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PATH Article - Giving jaywalkers the safe alternative of sky

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    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2014
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      URL: www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/taxation-and-accounts/giving-jaywalkers-the-safe-alternative-of-skywalks/article5433760.ece

      Giving jaywalkers the safe alternative of skywalks

       Mumbai has seen a huge influx of people over the past few decades, which
      has overwhelmed its infrastructure, particularly transportation. This,
      combined with unmaintained sidewalks, footpaths spilling over with hawkers,
      and unsafe subways has added to pedestrians’ woes. To address this issue,
      the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) began to build
      skywalks in the city and its suburbs. However, residents do not seem to be
      very enthusiastic about the initiative. More than 36 skywalks were set up,
      costing almost Rs 750 crore, but most of them have reported a drop in
      footfall over the past few years. While in June 2011, 12 lakh commuters used
      skywalks, the number dipped to 7.4 lakh within a year. This despite the fact
      that Mumbai has almost 65 lakh pedestrians daily, and studies indicate that
      57 per cent of road fatalities involve pedestrians.

      The recent news of the upcoming Grant Road/ Nana Chowk skywalk, built with an
      investment of Rs 50 crore, was heavily criticised. The public’s complaint
      is that end-user preferences were not taken into consideration at the
      planning stage. Moreover, the disabled and elderly have not been provided
      adequate access to skywalks. In addition, there are security concerns. As a
      result of these issues, declining footfall, and the huge cost involved (Rs 25
      crore a year) in maintaining the skywalks, the programme was shelved in 2011.

      However, if technology is put to good use, these problems may be resolved

      ‘Big data’ to the rescue

      ‘Big data’ refers to the collection of large, complex, and unstructured
      data sets. This data is collected from various sources, such as mobile
      devices, tracking systems, radio frequency identification, social networks,
      internet searches, and e-commerce. Inexpensive storage, ever-increasing
      computing power, and modern analytic tools can be used to analyse large
      chunks of continuously generated ‘big data’ to provide useful insights.By
      using mobile network triangulation, network carriers can identify the
      approximate geographic location of any mobile user through roaming signals.
      Algorithms that calculate the speed of a device’s movement can help detect
      whether the journey is by foot or on a vehicle. By collecting such data and
      integrating it with the map of Mumbai, authorities could get a live feed of
      foot journeys in the city. Moreover, to remove any outliers, mobile data
      should be collated from multiple telecom service providers with a high
      subscriber base. In addition, telecom operators can pinpoint the exact
      geographic location of a mobile phone that has Global Positioning System or

      This data could be used to plan skywalks along popular pedestrian routes.
      Entry and exit points could be constructed at regular intervals to enable
      convenient accessibility. Privacy concerns can be sufficiently addressed by
      keeping the data anonymous. Aggregated mobile network data can help
      government authorities make better decisions for the city’s infrastructure
      and traffic planning, reduce costs through increased efficiency, and better
      serve the citizens.

      Improved safety

      Security is a primary concern — most commuters avoid skywalks in non-peak
      hours because of the presence of beggars and anti-social elements. While CCTV
      surveillance is necessary, the challenge is the need for an army of people to
      monitor live feeds. This concern can be resolved by using video analytics
      tools that compress long hours of footage into a few minutes of relevant
      feeds. Such tools also allow for pinpointing an area of interest in the
      video, and indicate unusual activity. Also, if hawkers’ movement is
      restricted to certain areas, this may make the skywalk safer.

      Improving convenience

      Another concern is that skywalks have stairs to climb and are long on foot,
      making it difficult for senior citizens and the physically disabled. To
      address this, authorities could consider installing moving walkways, such as
      escalators and horizontal travelators.

      Monetising skywalks

      Authorities could consider generating revenue through out-of-home (OOH)
      advertising, by placing hoardings or digital displays along the skywalk.
      Digital displays are gaining greater acceptance from marketers as they
      address a ‘captive’ audience that is short on time. In the backdrop of
      falling capital expenditure requirements for technology rollouts and flat
      screens or digital displays, and adequate availability of reliable broadband
      technology for content dissemination, digital OOH is set to gain steam.

      Overall, while skywalks are a brilliant idea, the authorities should step up
      their planning efforts.


      Recently, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, approved
      MMRDA’s Rs 50-crore budget for skywalks to be built in financial year 2014.
      However, before taking a step forward, authorities should study and fix the
      issues raised.
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