A pilot design for Chennai’s streets


Chennai’s  poorly designed and improperly executed roads, with even shoddier maintenance may soon see better times, if the present attempt by Chennai City Connect (CCC) , an organisation set up by Janaagraha, a Bangalore based NGO and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) succeeds.


Janaagraha (Chennai) and CII (Tamil Nadu) have setup up CCC for various stakeholders of Chennai to interact and support the Government of Tamil Nadu for improvement of urban infrastructure. It is based on the success of a similar initiative in Bangalore which goes by the name of Bangalore City Connect.


In Chennai, CCC will aim to work on long-term and short-term projects. Among the latter, it has begun looking at street design in the city and the ways and means to improve it. The idea stems from the root belief that most street designs and their implementation follow a one-design-fits-all approach which does not look at ground local realities. Consequently, implementation of such plans do not offer any benefit to the local residents. Footpaths are often a foot high and even if present, are encroached by shops, two wheelers and squatters. As a result nobody is able to see any visible improvement.


CCC taking its credo from Janaagraha aims for a bottoms up approach and feels that the most manageable unit in any civic body is the zone. Each zone should be studied for the street plan and layout to be effective and this then has to integrate upwards via wards, councils and finally the city corporation. Therefore, each streets problems need to be studied individually and solutions identified for it.

In order bring make a difference and help the Chennai Corporation to improve the city’s pedestrian facilities, CCC, along with interested groups adopted the following methodology:

  1. Consult with city officials, especially the Corporation Commissioner and explain the project to them and sign a detailed MOU with the government. This MOU will detail on deliverables from government, CCC and other participating organisations along with timelines. Such MOU will take existing government plans into account and hence will ensure our effort is not wasted by future changes in the area.
  2. Conduct survey of footpath to identify the dimensions of the road, footpath, etc.
  3. Conduct study, take digital photographs, of the corridor to document the existing issues and devise practical solutions. Compile international standards.
  4. Employ an urban planner or architect to design the footpath, crossing, street furniture, etc. taking earlier observations into consideration.
  5. Design proper bus bays and shelters to help passengers and bus operators; to ease congestion of road; to prevent crowding at bus shelter.
  6. Design proper signs and locations to prevent accidents and improve citizen safety.
  7. Optionally, conduct traffic flow study to arrive at optimum signal time and road architecture. This will ensure smoother traffic flow, lessen pollution, and reduce accidents.
  8. Present the plans to Mayor, Corporation Commissioner, Police Commissioner for Traffic and other relevant officials. They can conduct public participation meetings to present the plans with diagrams to explain the project to the public.
  9. Present international standards to city officials for use as guidelines.
  10. Help implement by conducting periodic meeting with officials and help in monitoring.

The final deliverables included the following:

  • Clearly defined road-footpath boundary that is visible to all road users even from a distance.
  • Demarcate user-friendly footpaths that encourage maximum usage by pedestrian
  • Proper pedestrian crossings to ensure safety and ease.
  • Identify space for street hawkers to co-exist with pedestrians and other stakeholders.
  • Proper signage, identification of no parking areas, landscaping, street furniture for safety and comfort, garbage bins, etc.
  • Introduce bus bays or clearly marked spots as bus stops, for safety and comfort of passengers and to prevent haphazard parking of buses and congestion of road.
  • Improve safety of pedestrians along the corridor.
  • Involve all stakeholders in preparing solutions that is acceptable to most.

CCC has since presented its findings and recommendations to the civic body. The Corporation it is learnt, is delighted with the study and has begun the process of tendering for the actual implementation of the plan. The idea has now extended to getting corporate bodies in the vicinity to also chip in with funding for the execution. This if taken up and implemented effectively, could well be a blueprint for all city development to come.