40% users desert skywalks, experts blame poor planning
MUMBAI: After 36 skywalks have been set up across the city at a cost of Rs
750 crore, Mumbaikars seem to be less than enthused about the facilities,
with as many as 26 of them showing dropping footfalls over a period of one
An in-house survey by consultants of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region
Development Authority (MMRDA), which built all 36 skywalks, showed increasing
use of only 10 skywalks, with the one at Goregaon (West) showing a steep rise
of 32,000 more users (see box for details).
Among other factors, the contrasting figures clearly indicate that the
skywalks have not been designed or built according to the commuting needs of
most people. Experts called this a lack of social engineering and blamed the
planners for not adopting a holistic approach.
Shockingly, it has been revealed that feasibility studies and pedestrian
behavioral patterns were not studied in depth except for 10-12 skywalks that
were initially planned by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation
A copy of the survey, obtained by TOI from Mantralaya sources, showed that
against 12.08 lakh commuters using all the skywalks in June 2011, the May
2012 footfall showed a decline of around 5 lakh pedestrians or almost 40% of
users. Only 7.4 lakh commuters were using them in June 2012.
MMRDA has now shelved plans for 31 skywalks (costing nearly Rs 700 crore)
following allegations of "improper designs" and "wastage of money".
But the idea of skywalks hasn't been dismissed by Mumbai. A recent survey by
students of St Xavier's College here showed that 62% of their respondents
found skywalks very beneficial and 64.8% agreed that they were useful in
commuting. The biggest message they got was the need for security on the long
skywalks. Many said they avoided it in non-peak hours because they were being
misused by beggars, hawkers, drug addicts and other anti-social elements.
Transport expert Ashok Datar said the intention of skywalks was good but not
the approach. "They could have been built in phases after in-depth commuter
survey and feasibility. It looks as if they have been built with an
engineering and investment-oriented approach. Issues of safety, discipline,
and other pedestrian behaviours should have been considered. They lack social
engineering," he said.Social activist Rishi Agarwal said skywalks did not fit
into the pedestrian policy and to judge their use, a proper third-party
survey was a must. "I think to gauge the correct pedestrian trend on
skywalks, a proper third party survey by a reputed institution over a longer
period of time is needed. It is difficult to come at any conclusion over the
project consultants' survey carried out only in two different months of the
year," said Ashwini Bhide, the joint MMRDA commissioner.
In May, there is always a drop in the number of students and academic
institution staff using pedestrian facilities because of holidays. Moreover,
at a few locations, skywalks are not attached to foot overbridges or stations
directly, resulting in less-than-expected response, she added.
But a senior MMRDA official admitted that most of the skywalks, except for
those 10-12 initial efforts, lacked proper planning. "Had the feasibility for
the remaining skywalks been done properly, they would have been a greater
success. I think studying pedestrian patterns - how they disperse and pour in
- could have helped in a bigger turnout on the skywalks," he said.