructs of urban density, urban diversity, urban design, housing and mobility are addressed at different scales in various cities. But within these, urban design interventions are limited to complete streets and creation of open spaces in most of the cities. There is a need for focused solutions for improving the built form and the housing stock as well. In the second year of smart cities mission, a greater scope of TOD is anticipated.