The Tamil Nadu Assembly has approved the setting up of a Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA). It is a development that is rather late in the day and ought to have perhaps been set up in the 1980s when the MRTS was planned. Still it is better late than never and it is to be hoped that unlike its rather unwieldy name, it will live up to what is expected of it.

Chief among CUMTA’s responsibilities will be the preparing of a comprehensive and integrated public transport plan for the city, which will include all modes – train, bus and the metro. It will also look into the setting up of a common ticket and fare structure to facilitate seamless commuting, something that is in existence in most world-class cities today. Like the CMDA, the CUMTA will chiefly have a planning function and will oversee the work of several agencies involved in the running of the transport systems. It will also periodically revise and upgrade its plans. To be headed by the Transport Minister, it will have the Chief Urban Planner (Transport) of the CMDA as its Member Secretary. Others on board will be the Chief Secretary and the Vice Chairman, CMDA (both ranking as Vice-Chairpersons), the Secretaries of the Departments of Finance, Transport, Home, Housing & Urban Development and the General Manager of the Southern Railway.

The CUMTA will also have on its agenda the recommendations of the Comprehensive Traffic and Transport Study commissioned by the CMDA, which looks at what will be the situation in 2026 and what are the solutions that are possible. The study has recommended three metro corridors for the city – Airport to Wimco Nagar via Central, St Thomas Mount to Central (both already under implementation) and St Thomas Mount to Medavakkam. It has also suggested the development of large transportation hubs at Luz, Gemini Circle, Tirumangalam, Porur, Saidapet and St Thomas Mount. The last named is likely to become as important as Central what with the MRTS, the metro and the suburban line integrating there.

In what could be a related development, it is reliably learnt that the Government is seriously considering a re-look at the idea of elevated corridors along principal thoroughfares of the city. It is feared that such roadways will only increase the usage of private transport vehicles at the expense of the MRTS, the buses and the Metro. If this is true it is a good development for it would then appear that the Government is waking up to the idea of public transport solutions.

It is to be hoped that in all this the CUMTA does not overlook the interests of the pedestrians and sacrifice whatever little space that is at present available to them. It would be best if one of the CUMTA’s objectives would be to improve pedestrian safety and comfort. Studies have shown that a large chunk of road traffic could be eliminated if short journeys could be accomplished on foot. But Chennai and the CUMTA have a long way to go before that ideal can be achieved.