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Analysis of spending on transportation in Chennai

This research study seeks to analyse the spending on transportation infrastructure and services in Chennai for a period of four years (2012-2016). It is part of a multi-city study and similar efforts are being conducted in Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Bangalore and Jaipur. 

A budget is an important indicator of the direction the city aims to develop in. An analysis of this document would indicate priorities of the local body, and the types of projects taken to help achieve the set vision. 

We did an institutional mapping of the agencies that provide transportation services in Chennai: Corporation of Chennai, MTC, Chennai Metrorail and Southern Railways. However, we could only obtain the budget documents pertaining to the Corporation of Chennai. Our analysis consisted of an analysis of media reporting on the budgets, interviews with several officials of the Chennai Corporation, and a detailed analysis of transport-related expenses.

For the analysis, the expenditures were classified into five categories. General expenses include budgets head like salaries, administration, construction or installation and maintenance of storm water drains and street lights. The motor vehicles category comprises all expenditure activities towards construction and maintenance of roads including new roads, road repairs, flyovers and under-passes. Non-motorised transport includes expenditure on footpaths, cycle tracks, foot-over bridges and pedestrian subways. Public transport expenses are incurred for buying buses, building bus stops, depots, loans to bus transportation, any other modes of public transport such as metro and monorail. Any entries which club two or three categories, such as  beautification of a street, development works on a road, footpath and road divider were classified in the fifth category Mixed Use.

The assessment revealed that the Chennai Corporation had allocated over a period of four years a little over three quarters of its budget to motor vehicles but a mere one percent towards non-motorised transport. This reflects the local body’s priority on developing the city for vehicle owners instead for the majority of public transit commuters. We also find that municipal councillors fail adequately participate in the budgeting process.  They also fail to represent the needs of their constituencies and in the absence of participatory processes, the investments are driven by the view of the administration and that of 'experts'.