CHENNAI: A few weeks back, Ashish Raghuram was held up for hours on the stretch from Vadapalani to Koyambedu, as he was trying to catch a bus from the private bus stand to his hometown in Kerala. While he reached the bus stand late by half an hour, he still managed to catch the bus, as it was more than two hours late from the scheduled time of departure. Come festive season and thousands get stranded in traffic around Koyambedu. But even on a normal day, the traffic during the evening hours gets quite a beast to fight.
Almost two decades back, congestion in George Town led to the shifting of the fruits and vegetable market from Kothwal Chawdi to Koyambedu and by 2002, the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT), one of the largest bus terminuses in Asia (spread across 37 acres), was opened to the public. “Koyambedu is primarily a retail and commercial hub and with the establishment of the CMBT, one of the largest terminuses in Asia, it has become an important transport and activity hub as well. Though it is primarily a wholesale shopping area, it has witnessed the influx of people involved in the workings of CMBT and the wholesale market, thus propelling the development of several small residential developments in the affordable and mid-end segments,” says Kalpana Murthy, Associate Director, Residential Services, India, Cushman & Wakefield.
The rise of the wholesale market and the bus terminus saw a boom in the locality and the improved connectivity became a major point of attraction for those looking for property in the area. “Connectivity has played a major role in the development of the area. The central bus terminus and the development of Poonamallee High Road to connect NH4 and Chennai Bypass road are key factors,” says Rajesh Babu, Founder, RECS Group, a city-based real estate consultancy.
“The central bus terminus, central market and industrial developments along NH4 have accentuated commercial developments as well. Connectivity by bus to all the micro locations of the city and the have helped in rapid residential developments. Apartment prices have increased from `4,000 per sq ft to `6,700 per sq ft from 2007 to 2013,” he adds.
Kalpana says, “Many plots are available for sale for commercial as well as residential use and Koyambedu is characterised by mixed-use properties. Slowly the independent houses in the area are getting converted into small apartment buildings with few units. However, places near Koyambedu, like Mogappair in the west, Arumbakkam in the east, Anna Nagar West in the north and places near Arcot Road towards south have witnessed residential traction due to the proximity of CMBT.” Speaking of upcoming projects in the area, she adds, ” Koyambedu has witnessed residential projects from small local developers and no major developer has launched any project there as yet. However, Mogappair has witnessed a few significant project launches like Raksha and Sukriti being launched in 2012 and ESTA – The One, KG Signature City (Phase- 2) Celebration being launched in 2013.”
The onset of the boom in the real estate industry in the area is precisely when the traffic scenario also began to change and for the wrong reasons. Work on the ongoing metro project has also made the situation worse. “Being under construction, the new metro line has negatively affected the traffic flow and created congestion and commotion. However, once the metro rail starts operation, the traffic will be eased out considerably making it easier for people to access Koyambedu,” says Kalpana.
Rajesh feels that unorganised and narrow roads surrounding the central bus terminus and central market are the major contributors to traffic congestion in the area. “It is the central point connecting areas such as Mogappair, Padi, Ambattur, Maduravoyal, Virugambakkam to the other parts of the city. Massive activity during the morning hours in the market and central bus terminus causes heavy traffic congestion.”
While the congestion caused by the metro line have become very evident, the metro also seems to be a solution to many of the current problems in the locality. ”
With the Inner Ring Road contributing to more than 35 percent of Chennai’s daily traffic flow – both passenger as well as commercial truck traffic, the commissioning of the Metro Rail stretch is expected to not only cut the traffic congestion by a visible 24 percent in passenger traffic (within a year of its operationalisation) but also ensure a trickling down of vehicular traffic on the road ensuring Mofussil bus traffic to improve in and out of the city,” says Ganesh Vasudeva, CEO, Indiaproperty.com, who further points out the efforts that have been on, over the years to decongest Koyambedu. “One of the most congested stretches of traffic has always been seen on the Inner Ring Road stretch from Koyambedu. In the last 5 years, the largest influence in reducing the traffic congestion has been the opening of Asia’s largest clover leafed flyover – Kathipara Junction which allowed the city traffic from Central and North Chennai, Anna Nagar, Ambattur to bypass the regular traffic at Koyambedu while accessing the Airport or the GST.” Highlighting issues that commuters face, Sudhir Chella Rajan, Professor, Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Chennai, says it is very important to pay careful attention to ‘multi-modalism’, so that people would have easy connections among different modes (e.g., walking, bicycling, riding buses and trains).
“Private vehicular traffic may need to be restricted across wide swathes and safe corridors for walking need to be made secure so that buses and other public vehicles also do not get in the way. Managing traffic congestion outside these areas is a separate matter, but right now, pedestrians, cyclists, commercial vehicles, private vehicles and buses all compete with each other in the same general space leading to chaos and injury.”
An official at the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), says, “Vehicular traffic has definitely increased over the years in Koyambedu. We are in the process of acquiring 65 hectares of land for a new bus terminus at Vandalur. We are incharge of the maintenance of the CMBT bus terminus and we are planning to add a double basement parking, which will resolve issues of parking. The metro will also clear the path for vehicular traffic and the area will wear a new look once the metro line is operational.”
According to Ganesh, the traffic is only poised to increase over the years. “With the commissioning of the new 120 MLD STP of Metro water, in addition to the two functional STP plants with a combined handling capacity of 94 MLD, the truck traffic is poised to only increase manifold. Till the time the Metro rail does not get commissioned and the Development Authorities are not able to finalise the space in Vandalur to build the second Mega Bus terminus required urgently to ease Koyambedu’s infra-stress, the only solution would be cosmetic,” he says.
Some of the localized steps taken to decongest the traffic would include the improvement of the inner roads in the Koyambedu Market Complex (KMC), and reduce the truck caused traffic congestions (truck traffic in and out of KMC has gone up from 500 daily in 2009 to 1,000 plus today). “Addition of bus bays in CMBT to handle the increase in Mofussil Bus traffic will ease the situation,” explains Ganesh.
Presenting a futuristic view on the situation, Rajesh says, “There will be good demand for residential developments in this location in the coming years once the metro rail connectivity is in place. The availability of land parcels in the micro location and surrounding areas have very good potential for residential developments.”