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Centre asks cities to benchmark their urban transportation services

-- THE Union ministry of urban development has evolved a system for evaluating urban transportation services in cities across India.

All cities covered by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission have been advised to benchmark their level of services (los) for various parameters specified by the ministry. The parameters on which cities would be graded include public transportation system, pedestrian facilities, cycle lanes and even air pollution (see box). The exercise aims to generate information that will be useful in making urban transportation systems effective. The grading will be on a scale of one to four. A city that has very good services will score one and one that has poor services will score four.

Ashok R Datar, chairman of the non-profit, Mumbai Environmental Social Network, said the ministry has made a sensible beginning about establishing benchmarks but they may be inadequate.For example, a criterion for benchmarking availability of parking space includes bringing 50 per cent on-street parking under a paid parking system. This may end up encouraging on-street parking. It is important these guidelines should not be allowed to encourage excessive on-street parking. At the same time heavily subsidized multi-storey or underground parking is not an alternative, said Datar. Deterrent measures like hourly parking charges should also have been included, he added.

The benchmarks also miss out on many fronts like well-designed, obstacle-free footpaths, pedestrian crossings for the elderly and disabled and aesthetics, said Kanthimathi Kannan of the non-profit, Right To Walk Foundation, in Hyderabad.

Geetam Tiwari of iit Delhi said the evaluation system has a bias towards metro cities. The parameters for benchmarking need further detailing keeping in mind smaller cities. Many smaller cities do not have organized bus transport but this does not mean these cities have a bad system, she said.

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