Public Open Spaces and Sustainable Development Goals

Coherence of SDGs with Public Open Spaces: Targets, Actions and Benefits

Public spaces, the heart of urban areas, are the key part of building inclusive, healthy, functional and productive cities.  They can act as strong tools in sustainable development by providing environmental, social, economic and health benefits to the city. Public Open Space help achieve safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and have been identified as a specific target under the 11th SDG. The data sheet here represents the potential of public spaces to contribute to several sustainable development goals. The inner most circle in the wheel shows the SDGs related with public spaces. The middle circle represents the specific targets of the respective SDGs that can be achieved through public spaces development. The outermost circle shows the benefits on the basis of three categories of public spaces markets, open spaces and streets. The suggested actions to obtain these results are shown outside the wheel connected with the respective SDGs.

Reference
Sustainabledevelopment.un.org. (2019). SDGs .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. [online] Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].
Daniel, K. (2016). Public Spaces: A key tool to achieve the sustainable development goals. HealthBridge.

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Potential of Urban Agriculture under Transmission lines: Case-Study of Agro Garden in Navi Mumbai

Introduction

Urban agriculture as a concept is often employed to address social and environmental sustainability in cities. The activities involve producing, processing and distributing food and other agricultural products complimented by recreational, educational and social values additions. The importance of urban agriculture is increasingly being recognized by international organizations like UN-Habitat and FAO. Urban Agriculture helps in:

(1) Enhancing urban environmental management (Environmental Sustainability)

  • Sustainable land management method.
  • Greening and cleaning of the city by turning derelict open spaces into green zones.
  • Productive reuse of urban wastes by turning them into a productive resource.
  • Contribution to Urban Ecology by improving microclimate and providing habitat to biodiversity.
  • Reduces the risk of groundwater pollution, while also sequestering carbon in the soil.
  • Reinventing the human relationship with nature through environmental awareness.

(2) Turning urban challenges into opportunities (Economic Sustainability)

  • UA is an exceptional public involvement based solution, which works as a complementary strategy to reduce urban poverty.
  • Create sufficient formal employment opportunities for the poor.
  • UA contributes to local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the urban poor and women in particular.

(3) Functioning as a Platform for social integrity (Social Sustainability)

  • UA is a multitasking activity, which requires active and passive public participation at different stages for its success.
  • Contributes to Urban Food security and nutrition. Locally, seasonally grown food is richer in flavor and has more nutrients.
  • Communities involved in UA manifest higher social integrity as they work towards common good, which eventually bestow them with higher quality of life.
CIDCO’s Policy for lands below Transmission Line

To encourage public participation in land development and management, CIDCO in 1998 came up with a policy for allotment of land falling under Power Corridor (MSEB) and land falling under Service Corridor. Certain parcels of land under Right of Ways (RoW) for power transmission line cannot be termed as developable land as per the provisions of Navi Mumbai Disposal of Land Regulation, 1975 and have been disposed-off for its potential utilization. This innovative policy allows to utilize such underutilized land parcels on Leave and License basis for development of gardens/nurseries/farmlands at a nominal rent of Rs. 100/- per annum. It keeps these lands free from encroachment and develops greenery to create an ambience for recreational activities and relaxation. Moreover, transmission lines passing through the nodes make undevelopable and unaffordable urban land available for neighbourhood to cultivate. Total 168 plots were leased out to different communities/ trusts/societies, where Urban Agriculture and allied activities turned out to be most sustainable utilization.

This article discusses a pre-eminent example of urban agriculture on land below power transmission line in Navi Mumbai. This project works in line with the objectives of CIDCO’s policy and also serves a greater purpose of achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability at community level. The case studies are analysed on three aspects:

  • Economic Sustainability
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability

CASE STUDY – Agro Garden by CBD Residents’ Agro Society

Plot no. C-13 | Sector- 9 | CBD Belapur

CBD Resident’s Agro Society, a non-profit organization established as Citizen’s Effort for protection and conservation of sensitive eco-system came up with an idea to create a multipurpose public space on the foothills of Valley Park. This park is capable of inculcating community farming and gardening culture along with raising environmental sensitivity amongst the citizen. It also keeps the land clear from encroachment. The park covering nearly 1 Ha (9507 Sq.m.) barren patch of land falling under power transmission RoW is being transformed into a fertile terraced farm and garden.

The Agro Garden is broadly divided into 4 segments: Vegetable garden and Orchard, Butterfly Park and Botanical Garden, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground. Rest of the peripheral area is kept intact with natural vegetation. Each segment serves a critical role in this sustainability model.

Image 1: Satellite image of Agro garden showing of Multi-purpose Segments

Activities:

Activities like horticulture, agriculture, awareness drives, socio-cultural events and educational tours performed in the Agro garden creates activities and gives a local flavour to this transformed urban space. Through multiple uses of different segments and overall benefits gained through them safeguard the social, economic and environmental sustenance of the community.

 

Figure 1 – Activities in the four zones of the Agro Park and the economic model

Organic fruits and vegetables are produced in Vegetable Garden and Orchard; nature trails and informative walks are organized for children and nature lovers at Botanical Garden add meaning to spaces. Butterfly Park, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground possesses multipurpose behaviour of space which apart from daily activities are suitable for cultural events too.

Economic Sustainability

The garden balances the social activities and the revenue generation through its financial sustainability model. Moreover, the garden provides employment to the agricultural workers deployed in Agro Garden. The self-sustaining model of the Agro Garden reduces the load of financial contribution on the member residents, this makes it easier for them to voluntarily contribute towards development of the garden. The revenue is generated from educational tours, vegetables and fruits sales, renting spaces for socio-cultural events, entry fees, donations, etc. If the expenses for the year are not recovered, society members contribute the remaining amount for maintenance and development.

Figure 2: Model for recovery of expenditure

Environmental Sustainability

The actions to preserve the environmental sustainability works around four parameters, each of them having their own contribution, they are:

  1. Land transformation: Habitat creation and restoration: Combined efforts has transformed this unfertile land into a fertile and productive resource. The botanical garden provides a favourable niche for the survival of rare species of plants. Successful habitat restoration for birds and reptiles has been done there. The botanical garden houses species of host and nectar plants, which provides food and shelter to almost 30 butterfly species. The butterfly park successfully contributes in habitat creation.
  2. Composting: Urban waste management and manure production: Neighbourhood residents convert their household wet waste into compost and reduce load on municipal landfill.
  3. Organic Farming: Reduce food footprint and provide healthier food: Cultivation of seasonal fruits and vegetables with organic farming techniques has been the most popular venture. Community farming in a city helps in reducing food footprint of a neighbourhood. To economize on water, the society has developed independent water source by digging a well and irrigation is done by means of sprinklers and drip irrigation.
  4. Conservation Education: Environmental awareness and conservation, eco-tourism: Students, enthusiasts and researchers visit this garden to observe botanical wealth and butterfly lifecycle. It encourages environmental awareness and eco-tourism.Children, elders and educational trips promotes sensitivity towards conservation of natural heritage.

Image 2: Vegetable farming on stepped terrain

Image 3: Organic vegetables purchase by nearby residents

 

Environmental Awareness Programmes like Basant Utsav are organised by the Agro Society. These programs spread environmental awareness amongst citizens of Navi Mumbai through various workshops on topics like, eco-friendly domestic waste management, sheet mulching, vermi composting, bonsai, kitchen garden, snake protection and awareness, plant and flower show, nature trails, etc.

Social Sustainability

Public participation plays a vital role in Agro Park’s social sustainability initiatives. The public participation takes place on two levels explained here:

  1. Passive Public Participation by contributing towards judicial use of the public space and enabling multipurpose use by bringing diverse population together: Events organized in Agro Garden attract people from different parts of the city, they come together mostly for learning and recreation. Community gatherings and social events serve dual purpose of revenue generation and social integrity. Within the garden, there is also a dedicated space for senior citizens.
  2. Active Public Participation by:
  • Encouraging Functional Participation in groups to meet predetermined objectives related to a project after major decisions have been made.
  • Encouraging Interactive Participation in joint analysis, development of action plans, and formation or strengthening of local institutions.
  • Mobilizing Participation by taking initiatives independent of external institutions to change systems. They develop contacts with external institutions for resources and the technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used.

Image 4: Botany expert Dr. Bhagwat participating in one of the nature trails

The participation of public in decision-making and maintenance creates a sense of unity and responsibility towards community development and nurtures social integrity. Combining the multiple initiatives and citizens’ contribution together works forward in upgrading citizens’ quality of life.

Conclusion

Case-studies like these apprehend that urban agriculture is beyond growing the food; it also creates recreational, educational and employment opportunities to the urban population. It also contributes by using under-utilised lands below transmission lines. Urban agriculture solves dual purpose of environmental sustainability and enhancing quality of life of residents under Smart Cities initiative, it also addresses Smart City feature of preserving and developing open spaces in sustainable way. Surprisingly, some of the activities and features proposed in Langley Urban Agriculture Demonstration Project report are already being practiced at Agro Garden and KKVP Nursery cum Information Centre by virtue of public interest.

For urban agriculture to flourish, public action groups seek encouragement and support from the local government. City’s municipal corporation and the planning authority can support citizen action groups through functional reforms such as assuring long-term tenure, performance based assessment and incentives, promotion of events and awareness programmes organized in such projects citywide. Encouragement can be sought by making more land resources available to the communities in neighbourhood with simplified procedure for lease application and renewal. Leasing the plots to citizen in adjacent neighbourhoods is beneficial as the accountability for maintenance and benefits enjoyed remains with the community.

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Transforming a Landfill Site: Case Study of Koparkhairane’s Nisarg Udyan

Urban decision makers, often consider adaptive reuse of abandoned or formerly contaminated lands, such as former military bases, brownfields and landfills, while looking for more parkland for social, environmental or economic activities. These land uses provide the required land acreage in close proximity to urban settlements and play a role in establishing the identity of a sustainable city (Vogt, 2015). Around the world, landfill sites have been the focus of urban redevelopment projects as seen in Millennium Park in Boston, Slushing Meadows-Corona Park and Freshkills Park in New York City and World Cup Park in South Korea.

In Indian context, the Nisarg Udyan (Nature Park) in Koparkhairane, Navi Mumbai is one of the better examples of urban space transformation project improving the quality of life of the residents. The park serves as a recreational space for the citizens as well as a safe niche for the bio-diversity. Spread over an area of 17 Ha, this park was a landfill until 1999. After 19 years, it has transformed into an appealing recreational space. This article further discusses the case study of Nisarg Udyan and its transformation process.

Figure 1: Layout of Nisarg Udyan at Koparkhairane, Navi Mumbai

The transformation process

The transformation of this area initiated in order to address the grievances of the residential population near Koparkhairane landfill area. This initiative was in accordance to the instructions given by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and directives of the High Court (Ljiljana & Sanjay, 2012).

Scientific closure of this dumping ground containing 20 lakhs M.T garbage was completed by NMMC in 2008. A network of wells was laid to collect trapped landfill gas (LFG) and a flaring unit was installed at the site to burn the LFG. A leachate collection tank was also constructed to collect the leachate and treat it before disposal. Treated sewage water from the sewerage treatment plant is now being used for watering the lawn through a sprinkler system.

The development of the park happened in three phases:

  • Phase 1 – In the process of converting the open dump yard into a garden, grass layer of 22000 sq. mt. area was laid during 2013-2014.
  • Phase 2 – A jogging track was set up for the citizens residing in the nearby localities.
  • Phase 3 – Infrastructure like public convenience, pergolas, dedicated sitting areas and open gym were constructed.

 

 

Image 1: Before and after transformation of Nisarg Udyan. Source: NMMC Solid Waste Dept.

Value addition under TERI’s Eco-City Project

Navi Mumbai Eco-City Project was launched with a vision to develop Navi Mumbai as India’s first Eco City. It worked on the principles of sustainable development through implementing low carbon consumption strategies and appropriate utilization and conservation of natural resources. TERI WRC has signed MoU with NMMC in 2012 to set up projects under Eco-City Programme with focus on biodiversity conservation, green buildings, urban farming, energy and water conservation.

To create environmental awareness, 15 lecterns and 4 large boards were installed in Nisarg Udyan, having information about biodiversity in the locality such as birds, butterflies, sparrows and mangroves.

Image 2: Informative lecterns at Nisarg Udyan. Sources: Completion report of installation of Biodiversity panels and Lecterns at Nisarg Udyan, Koparkhairne, Navi Mumbai, TERI

What does the space offer?

The park offers scope for many activities and opportunities for ecological conservation, some of them are mentioned below:

Active and Passive Recreation

The park has ample spaces for active and passive recreation. The active spaces include uninterrupted pathways, long spread lawns, open air gymnasium, indoor recreation arena, etc. People regardless of their age or gender use the space for jogging, morning/evening walks, yoga, sports, etc. Passive spaces like covered (Pergolas) and non-covered sit outs are popular amongst elders. Emphasis on providing infrastructure like clean public toilet, storm water drainage and providing adequate lighting is taken.

Image 3, 4, 5 & 6: Different cases of Citizens engaged in different activities

Niche for Biodiversity

Natural vegetation (mangroves and mangrove associates) around landscaped area houses several resident and migratory bird species such as Egrets, Yellow Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Black Drongo, Red Munia, Prinias, etc. The park provides grassland, woody and wetland habitat for other species like Jackals as well.

Image 7: congregation of Little Egrets in Nature Park

Water conservation

To tackle the challenge of maintaining such a large area, reuse of treated water is implemented assuring environmental sustainability. As per NMMC, 205 MLD sewage undergoes treatment every day and discharges 202 MLD treated water into the sea. Around 2 MLD treated water from the adjacent STP is used for irrigation in Nisarg Udayan (The Indian Express, 2018).

Impacts

The impact analysis of Nisarg Udyan was done on similar lines of Day’s Sequential Model of Decision Making (1992). The model (also known as AIDA: Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) is often used in marketing to describe the steps a customer takes in the process of purchasing a product. According to the four steps of AIDA:

  1. A person first acquires information about the place
  2. He/She develops interest
  3. The person develops a desire to visit and
  4. Finally takes an action, i.e. visiting the park.

Similar to the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985), AIDA model provides framework for understanding phases of cognitive process that simulates behavioural reactions. A similar study was also done by Vogt, et al. (2015) to assess the success of Freshkills Park, New York. They examined the impacts of proximity and experience with the local history.

Figure 2: Sequential Model of Decision Making. Source – AIDA

On similar lines, responses of residents to the transformation of Nisarg Udyan were assessed. It was found that responses about the space before the transformation were only negative, owing to the foul smell, pollution and the unhygienic surroundings. Only after 2008, when the residents realized (attention) that the transformation process has been completed, they developed an interest to witness the difference. Influenced by the quality of transformed space and its benefits, they developed a desire to visit again. After being familiar, they indulged in healthy actions at the park as a part of their daily routine.

This park is a good example of creating a productive land use out of underutilized land. Proximity plays an important role here, since the group of people who once complained about the waste dump-yard gained maximum benefits after the transformation. As this is the largest park within Koparkhairane and Ghansoli nodes, people within 2-3 km proximity tend to visit Nisarg Udyan frequently for recreation. This project also highlights the importance of complimenting land uses towards alleviating the lifestyle of the residents in a city.

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The Economy of Public Markets: Case study of Pike Place Market, Seattle

Introduction

Sustainability and quality of public spaces depend on the financing model used for their creation, management and maintenance. As public spaces have direct effects on attractiveness of cities and increase of property values, many theories consider local governments as the principal stakeholders investing in public place projects (UCLG, 2016). However, responsibility of management of public spaces should not be vested with the local government alone.

Public space entities rely on one or more revenue sources such as economic development organisations, merchant’s associations, universities, non-profit informal volunteer groups, daily visitors, commuters, etc. (Trudeau, 2017). As public funding for building and maintaining public spaces is inadequate in many communities (Nagel, 2017), cities strive to approach with innovative funding sources to supplement the local budget (UCLG, 2016; Action Canada, 2015). Each public space has its own model for funding and management specific to their needs and vision. This article concentrates on public markets and will discuss the case study of Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Models of funding and management of public spaces

Models of funding can be generally grouped under three categories (Stavel, 2017):

  1. Institution based – where institution(s) and/or city is responsible,
  2. Public Private Partnership – where corporate partners or a group of stakeholders are responsible and
  3. Grassroots Partnership – where volunteer led community groups are responsible.

Figure 1: Categories of models of funding. Source: Greenest City Scholars

The eight models of funding identified by CABE space, London are (CABE Space, 2006):

  1. Traditional local authority funding – by the local authority from its general revenue budget.
  2. Multi-agency public sector funding – by two or more government departments or agencies (health, crime, education, etc.) to meet cross-cutting targets.
  3. Taxation initiatives – from levies on properties or tax credits.
  4. Planning and development opportunities – funding ensured by planning agreements for new commercial and residential developments.
  5. Bonds and commercial finance – from loans repaid by local businesses or residents.
  6. Income generating opportunities – from revenue income such as licensing and franchising, sponsorship, entry fees and fines, etc.
  7. Endowments – long-term funding from the interest gained on investments in assets such as property or the stock market.
  8. Voluntary and community sector involvement – funds raised by non-profit organisations.

In addition to the above, models such as event based, self-governing special assessment districts, etc. are also identified as innovative mechanisms. It is possible for two or more financing models to co-exist in a single project (San Francisco Planning, 2016). Therefore, it is important to understand how the economics of a public space is managed, where multiple sources of funding and multiple financing models generally co-exist.

The Economic Value of a Public Space

A high-quality public space has significant impact on the economic life of urban centres (CABE Space, n.d.). The direct economic benefits of public spaces are (CABE Space, n.d.; Bennete, 2016):

  • Property value adjacent to a park or green space increases,
  • Businesses prefer locations adjacent to public spaces,
  • Footfall in local retail increases

and indirect benefits are:

  • Positive impact on general, physical and mental health reduces the public health care cost
  • Energy saving through natural ventilation, etc.

Public markets as public spaces

Public markets, generally owned and operated by public or non-profit entities, are intentional and diverse combination of shops/ stalls serving a community’s daily shopping needs and showcasing its culture. They typically sell locally grown or produced commodities (Zaretsky, 2017).

Public markets are always relevant to planners seeking a multipurpose tool for social, economic and community development. For example, the Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market is a municipal policy tool established to address unemployment, enhance food security and incorporate new immigrants (Morales, 2009). Similarly, the Portland Public Market House, Maine set in two levels of a mixed use building provides a neighbourhood meeting place, serves local cuisine prepared in a community kitchen and thereby benefitting the local economy (Barron, 2016).

Public markets help in improving the quality of life of a community (Pps.org, 2010). They provide benefits to urban land markets, community health, ecology, environment, expansion of businesses and promote income-earning opportunities (Morales, 2009; IPM, n.d.)

Figure 2: Benefits of public markets. Source: Project for Public Spaces

Dilli Haat, New Delhi is an example of urban transformation of a leftover urban space to an active public space. Managed by Delhi Tourism and Delhi Municipal Corporation, it sells artefacts, local food and serves as space for cultural activities (Raheja, Borgmann and Pillai, 2015).

Generally, the funding and management of public markets is based on multi-agency public sector or non-profit organisation models. The case study explained here is a long term success story of the Pike Place Market in Seattle which has an innovative funding and stewardship model to follow.

Case study of Pike Place Market, Seattle

The Pike Place Market is located in the Belltown neighbourhood of Seattle, Washington, USA opened in 1907. It won the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 1987 (Langdon, 1990). The market (CNT, 2010):

  • acts as small business incubator (occupies over 300 small businesses)
  • improves economic development
  • connects local farmers to consumers (130 stalls for local producers)
  • provides social services like medical clinic, preschool, etc.
  • provides affordable housing
  • improves community cohesion
  • preserves historic buildings
  • acts as tourist spot
Funding and management

The Pike Place Market is run by ‘Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority’ (PDA) since 1973 (CNT, 2010). PDA is a non-profit, public corporation chartered by the City of Seattle in 1973 to manage 80% of the properties in the nine-acre Market Historical District. PDA acts as a public steward to the market whose council members are appointed by the Mayor, making it more accountable and transparent (Turnbull, 2016).

Over 60% of revenues for the functioning of the market are derived from the tenants through rent, utilities, and other property management activities (CNT, 2010). The remaining 40% is from investments and bonds. About 75% of budgeted expenses is for the tenant services such as maintenance and security to insurance, utilities, and property management. Another 14% is for PDA management and administration and 10% for marketing and other programmatic expenses (Turnbull, 2016).

Figure 2: Sources of Revenues and Expenses of PDA. Source: What Pike Place teaches us about place governance, 2016

The PDA has now started utilising bonds for the construction of new ‘Market front Expansion’. A part of the Funding is allocated for the affordable housing construction. In 2017, the market generated total revenue of $18,821,615 and a 4% increase in commercial retail sales compared to the previous year (PDA, 2017).

Impacts of a transformative public market

In due course of time, Belltown neighbourhood changed from a low rent, semi-industrial arts district to a place hosting trendy restaurants, boutiques, night clubs, residential towers, warehouses and art galleries (CNT, 2010). The market itself has expanded to more levels and now also occupies antique shops, comic book sellers, etc. The public market district has become a strong neighbourhood community providing homes for nearly 500 low-income seniors. It also provides services like medical clinic mostly serving poor, HIV positive, elderly or differently abled patients. Friends of Market, Historical Commission, Pike Place Merchants’ Association, Market Foundation, etc. are a few of the community partnerships/ collaborations existing in the market (CNT, 2010). It has formed a new public plaza as part of the market front expansion adding up to socially active public spaces in the city.

Image 1: Pike Place Market in 1920s

Image 2: Front view of Pike Place Market in 2017. Source (image 1 & 2): pikeplacemarket.org

Similar example

Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Detroit, a public market for local produce, food and crafts, is owned by the City of Ann Arbor and run by the Parks and Recreation Department. 1/3rd of the market’s operating cost is from City’s General Fund and 2/3rd from vendors’ fees making it a good institution based funding model. Eastern Market in Detroit has 70 % of its funding covered by vendors’ fee and rest by the city. It utilises private funding from companies like W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The market is run by a board of directors from private, public and non-profit sectors (CNT, 2010).

Image 3: View inside Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Detroit. Source: annarborchronicle.com

Image 4: Easter Market, Detroit. Source: detroit.curbed.com

Conclusion

The case study of Pike Place Market shows that public markets benefits in many ways:

  • by connecting local farmers with the consumers directly,
  • creating jobs, and
  • providing active public spaces.

They provide economic development, community cohesion and overall social development. PDA Council utilised the revenue from rental sources for meeting the expenses in operation and maintenance of the market. In addition, using revenue surplus and bonds for new developments, makes it a sustainable model.

Similarly, Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Eastern Market are run by institutions of public-private partnerships and uses vendors’ fee to generate revenue. It is evident from the three cases that non-profit institution based stewardship model can be adopted for the management of urban public markets. If India’s traditional public market culture is augmented with similar management concepts, it can have positive impact on the city’s economy. Such new and innovative funding and stewardship solutions are necessary to sustain any public space in cities around the world.

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Public Spaces as Promoters of Equity and Social Inclusion: Case Study of Libraries and Cultural Festivals

As cities grow and densify, access to well-designed pleasant public spaces has not only become an important asset but a challenge for the poor, minorities and vulnerable groups. These groups include urban residents lacking quality and comfort in their housing, and therefore in need of decent infrastructure and communal spaces for health, recreation and socialization (Garau, 2015). Socially excluded category often include, poor, migrants, refugees, transgenders, elders, etc. In this context, social equity refers to provision of generous and good quality public spaces in order to make it accessible to people of all socio-economic backgrounds regardless of their class, age, gender, race or ethnic differences. Public spaces act as promoters of equity and social inclusion by making space for people from all social classes to interact and thereby reducing the economic and social segregation prevalent in a society (UCLG, 2016). Informal economy nurture in these places and should be dealt carefully to provide space for entrepreneurship (UNESCO, 2017).

While planning for inclusive cities, adequate housing, well-connected public transport and accessible public spaces should be integrated. It is essential to focus on (UCLG, 2016):

  • Rebuilding districts in an integrated way
  • Providing disadvantaged urban areas with quality public spaces
  • Promoting mixed use land use
  • Encouraging social mixing in housing
  • Removing architectural barriers that isolate certain areas

In this article, we look into role of libraries and cultural festivals in promoting equity and social inclusion in public spaces through a few case examples.

Libraries as inclusive public spaces

Public libraries are traditionally regarded as information and resources centres. Since information is widely accessible online today, the traditional role of libraries has now changed to play an important role as community spaces (Tan, 2017). They are meant as a pivot for information, learning and cultural discourse (Civica, 2016). As show in the following figure, users perceive libraries as the heart of the community and a place to connect with people (Civica, 2016).

Figure 1: Role of public libraries in users’ perception. Source: ‘The value of libraries as public spaces’ – Civica[1]

Having a vast amount of users, libraries act as socially inclusive public spaces by engaging all excluded groups to the community. Importance of provision of public libraries is identified by many local governments as an inclusive planning strategy to revitalise and transform communities (Hin Man, 2007).

Case 1: Biblioteca Espana, Medellın, Colombia

Medellin, the capital of Antioquia province, Columbia, is often described as a violent city owing to the series of political and drug related events happened over the last two decades. It is home to many Columbians internally displaced by political violence who are socially excluded in terms of access to basic civic amenities and public spaces (Holmes and Pineres, 2013). Despite the city’s history of conflicts, Medellin also has been recognised for its proactive efforts to use public spaces as a tool for quality of life improvement (Sertich, 2010).

Image 1: View of Biblioteca Espana with the settlements in background. Source: architizer.com

Image 2: Front view of Biblioteca Espana. Source: architizer.com

Biblioteca Espana (Spain Library Park) was a part of the mayor’s social inclusion program that targeted two of the poorest and most isolated neighbourhoods of the city – ‘Popular’ and ‘Santa Cruz’. Both the neighbourhoods are densely populated with low standard of living. Statistics shows that (Municipio de Medellín 2010; Municipio de Medellín 2010a),

  • Quality of housing:  99.8 % of Popular and 99.9% of Santa Cruz are classified as low/ very low/ slum
  • Education: 61.1 % of Popular and 56.6% of Santa Cruz have primary or lower level of education attainment
  • Unemployment rate is 40% and average monthly income is 147,000 pesos (US$70) in both the neighbourhoods,

Bogotá architect Giancarlo Mazzanti designed the Biblioteca España complex with three goals in mind (Holmes and Pineres, 2013),

  • promote the creation of employment and economic prosperity
  • promote social integration and the revitalization of depressed urban areas
  • protect and improve the urban environment

The complex provides broader infrastructure improvements, such as a community center, an auditorium, art galleries, play areas, computer labs, and outside space. All are designed to improve the economic prospects of nearby residents, increase their integration to the city at large, and promote social capital. Residents gather in this oasis for readings, screenings, concerts and discussions (Tan, 2017). As per a survey conducted in 2011, the project had greater impacts on residents’ satisfaction on quality of life (figure 2)  (Holmes and Pineres, 2013).

Figure 2: Medellín Cómo Vamos QOL survey results for Popular/ Santa Cruz. Source: Medellín’s Biblioteca España: Progress in Unlikely Places

Case 2: The Idea Store, Tower Hamlets Borough, London, UK

Tower Hamlets is one of London’s most diverse boroughs with more than 37% of the population being British Bengalis facing high levels of unemployment and social exclusion. The library system in the city had potential to provide its residents with learning opportunities to improve work and career outlooks, a meeting place to encourage social cohesion and connection, and support for families and young people (Aitani, 2017). Acknowledging this fact, Tower Hamlets Council’s Arts, Leisure and Sports Committee undertook renovation on the existing library system after an extensive public consultation in 2002 (Citiesofmigration.ca, 2015). As a result, the ‘Idea Store’ was conceptualised as a new form of public library to incorporate the needs of customers and making it an attractive, accessible public space. Idea Stores provide core services of a library and functions as (Citiesofmigration.ca, 2015),

  • Clubs for homework, jobs, and books
  • Skill development centre
  • Children’s Centres which offer programs and support for families
  • Centre for cultural events and performances
  • Community meeting spaces

Image 3: The Idea Store, London. Source: adjaye.com

By 2009, the Tower Hamlets library system was ranked 3rd in London and 4th in England for percentage of residents using library services, based on the participation data for National Indicator 9 (Aitani, 2017The 2006/07 Public Library User Survey (PLUS) of users over the age of 16 demonstrated that Tower Hamlets Idea Store attracted  users of all ages from different background. 54.8% of the total users were from ethnic minorities and 32.9% from the age group of 20 to 24 (Tower Hamlets Council, 2009).

Social inclusion through cultural festivals in public spaces

Cultural festivals are public celebrations which demonstrate community values, strengthen community pride and sense of place (Jepson, Wiltshier and Clarke, 2012). They act as a medium of combining groups of people and communities together to produce meaningful insights, foster peace and create safer and friendlier neighbourhoods (Stern and Seifert, 2010).   When public spaces such as streets, plazas, convention centers, open grounds, etc. are used for festivals, it promotes equity and social inclusion in the city (Clover, 2006).

Case 1: Festivals in South Bank Parklands and Neighbourhood parks of Brisbane, Queensland

The indigenous Australians known as Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders account for 2.4% of the population of Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland. Refugees or asylum seekers from the Middle East and parts of Asia also contribute to a portion of Brisbane’s population (ABS, 2016). In a homogeneous demography, these two groups are constantly facing a threat of social exclusion. However, several initiatives have been taken by NGOs and local volunteers to establish their participation in public life through various programs and cultural festivals (Roitman and Johnson, 2014).

Image 4: The public park in the South Bank Parklands. Source: queensland.com

Image 5: A performance by tribal community in the Clancestry festival. Source: sibw.com

Image 6: A procession from the Luminous festival. Source: theweekendedition.com

South Bank Parklands, a 17 hectare riverfront public space with artificial beach and parks, is used as the venue for two important festivals namely Clancestry and Luminous festival. These festivals by the indigenous and the refugee communities are an attempt to establish their right to the city and its spaces. They enable them to interact with non-aboriginals through cultural and artistic expression in a shared public space (Roitman and Johnson, 2014).

The suburban neighbourhood parks of Brisbane also hold several cultural events and festivals such as,

  • Indigenous hip-hop
  • Styling up
  • Vietnamese moon festival
  • Chinese New Year
  • African day
  • World Refugee football tournament
  • Rohingya youth day, etc.,

thereby promoting equity and social inclusion in the public spaces of the city (Roitman and Johnson, 2014).

Case 2: Slum festival in Kampala, Uganda

Slums are typically characterised by overcrowding, high levels of unemployment or underemployment, deficient urban services (water, sanitation, education, and health) and widespread insecurity (UN-Habitat, 2003). Kampala, Uganda’s capital city has half of its population living in slums and socially excluded from the society. The Slum festival is conducted in 2014 with an aim to activate public space in the Kampala slum through artistic interventions, construction of stages, the use of performance and new media, and audience participation. Artists, audiences, residents, local initiatives and organisations are mobilized to participate in the shaping of their public space and to make it a reflection of their identity.  This initiative enable slum dwellers for better public interaction and social engagement as well as empowering the economically disadvantaged to develop within the creative economy (Lubega et al., 2014).

Image 7: A performance from the Slum Festival in 2015. Source: streetangelsuganda.com

Conclusion

The case of Spain Library Park in Medellin shows that libraries can be a place of revival for socially excluded low income groups in a society. In London’s Idea Stores, a library system served a multitude of opportunities for the public such as meeting place, space for cultural expression, etc. and increased participation of people from multiple ethnic background and age groups. Similarly, cultural festivals in the public spaces of Brisbane and Kampala helped integrate migrants, indigenous people or slum dwellers to the public realm, thereby promoting social inclusion.

Since public spaces are particularly important for marginalised groups, planning for quality public spaces to foster integration between different socio-economic groups becomes relevant. Investments in streets and public space infrastructure improve urban productivity, livelihoods and allow better access to markets, jobs and public services, especially in developing countries where a large proportion of the urban workforce is informal. Public spaces can thus be a powerful tool to improve equity, promote inclusion and combat discrimination. However, engaging the community in design, management and maintenance of public spaces is also relevant to attain an inclusive city.

[1] Survey results from the research conducted by Civica group ltd. and University of Technology, Sydney, on the value of libraries as public spaces

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Designing Gender Sensitive Public Spaces

Case Study of Public Spaces in Vienna

Introduction

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a prosperous and sustainable world (United Nations, 2018). UN Women defines gender equality as equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women and men (UN WOMEN, 2018). Providing equal access to education, public spaces, health care, decent work, and representation in decision-making processes ensures sustainable development (United Nations, 2018).

Gender-based violence in urban areas can be attributed to factors such as poverty, discrimination, exclusion and lack of gender mainstreaming in urban development leading to public spaces and structures not catering to all genders equally (Jagori, 2015).

Perceptions of gender equality differ between men and women, societies and countries of different developmental status. Globally, many countries have achieved important milestones towards gender parity, however developing countries like India still face women safety as the basic issue in gender equality. We have previously looked into gender mainstreaming in housing sector and women safety audits in India. This article talks about the importance of gender equality in planning and design of public spaces. The article focuses on case studies from Vienna describing the implementation of gender sensitive practises in their public spaces.

Gender equality in public spaces

Public spaces enable women, girls, elderly and other marginalised groups (transgenders, migrants, etc.) to participate in public life (UCLG, 2016). Though they are meant for everyone to use regardless of their gender or age, women use public parks and streets lesser than men (Harth, 2018). In India it is noticed that women tend to limit their participation in public sphere to day time in markets or parks in urban areas (Shukla, 2017). Reported cases of physical and psychological harassment in parks, streets and public transports have raised the levels of fear or vulnerability among them (Phadke, 2012). Studies show that women prefer active public spaces with characteristics of safer perimeter, cleanliness and safety (Gholamhosseini et al., 2018). They perceive lack of proper lighting, deserted roads, absence of street vendors and stores as unsafe situations. Public spaces that ensures comfort, accessibility and safety through features like clean toilets, proper lighting, etc. are preferred by women, elders and children (PUKAR, 2011).

Gender equality in public spaces can be achieved by accommodating features that improve women’s safety (UNIFEM, 2010). Planning and designing should put special focus on (UCLG, 2016; UNIFEM, 2010):

  • Proper lighting
  • Landscaping
  • Visibility
  • Clean toilets
  • Motorized and Pedestrian traffic
  • Signages
  • Security personnel
  • Proximity to other public spaces and emergency services
  • Access to public transportation
  • Mixed-land use
  • Women’s participation in decision making

Case study – Gender Equality in Public Spaces of Vienna

Vienna, the capital city of Austria functions as its economic, cultural and political centre. It has been focusing on gender mainstreaming while designing its public spaces, housing, mobility and infrastructure since 1990. The gender mainstreaming concept is being incorporated mainly in the design of streetscapes, public squares and public parks (Damyanovic, Reinwald and Weikmann, 2013).

Gender-sensitive public parks design: re-design of Einsiedler Park and St. Johann Park

A need to redesign Einsiedler Park and St. Johann Park was perceived by the City of Vienna when girls aged between 10 and 12 were found using parks lesser. By focusing on their interests, gender sensitive solutions were implemented to make them feel safer and better in these spaces (UCLG, 2016). The main objectives of the project were to (Policytransfer.metropolis.org, 2018):

  • motivate girls and young women to use the parks more often
  • improve safety perception in the parks
  • improve elements to attract elderly and parents with little children, and
  • have intense professional exchange of ideas during the planning phase.

The city of Vienna selected the design proposals of Tilia planning office and Koselika planning office for Einsiedler Park and St. Johann Park respectively through a design challenge. By 2001, detailed planning for re-structuring and re-designing the parks was done and renovation works were completed (Policytransfer.metropolis.org, 2018).

Image 1: Paved path, clear visibility and seating in Einsiedler Park. Source: wien.gv.at

Image 2: Platforms to sit and chat in St. Johann Park, Source: wien.gv.at

Gender-sensitive planning measures

The participating consultancies conducted meetings and workshops with residents, mothers, representatives of schools and kindergartens in the district, etc. to identify joint goals for the project. They paid attention to girls’ interests specifically to develop strategies for encouraging their involvement in public activities (Policytransfer.metropolis.org, 2018). Several gender–sensitive design elements were introduced in these parks, such as (Harth, 2018):

  • Football cages were converted for activities that accommodates both genders; in this case, badminton and volleyball courts
  • Hollows in the meadowland were converted to be used as arenas, for ball-games, gymnastics and sitting together
  • Multifunctional play areas
  • Efficient lighting was provided on the main paths
  • Park keepers ensured that the rules are followed
  • Good visibility and clear-cut organisation of footpaths
  • Well-maintained public toilets

Image 3: Hammocks, quick attraction elements at Einsiedler Park, Source: WPS Prague.com

Image 4: Platform at Einsiedler Park, Source: WPS Prague.com

Impacts

The projects witnessed considerable physical and social impacts over time. Physical transformations such as open common areas, gender-neutral activity field, places for group chatting, etc. motivated women and girls to spend more time in the park. Features like visibility in main avenues and proper lighting improved the safety aspects also (Policytransfer.metropolis.org, 2018). Noticeable presence of women of all age groups was found in St. Johann’s park (Harth, 2018).

Looking at the response, City of Vienna implemented pilot projects of gender sensitive re-design in other parks of the city. On similar concepts, gender sensitive design elements such as structured footpath network, efficient illumination, multifunctional plazas, multifunctional lawns, etc. were incorporated in Rudolph-Bednar Park (Damyanovic, Reinwald and Weikmann, 2013).

Gender-sensitive public square design: redesign of Christian Broda Platz

Public squares are another focus area for gender mainstreaming in the planning of public spaces in Vienna (Chalaby, 2017). On submitting the winning entry for a gender-sensitive architectural competition, architects Beitl and Wallmann redesigned the Christian-Broda-Platz in the 6th district of Vienna. The team designed the square by paying attention to direct walking routes, playing equipment, barrier free toilets, drinking fountains, etc. The pilot project resulted in a generous use of the public square by all genders among youth, children and senior citizens (Damyanovic, Reinwald and Weikmann, 2013). Similar measures were adopted in Liesinger Platz of the 23rd district also to achieve a gender-sensitive design.

Image 5: Seating arrangements in Chrisian Broda Platz, Source: wien.gv.at

In addition to these projects, gender mainstreaming is also incorporated in designing walkways. A survey conducted by City of Vienna in 1992 identified that females use public transit and pedestrian paths more than males. As a result, city planners adopted steps to improve pedestrian mobility and access to public transit (Foran, 2013). This includes 26 street lighting projects, widening of sidewalks and barrier free designs by the City of Vienna Women’s Office (Chalaby, 2017).

Conclusion

Over the years, re-designing several parks and public squares in Vienna has resulted in an inclusive city planning model. Certain design elements such as multifunctional play areas, raised platforms to sit and chat, etc. are easily transferable and can be installed in other places. Assuring safety through efficient lighting and multiple activities in any public space is an important factor in gender-sensitive planning. From the cases of gender mainstreaming in public spaces explained here, it is evident that through effective planning measures, public spaces can have equal utility and benefits for everyone.

In India’s diverse social setting, women’s safety and factors for comfort are often neglected while designing public spaces like parks, streets, markets, public transit, institutions, etc. However, several positive initiatives to improve the safety of public spaces are being taken by many Indian cities. Apps such as SafetiPin are useful for women safety audits. The data acquired is used by the police and PWD to augment facilities such as lighting in public spaces. Government missions like JNNURM seeks to promote planned urban development and equitable cities as an opportunity to build gender-fair and inclusive cities (Khosla, 2009). In patriarchal economies like India where women’s interests are conventionally under-represented, there is still a lot to achieve.

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Marketing the Public Bus: Case Study of LA Metro’s Orange Line

A shift towards public transportation is pivotal in dealing with issues such as traffic congestion and poor air quality. Although, one of the reasons for commuters to not shift to public transit is due to the highly competitive marketplace alongside private automobile companies. Private automobile companies invest billions of dollars every year to (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011):

  • Maintain their image,
  • Cultivate customer’s mind-set,
  • and, push their products into the market by creating demand

In the year 2009 alone, major automobile companies spent over US$ 21 billion globally on advertisements (Advertising Age Group, 2010). Such intensive marketing from the private sector highlights the need for public bus corporations to engage in cost-effective marketing campaigns to increase their ridership.

Public bus corporations can use various marketing strategies to (EMBARQ India, 2014):

  • Attract new riders
  • Retain existing riders
  • Improve public and political support
  • Educate and inform users about the facilities, and
  • Manage the public narrative through communication

When combined with a good service, branding and marketing encourages people to use the public bus network and thereby reduces the reliance on private vehicles. In this article, the case study of the Orange Line in Los Angeles Metro focuses on their branding, marketing campaigns and user education activities. Few other examples highlight similar aspects of marketing the public transit.

Metro’s Orange Line BRTS in Los Angeles, California

The Orange Line, a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) started its service in 2005 in the San Fernando Valley area, as a part of the Los Angeles Metro. It is 29 kilometres long, has dedicated bus lanes and exclusive right-of-way. Metro (also the name of the operating agency) took many public outreach and engagement initiatives to disseminate the benefits of the public transportation and encouraged the commuters to make a shift. Following are some of the strategies:

  Branding

The brand of the Orange Line is incorporated into the system in numerous ways. The Orange Line is designed to be a part of the Metro’s vast rail network and provides equivalent quality of service. Similarly, it is marketed as part of the Metro and not as a separate entity. This idea is conveyed by keeping the Orange Line brand consistent with the familiar Metro’s colour code instead of typical numbers for bus routes (Figure 1). The colour scheme is carried over and incorporated into multiple components of the service, such as vehicles, bus stations, signs, maps, seating, etc. (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011).

Figure 1: BRTS as a part of the Los Angeles Metro map (Source: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

 

Figure 2: Brand promotion. (Source: Flynn, Thole, Perk, Samus & Van Nostrand, 2011)

  Marketing Campaigns

During the construction of Orange Line, the management regularly posted construction updates and other information through regional newspapers, the acoustic barriers of their construction site, town hall meetings, fliers, etc. In a pre-launch survey, it was found that people were confused if the Orange line was a bus or a train service. Through “It’s…” promotional campaign, the management answered the questions raised by the people and highlighted the various advantages of the new line (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011).

Image 3: Metro Orange Line “It’s…” campaign (Source: Flynn, Thole, Perk, Samus & Van Nostrand, 2011)

In 2008, to increase sales tax by half-cent to fund transit projects, the Measure-R bill was up for a public ballot vote. The LA Metro ran the “Opposites” campaign just before the bill to:

  • Dissuade people from using private vehicles
  • Promote the use of the Metro, and
  • Increase awareness about the Metro services

Figure 4: LA Metro’s Opposites Campaign (Source: SEGD)

Comparing the contrasting ideas for public and private transportation, this campaign communicated that Metro was the solution to LA’s problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and fuel usage (Lejeune, 2013).

The campaign, passed through public approval, helped in securing funding of over $40 billion over 30 years for major transit and highway projects. The discretionary ridership of those who have a car but still use the public transit, also increased from 24% to 36%. Metro’s “unfavorable” ratings dropped from 27 percent to 12 percent and “strongly favorable” ratings increased by 17 percent. Public awareness of the Metro is now at 95 percent (Lejeune, 2013).

  User Education  

User education is an essential aspect of launching and promoting the public transit. Free rides, study tours and safety instructions are some ways to engage the community and acclimatize them to the transit system. During the launch of the Orange Line, the Metro provided free rides on the opening weekend of operations to familiarize the public with the BRTS service and eliminate any uncertainties that existed before. Also, the BRTS vehicles were showcased in 2005 RideFest to promote the use of public transits and congestion management practices. As part of their safety program, Metro made an interactive presentation to about 30,000 residents living nearby and about 100 schools within a 1.5-mile radius of the Orange Line busway (Flynn, Thole, Perk, Samus & Van Nostrand, 2011).

Apart from communicating with the public through press releases, user information systems and marketing campaigns, LA Metro has provisions for bi-lateral communication to hear from the customers. They are very responsive to user feedback systems. The Metro Customer Centre was made more welcoming and cheerful to encourage the use of the facility (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011).

Other Examples

  Metrobus, Mexico City

In Mexico City, Collectivo drivers often behaved and dressed unprofessionally. The new Metrobus BRTS gave importance to the appearance of its drivers, as they are a reflection of the brand and the image of the whole transit system. Metrobus continues to trains its employees to create a welcoming and passenger-friendly service (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011).

Image 5: Left: LA Metro Orange Line bus driver as an ambassador

Image 6: Right: Collectivo drivers versus Metrobus drivers in Mexico City

Source: Carrigan, Arpi and Weber, 2011

  Janmarg, Ahmedabad

In Ahmedabad, to acclimatise the public with BRTS, the agency built a prototype of the BRTS station one year before Janmarg became operational. The prototype showcased the station designs and educated people on how to use the facilities. This user education policy also provided an opportunity to gather feedback from the public and make necessary design changes before starting the operations. Janmarg also offered free rides to the public for the first 100 days of operations (Carrigan, Arpi & Weber, 2011).

Conclusion

From the Los Angeles case study, through many interventions LA Metro built a strong brand image. Building up a strong brand image is important to communicate the core values of an organisation, inform the people about the services and encourage them to use it often. Marketing strategies can help transit organizations reach their organizational target of increased public awareness, increased use of services and other specific goals. They can be cost-effectively utilized by the public transit organization. However, marketing campaigns should only promote services that already exist, and the transit corporations must be prepared to handle the generated demand.

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Social Equity in Accessing Public Transportation: Case Study of Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC), USA

Introduction

Transportation planning has always focused on urban mobility, reducing traffic congestion in cities and providing access to major locations (Manaugh, 2014). However, often ignored is the social equity in access to public transportation. With route planning focused on demand forecasting, low-income neighbourhoods and other vulnerable population are often neglected due to budget constraints (Transport for America, 2018). These vulnerable communities rely mostly on public transportation.

In the realm of transportation, social equity refers to providing affordable and equitable access to public transport. The vulnerable population here includes children, students, elderly, handicapped and low-income individuals. Social equity refers to an equitable distribution of impacts; both benefits and cost (Litman, 2018). Equity is more than about providing subsidies and discount tickets. It should encompass the ease of use, connectivity, and accessibility. For example, the use of monthly discount passes is effective only when the bus stops are easier to access.

Low-income and other vulnerable communities should not bear the negative impacts and costs of transportation facilities disproportionately. Rather, public transportation should provide access to jobs and opportunities to these disadvantaged communities (Transport for America, 2018). By providing access to opportunities, transportation investments can be used as a driving force to promote social and economic equity.

To address transportation equity, the vulnerable community should be involved in the planning process and projects prioritised based on their needs. It is equally important to collect the relevant data and measure progress to ensure program effectiveness in reaching beneficiaries and achieving the target goals. This article looks into the case study of JARC to understand the steps taken by FTA to implement social equity through transportation planning.

Case Study: Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC), USA

The main aim of Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program, administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) (1998 – 2012), was to assist low-income individuals in accessing employment, job training and childcare services. Low-income individuals living in the inner urban cities had difficulty accessing many new entry-level jobs located in the suburban areas. Under JARC, FTA provided grants to transit agencies and other service agencies to fill gaps in transportation services for welfare recipients and other low-income individuals (FTA, 2016). Made available for three years, it administered project funding on a cost-sharing basis. Federal funds covered up to 80 percent of the capital and planning activity and up to 50 percent of operating costs.

Some of the programs implemented under JARC funding were about expanding fixed-route public transit routes, late-night and weekend service, shuttle service, guaranteed ride home service, ridesharing and carpooling and so on (FTA, 2007). The policy incentive while designing the transportation policy encouraged the local, regional and state agencies to collaborate with each other (Sandouvel et al, 2009). Apart from organizing trips, JARC also utilized its funds for information-based and capital investment programs (Figure 1).

Figure 1: JARC Services by Type, 2006 – 2009 (Source: An Evaluation of Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program Services Provided in 2009)

For example: Camden, New Jersey provides shuttle service that operates three times a day matching the three work shifts at the industrial park. Phoenix, Arizona runs service through western suburb connecting community college with residential area and retails stores. Sanford, Maine provides demand-based van service for getting to work from early morning until late night.

The five major goals identified under JARC programs are as follows (FTA, 2016):

  • Expanding geographic coverage
  • Extending service hours or days
  • Improving system capacity
  • Improving access/connections
  • Improving customer knowledge

The two performance measures used by FTA to evaluate JARC-funded projects are:

  • Number of jobs accessed
  • Number of rides provided (one-way trips)

Response to the Program

For the financial year 2009, 910 projects were funded under the JARC program. Out of these, 44% served in large urban areas, 31% in non-urbanized or rural communities and 25% in small-urbanized areas. JARC supported programs provided 27.3 million one-way trips, made 51.8 million jobs accessible, which included 25.3 million low-wage jobs and 7.7 million jobs were likely reached (Commonwealth Environmental Systems, Inc, 2011).[KI1]

Figure 2: Usage pattern of JARC services (Source: Thakuriah, 2011)

Another survey conducted by researchers at University of Illinois (2009) focused on the mobility and employment outcomes of 573 respondents using any of the surveyed 26 JARC funded transportation service. Compared to non-JARC users, JARC users were less educated and had lower income brackets. About 42% of respondents reported personal incomes of less than $10,000 (~ INR 5,10,000 in 2011), and one in five had not completed high school (Thakuriah, 2011). This indicates that the JARC services effectively served low-income vulnerable communities.

The survey results show that 93.5% of the respondents rated the service as “important or very important” for keeping their job and 34% reported that they wouldn’t be able to commute to and from work if the service was not available. Over one-third users found that transportation services were more affordable with JARC (Thakuriah, 2011).

Figure 2 shows, out of the 23% unemployed, 25% of individuals used the services to access job trainings, about 8% for job seeking and 21% travelled to school (Thakuriah, 2011).

Figure 3: FTA JARC Services and Funding, 2005 – 2009 (Source: An Evaluation of Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program Services Provided in 2009)

Regarding economic impacts, the study reports a median reduction in generalized travel cost that is estimated to be $3.15 per trip. The median of hourly wages at the primary job also increased by about 14%. At the time of the survey, the median weekly earnings was estimated to have gone up by 15% (Thakuriah, 2011). The graphs and data highlight the fact that JARC programs helped people to access jobs and supported their financial stability. Increased wages could be due to shifting to a higher paying job or increased hours at work. Subsequently, FTA also increased the investment and the coverage of services under JARC over the years (Figure 3).

These results show the potential positive impact of JARC programs on the mobility, employment and economic outcome of its low-income users. However, since the survey does not have an experimental setup for evaluation, the lasting impact of JARC funding is not entirely clear (Sandouvel, Peterson and Hunt, 2009). JARC is one of the multiple possible and creative solutions that agencies can implement to support disadvantaged communities and promote equity in public transportation.

As of 2012, consolidating JARC with the existing Urbanized Area Formula Program and the Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program enabled JARC programs to apply for funding through the urban and rural transit program (GAO, 2017). This was mainly due to changes in JARC’s formula program status wherein separate funding was not available anymore. However, when GAO interviewed few JARC services, two-thirds of them reported to continue providing some form of service.

Conclusion

“Every project’s stance on equity should be assessed by asking the following questions:

  • Does it meet an important need identified by a disadvantaged community?
  • Are the benefits associated with the significant, rather than incidental?
  • Are benefits targeting the low-income residents?
  • Does it avoid substantial harms to the community?

(Marcantonio and Karner, 2016)

The services under JARC were in response to critical issues highlighted and put forth by the community. Upon implementation, there were positive and significant effects on the mobility, employment and economic outcome of the low-income users. A majority of the beneficiaries were less educated and low-income groups. Thus, the benefits of the program was reaching the disadvantaged positively.

Key policy implication of JARC program is to improve public transportation in order to address the social needs. Economic outcomes of the low-income population is positively impacted through accessible and affordable public transportation. During its run, JARC focused on operating rides, in improving the information access and infrastructure capacity of the service region. This combination of capacity building helped many of these JARC funded programs to sustain by themselves, even after the end of its tenure in 2012. However, depending on the intensity of institutional and grassroots support, different cities responded to JARC in different ways (Sandoval, Peterson and Hunt, 2009).  While in some cases, the regions came up with many innovative ideas, whereas some strategies were traditional (Cervero and Tsai, 2003; Sandoval, Peterson and Hunt, 2009). This is also because transportation models are highly relevant to the context of the cities.

Looking at the Indian scenario, high land prices in the core of the city forces economically disadvantaged communities to the fringes of urban development. Therefore, Indian cities are continually experiencing informal settlements in developing or peri-urban areas that lacks infrastructure. This makes opportunities inaccessible, lengthens commutes to their workplaces and degrades the quality of their commute. Being mindful of social equity and incorporating these concepts into the early stages of transportation planning ensures the vulnerable communities to have access to jobs and opportunities. Through equitable access to transportation supports, the promotion of economic stability and social standing of vulnerable communities is necessary.

Featured image source: Thakuriah, 2011

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Modernisation of Operations Management: Role of ITS in Bus Operations at NMMT and the Netherlands

Introduction

Management and operations in transportation systems is defined as an “integrated approach to optimize the performance of the existing infrastructure through implementation of multi-modal, cross-jurisdictional systems, services and projects” (FHWA, 2013). It focuses on the transit vehicle operations directly and how they interact with the transit users. Increasing the performance of an existing infrastructure can improve operational performance, reduce long-term costs and save time (Abou-Senna et al, 2018). The components under operational systems are (ADB and MoUD, 2008; COST, 2011):

  • Route planning
  • Capacity augmentation
  • Ticketing, fare collection and revenue management
  • Operations management (Schedule span, type of services, driving rules, etc.)
  • Customer’s orientation
  • Passenger information
  • Operator’s efficiency
  • Human resource development
  • Quality Management (including safety, security, operator’s training, etc.)

It is important that the transport infrastructure always adapt to the constant growth of the city and its never-ending demand. Information Technology Services (ITS) provides many solutions and models that can help in data collection, forecasting the demand, tracking the vehicles and the passenger movement. All major cities, like Amsterdam, Sydney, Sao Paolo, London, etc. make extensive use of technology in their bus operations and maintenance. They have a centralised command centre and they track the buses through GPS (EMBARQ, 2010).

The benefits of management and operations strategies like these brings forth safer travel, reduced delay in commute, improved reliability, lesser wasted fuel, cleaner air, etc. (FHWA, 2017). Earlier, we have identified that Indian cities have started implementing ITS to help improve its transportation planning and management. In this article, we will study the data management and collection methods in practice at the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) control centre.

Case Study 1 – Real-time Data Management at NMMT, Navi Mumbai

Currently, NMMT has a bus fleet of 467 buses running on 75 routes. It experiences a daily ridership of approximately 3 lac passengers and generates an approximate daily income of Rs. 37-40 lacs. All the bus lines add up to a total route length of 1895 kms. and have an average length of 26 kms. The average headway is about 15 minutes, the maximum being 65 minutes and a minimum of 7-10 minutes (“NMMT City Bus System”, 2017). NMMT has allocated the buses among 3 depots (Turbhe, Asudgaon and Ghansoli) and 13 bus terminals.

On similar grounds of other major cities mentioned earlier, NMMT has also established a centralised command centre. It tracks the daily movement in the buses to make its operations and maintenance more efficient. They have implemented the real-time data management system through these eight modules:

1.      Automatic Vehicle Locator System (AVLS)

AVLS captures the real-time on-board location and helps create a substantial database where the progress of the bus is stored on a second-to-second basis (Hounsell, Shrestha and Wong, 2012). It receives and stores the bus location and also the bus event information through an on-board GPS. Through this system, the location, speed and the route of the buses can be tracked. From the current location of the buses being tracked and comparing it with an average gives the estimated time to reach a destination. Through the same module, the estimated time for the bus to reach a bus-stop is also calculated.

Fig 1 – The total number of GPS enabled buses distributed among the three depots.

Over 95% of the buses have a GPS installed in them. GPS boxes in the older buses are being installed externally, while the newer buses come with an inbuilt GPS. Based on the movement of the bus, its status (Running, idle, on-trip standby, off-trip standby) gets constantly updated at the control centre, which is useful during the peak hours.

2.      Passenger Information System (PIS)

Deriving the information from AVLS, the control centre constantly tracks the real-time information of the buses.  It calculates the estimated arrival and travel time of the buses based on the historical travel data across different road segments and the time of the day. The commuters can receive this information (estimated arrival and travel time) through the mobile application. The passengers can also get information about the bus drivers and report for incidents.

The passenger movement is counted from the tickets count, through which the peak and off-peak hours are estimated. NMMT uses this information to dispatch the buses and at the same time maintain a reserve stock of them. The reserve stock is useful in case of unprecedented demand or breakdown of a bus.

3.      Control command centre

The control centre constantly records and analyses the real-time information of the buses and passenger’s commute. AVLS and PIS provides a substantial database, which is useful in the maintenance and operations of the buses. Based on the data provided, the control centre is able to:

  • Forecast demand
  • Avoid bus-bunching
  • Check the fare collection and segregating it according to different categories
  • Track the buses for route violations and over-speeding
  • Check for incident reports
  • Interact with the staff and the commuters
  • Maintain the database

Image 2 – The role of control center in real-time data management of NMMT. (Content source – Hounsell Shrestha and Wong, 2012)

4.      Incident Management

The control centre keeps a track of the bus operators and if their buses are following the route or not. They also maintain the incidence reports submitted by the commuters. In cases of any issue noticed by the centre or submitted by the commuter, the control centre resolves it immediately. Operational faults and break-downs are resolved by the respective depots, this:

  • Releases the work-load on a single depot
  • Allows depots to deploy reserve buses effectively
5.      Mobile application

Information like the schedule of the buses, its operators, etc. are available on the mobile application.  Through the mobile application, the commuters are capable of:

  • Checking the nearest bus-stops and routes
  • Checking the available buses and the waiting time
  • Setting a time for notification to leave their place of origin and reach the bus stops.
  • Checking the details of the bus and the bus operators
  • Reporting an incident
6.      Business Intelligence, Financial management system and Enterprise management system

The control centre creates different real-time reports for the general manager, the accounts department and the employees of NMMT. These reports help them to monitor and analyse the performance of the buses and the operating staff.

7.      Scheduling and planning

The scheduling of the buses at the initial stages follows the traditional approach by over-lapping On-site surveys, Activities according to the land-use maps and The number of buses available.

The number of buses on a particular route are increased or reduced according to the demand of the commuters. This demand is tracked online through the count of the tickets.

8.      Automatic Fare Collection System

There are many ways to register a trips made by the commuters; through on-board ticketing, monthly passes and through a mobile application. All of these are recorded and maintained to analyse the daily ridership in the buses. Through which, the peak and off-peak hours are estimated. The same online system is also used to create stock correction reports.

Case Study 2 – Network of Bus Corridors in the Netherlands

Any transportation system is based on potential user’s demand. This demand forms the technical foundations for designing the system, planning operations and the financial feasibility (EMBARQ, 2010). Route planning of any public transport should always be in response to the context of the neighborhood and in consultation with the local stakeholders. It should be laid out to serve the maximum commuters in the most efficient way.

Following a similar ideology, the development or improvement of the public transport in the Netherlands is done gradually (from a regular bus to a dedicated infrastructure) on the basis of the integral vision of the change in transport requirements (number of passengers) and the development of the locations (with the increase in number of residents and jobs) (Public transport in the Netherlands, 2016).

This data to document the necessity to develop a route is collected through many ITS models. An estimated amount of €170 million is budgeted for 75 projects in total; for data collection models such as cluster travel information, Multi-Modal information, dynamic traffic management, etc. (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, The Netherlands, 2012). The data is processed into travel information, for both unimodal and multimodal mode, through apps such as 9292 (public transportation) and ANWB (Dutch Automobile Club). The travel information is useful for improved accessibility and traffic flows. The appropriate use of ITS architecture leads to co-ordinated and standardised development of a cohesive framework of technical and information structures (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, The Netherlands, 2012).

The integration of different services is also one of the key features of Dutch public transport. It follows a hierarchy of fast (peak hour), local and community, and demand responsive services. The bus operators setup their time-tables around a ‘transfer-scheme’ to be able to find a convenient way to connect to a metro/rail. The ticketing and fare system is also integrated. Use of Strippenkaart, sterabonnement or ov-chipkaart (tickets and pre-paid cards) are capable to allow the commuters to travel using the same fare and tickets.

Take-Aways

The real-time data management system implemented in NMMT is still young and constantly upgrading. However, a positive impact in the operations can be seen. Since the implementation of this system, there has been a significant reduction in the incident reports (Fig 2). The statistics suggest that cases of over-speeding of buses is almost negligible now.

Fig 2 – Percentage reduction in incidence reports (Content source – NMMT)

Through constant tracking of the buses and implementation of this system, NMMT is now capable of:

  • Monitoring the services of the buses
  • Managing operational maintenance and reports
  • Real-time incidence reporting and resolving
  • Retrieving performance data for post-process applications
  • Reducing the manual data collection

Efficient data collection, availability of travel information and integration among different operators are key for developing an efficient operational model. A coherent and integrated route plan ensures user-friendliness and higher usage of the bus services. It has a direct influence on the passenger demand, reduced travel time and the operating costs; hence, also on the revenues (ADB and MoUD, 2008). Indian ULBs have also started developing similar models, however, the process of implementation is rather slower and complex. With an increasing use of ITS in bus operations, open data collection and disseminating travel information is getting easier and more efficient.

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