Experts think vertical growth along metro rail is the answer

CHENNAI: As work on the Metro Rail network in the city races ahead, experts have called for increasing the floor space index (FSI) of buildings along the route. This, they feel, will bring more people to the area and better patronage for the network. FSI is the ratio of land area to the built-up area.

Walter Hook, CEO of US-based Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, says the city expanding towards the outskirts is a disaster. “The farmlands on the outskirts are cheaper. But these places neither have access to mass transit systems or other utilities like metro water and electricity,” he told in an interview on Tuesday.

Chennai Metro Rail has the potential of transporting 45,000 people an hour in any direction, which is three times the expected traffic. “One way of reaching this potential is by increasing the density of the population along the corridor,” said Shreya Gadepalli, regional director for ITDP.

Increased density need not mean increased congestion. Cities like New York, London and Hong Kong have FSI of up to 40, while in Chennai it is around 2. “New York has frozen development for those buildings which are more than a 10-minute walk from the city’s mass transit system,” said Hook. Similarly, cities like Cleveland and Portland in the US and Hong Kong have ensured development along mass transit systems, he said. In these cities, the number of trips made in public transport has increased and the growth of private transport has either stagnated or has come down. Development along the corridor should be varied. “If there is a mix of uses, like residential, commercial and other uses, the average distance of trip taken is bound to come down,” said Hook.

Footpaths should be prioritized and parking restricted. “Housing should not be allowed to be dictated by the market as the low income group will get pushed out,” said Gadepalli.

If the 7-8% growth of private vehicles continues, the city will have to double its road length and spend about 36,000 crore for road infrastructure. “There is no space for that,” added Gadepalli.