Friday, September 16, 2005

The road is only as wide as…

One of the principles in Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt's Theory of Constraints goes like “The speed of your system is only as fast as the slowest process that you have in your system”. And this simple truth has enabled many large organizations achieve fantastic productivity. I would now like to apply this theory to my pet topic of late and that is to the Roads of Hyderabad.

Let us consider the system to be the road network. In this network the speed at which the traffic will flow will depend on the speed of the traffic at the narrowest portion of the road. So if someone asks a question how many vehicles will move in an hour from Point A to Point B, its fairly simple, find out what is the size of the narrowest portion of the road between point A and point B and calculate how many vehicles can get through there in an hour and you have your answer.

The Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad has been doing a spate of road widening activities of late – matter of fact I think they have gone berserk – cutting through peoples compounds (alas they supposedly cut through the chief ministers compound too), bringing down commercial establishments and worst of all cutting down the trees that have struggled to grow braving the drought, the bulls, the people and the pollution (but could not survive the MCH that’s supposedly growing them).This road expansion is not being done in an even manner. When the road widening has to touch an influential persons property (except for the chief ministers – his property is already been used for widening the road – guess he has to act as the road model – or is this why he has built a new house – food for thought) or a religious place of worship the road stays as it is.

So my question is - what is the use of widening the road when the volume of traffic the road can handle would be the same as it was before the road was widened. Why is this so? This has a very simple answer if you have not already figured it out. The volume of traffic the road can handle is the volume that can flow through the narrowest portion of the road and that is the width of the road at the place where it could not be widened which is the same as it was before it got widened.

So what did we achieve through all the road widening? Nothing! We just spent crores of rupees and created more confusion on the roads. So what am I trying to say? Widen the road with a plan to widen it consistently otherwise don’t widen it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Buying a house on loan - New or Second sale house ?

Something that I learnt yesterday was an eye opener for me. A home loan agent was talking to me about how there is a great deal of difference in the registration charges when one goes to buy a new house that is being constructed by a builder and a house on resale. Let me walk you through this with an example.

Lets say you are interested in buying a house that costs about Rs. 22 lakhs and you plan to take a home loan of Rs. 20 lakhs.

In the case of the new house the Rs. 20 lakhs is shown to you in the form of a sale agreement for just the shell and a construction agreement for completing the house. and this is usually done in the ratio of 30 - 40 % for the sale agreement and 60-70 % for the construction agreement (in our case it works out to 7 lakhs for the sale and 13 lakhs for the construction). Now the registration is done on the value of the sale agreement and hence the cost of registration drastically drops.

On the other hand when you buy a house on resale there is only one loan agreement for the whole Rs. 20 lakhs and hence the house needs to be registered on that amount and that works out to a phenomenally high registration fee.

So what is the advise...? I was told that in case one is going to buy a house on resale one has to have a lot of cash in hand and the amount of money taken on loan should be on the lower side. And in case one wants to buy a house with a high loan amount then you should go in for a new house.

I am not sure if this is the right advice so if there is anyone out there that can substantiate if this is correct that would be nice.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mass Public Transportation System... no way without it

There have been a few comments that have been posted on my last couple of articles on How do we ease traffic ? and Why do we have clogged up roads ?. My line of thought for solving this problem of high density of traffic and low density of roads that our city has is that we need to have a good public transportation system that consists of not one but a whole array of existing and new transportation systems that work in a well coordinated and synchronized manner instead of trying to compete with each other.

I admit we have got ourselves into a mess in terms of bad city planning, lack of regard for zoning laws, frivolous FSI, rampant bribery in the roads and buildings divisions and arbitrary decisions being made trying to solve the problems that exist. Due to all these things we have a transportation issue on our hands which would not have existed (hopefully) if all the above had not taken place.

What I am stating is that we are only making a bigger mess by taking short term decisions by widening roads and building flyovers. We are doing the same mistakes that the west made in building a large network of roads and playing into the hands of the car manufacturers and oil companies. This is not the way forward because in a couple of years that road and the flyover that got built at the cost of thousands of crores of rupees is clogged again.

Instead of spending crores of rupees in building new roads and flyovers build a network of transportation systems which work together. Let me try and put such a hypothetical system in place. Let's say the existing MMTS system is the heart of the transportation system. From some of these MMTS stations there should be a skybus/Metro/any other Mass Rapid system that runs in an arterial manner outwards to the MMTS line. Let us call this the arterial system. From the stations of the arterial System there should be busses, autos, cycle rickshaws, tongas, and what ever else. The timings of the trains of the MMTS and the arterial system should be coordinated in such a manner that would allow a person to move from one system to another with a minimal waste of time. The ticketing system should be common so that once a ticket is bought it is applicable throughout the journey irrespective of the system used. Its only when we have something like this will the congestion on the roads decrease as people would be looking at this as an alternative safe and quick way of traveling.

Yes it is going to cost... but so is laying new roads, widening existing roads and building flyovers. There are talks of laying a new road parallel to the Begumpet road - instead of laying a new road why cant we put in place a mass transporatation system and tell the people to use it. It might cost more but it can be expanded to carry millions of people instead of being clogged by cars in a couple of years with one person sitting in each car.

I am not trying to advocate a costly Metro system - I am only saying we need a mass rapid transportation system that is well connected and user friendly. This system has to be a combination of transportation systems that work together in an efficient manner. And according to me there is no way around this.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Yummy Continental Food in Hyderabad

Update : The last that I have heard of this place is that it has closed down. Pity, as this was one place you could expect some quality conti food at a reasonable cost.

Sizzlers, Steaks, Russian Salad... Do these dishes make your mouth water? If the answer to this question is "Yes" then I know just the place that you can have this food to your hearts content right here in Hyderabad.

On Road No. 12 Banjara Hills right next to Pizza Hut is a hole in the wall kind of a place - it has about 4 tables on the mezzanine floor and 2 tables and the kitchen on the ground floor - the sizzlers and the russian salad are really good. You would have to put up with the fumes while your food is being cooked but its worth it. There is an option to order take-away too but I am not sure what would a sizzler taste like when eaten 10 min after it has been sizzling so my advise would be to have it at the restraunt itself.
Happy Eating.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why do we have clogged up roads ?

As a follow up to my last article on how road widening and building bridges are very short term solution I would like to answer some interesting thoughts that an anonomous comment has raised.

The first fact that was raised is "Each year, Hyderabad city is adding about 2 lakh vehicles." - well you can't dispute fact. But lets ask ourselves why are there so many vehicles being added

And then the comment goes on to list as to why is there such an increase in vehicles and that is -

  • "This increase is not merely because there is no public transportation system. It is to a significant extent because of credit markets."
  • "Hyderabad is being redesigned for the enjoyment and profiteering of some 1 per cent or less of the urban population. And nobody objects to this because most people imagine that they will somehow be within that one per cent if not today, well then very soon, they think they will get there. "

We have moved along from a socialist economy of the 60's to a capatalist economy of the new millenium. In a captalist economy most things sell merely to fill a need and without going too much into Maslow's Theory of Needs I feel that vehicles on the streets of Hyderabad are also there to fill that need. And most of the time the need for transport is a physical need which is the most basic need.

Let me put a question to you - Let's say you have a family of a husband, wife and 2 school going kids and you have to all travel to different parts of town what would be the mode of transport would you have all used in the current situation. Would it have been some public transport or private transport ? I think the answer to this is pretty obvious given the choices that we have in the city today.

The problem that we have is the lack of a credible, trustworthy, quick means of public transport and without that there is no choice but to use private transport. Are people buying vehicles because there are easy avenues to get money - I truly doubt it. If you ask anyone who drives in Hyderabad they will tell you "Driving in Hyderabad is a nightmare and if you can drive in Hyderabad you can drive anywhere in the world". According to me the reason people buy a vehicle is to get around easily - to meet the basic need of transportation. If a public transportation system can meet that need you will automatically see a reduction in the number of vehicles on the roads.

Let us take for example Mumbai, what would have happened if there was no suburban rail system there ? No one would have lived in the suburbs, they would have all lived in the city close to their work place. They would have all had vehicles if they could afford it or if they could buy it on credit. Wouldn't the city look awfully similar to Hyderabad ? The difference is there should be an alternative and right now there isn't one here in Hyderabad. The existing public transport limits itself to busses and MMTS which just does not meet the need.

The comment goes on to talk about the capital needed for a metro rail or a MMTS project. The answer to this is yes we do need large capital for such projects but we need to make the sacrifices to put in this capital. Other cities in India have successfully started implementing metro projects such as Delhi, Chennai and a lot before everyone else Kolkatta. I don't see people in any of these cities complaining. Is it used only by the top 1 % of the society - I really dont think so. Not with the rates of the Delhi Metro Rails as follows. Capital investment in large infrastructure projects is the only way problems as large as what we are facing today can be solved. Once we provide a viable alternative such as a metro rail system you can tax the private vehicle users you can increase tolls for parking and using the city's roads and bridges, but until you provide a viable alternative there is nothing you can do.

The world over a good public transport has worked in almost every metro why shouldn't it work here?

You do what you are

In the 2001 movie Along came a spider, there is an interesting quote by Morgan Freeman where he says "You do what you are" and the...