Monday, June 09, 2014

Mumbai Metro Launched finally

My first blog post on the Mumbai Metro dates back to 2006 when I was blogged more regularly. Back then, I wrote a series of blog posts on the Mumbai Metro right till the second bhoomipujan in 2008. So today, when the Mumbai Metro has finally commenced operations, I thought its appropriate to bring that series to its logical conclusion.

After so many years of political wrangling, delays and cost overruns, the Mumbai Metro was finally launched for the public yesterday. This is the first leg that covers a short distance of 11km in 20minutes. The statistics are available on their site.

I rode on the Metro yesterday and it was thoroughly impressive.

Having commuted on the Delhi Metro just a month ago, I saw the similarities. From the ticket tokens to the near-gapless train platforms to the air conditioned Metro wagons. This experience was long overdue in Mumbai where we're only used to super dense crush load on local trains. By cutting commute time and aiding car owners to switch to mass transit, the Metro does offer a sustainable solution for many passengers.

Just like it changed commuting life in Delhi, I'm looking forward to our Metro doing the same in Mumbai. I still have some doubts on the Versova-Ghatkopar route though. But when I voiced these doubts on Twitter, here are some replies I received:

Some other reactions from those who plan to use the Metro:

For now, it looks like the Metro solves the commuting woes of people staying in and around Andheri and Ghatkopar. I'm guessing that they would switch from their local trains to go to places near the Metro stations. For example: a Thane commuter going to DN Nagar (Andheri) would currently have to switch trains at Dadar and then travel further from Andheri Station to DN Nagar. Now he would switch to the Metro at Ghatkopar and directly go to DN Nagar. Surely, this is a big relief.

Mumbai infrastructure was traditionally built around North-South connectivity. But in the past year, East-West connectivity has been gaining more importance with the launch of the Santacruz Chembur Link Road. The Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road already sees a lot of traffic. Eastern connectivity has also been beefed up with the Monorail and the Eastern Freeway.

These are still early days for the Metro and this is just the first route. For full benefits to kick in, the other two longer routes around Charkop, Dahisar, BKC, etc have to be constructed. But considering how much time these projects take in Mumbai, all those routes are really far away from seeing the light of day. This reminds me of the Bandra Worli Sealink which appears inadequate on its own given that the true impact would be felt if the sealink was extended from Marine Drive to further north. But that, as we know, will also take its own time.

And so, in true Mumbai style, let's celebrate whatever little we get because we don't get much of this often.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fitting tombstone to Mumbai Mill Lands

As per news reports, DLF has sold off 17acres of its land in Lower Parel to Lodha Builders for Rs2,700crores. Bought from the National Textile Corporations (NTC) for Rs703crores in 2005, the deal implies that DLF has made an annualized return of 21% on this deal. Over the same period, the NSE Nifty returned a paltry 12%. Smart deal? Sure.

While newspapers are full of the details, I write this post only for nostalgia and to add an epilogue (tombstone?) to the famous Mumbai Mill Land case of 2005-06. In March 2006, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court's broad definition of "Vacant land", deciding instead that the term did not include lands vacant after demolition. This reduced the land available to the BMC and Mill Workers as per the controversial Development Control Rule 58.

The stock markets cheered real estate stocks, experts said this would release supply of land and prices would fall. Seven years later we know that real estate prices in that area have risen about four times (I'd guess from Rs7,000 per square foot then to current levels of Rs30,000 per square foot). Which makes DLF look smart. And no rules were broken. DLF played by the rules and made a killing.

That's Mumbai Real Estate for you. All the rules and regulations and maze of laws that govern this city's prime property seem stacked in favor of the builders. Time and again laws have changed to increase the supply of land and bring down prices. Think repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling Act, a new Housing Policy. Nothing works. Prices just keep going up.

Because the laws of economics don't apply to the real estate sector in Mumbai. Prices can't reflect demand and supply when supply is controlled by a few and demand is on tap. The last time prices fell meaningfully was in the market bottom of March 2009 when, post financial crisis, a funds shortage drove builders to raise funds by launching new projects and clear inventory by selling at significant discounts. Since then prices have most likely doubled in most areas.

Does the current market situation resemble March 2009? I don't think so. Weekend newspapers are full of real estate ads but they hardly seem desperate. Banks seem to have learnt their lessons and haven't lent much to Mumbai real estate. Mortgage major HDFC says prices are the most affordable in 30 years. Can prices crash from here? Depends what you mean by crash. 10-15%? That's more like a "fall" or a "correction". A crash would require a financial crisis type panic. And even if that happens, the 2009 experience shows that there's enough demand if prices fall by 15%+.

Finally, spare a thought for the Mill Land Workers, some of whom are still waiting for their homes. Mills have been replaced by malls and chawls have been replaced by towers. Girangaon is dead. The ruins of cotton mills await prospective buyers for the next tallest tower in Mumbai even as the roads adjacent to them house slums.

I wonder if there is anything real about Mumbai Real Estate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Black Friday, never forget

Blast 1 - 1.28pm - The Bombay Stock Exchange. 84 dead, 217 injured.

Blast 2 - 2.15pm - Narsi Natha Street. 5 dead, 16 injured.

Blast 3 - 2.25pm - Air India Building. 20 dead, 87 injured.

Blast 4 - 2.30pm - Lucky Petrol Pump, Dadar. 4 dead, 50 injured.

Blast 5 - 2.55pm - Century Bazaar. 113 dead, 227 inured.

Blast 6 - 3.05pm - Zaveri Bazaar. 17 dead, 57 injured.

Blast 7 - 3.13pm - Plaza Cinema, Dadar. 10 dead, 37 injured.

Blast 8 - 3.20pm - Sea Rock Hotel, Bandra. No one dead or injured.

Blast 9 - 3.25pm - Juhu Centaur Hotel. 3 injured

Blast 10 - 3.35pm - Airport Centaur Hotel. 2 killed, 8 injured.

"Subsequent police investigations revealed that 257 people were either killed or went missing in the blasts while 713 were injured."

Dawood Ibrahim, the main accused, is still at large.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

26/11 Never Forget

26th November 2008: 172 dead as under. [Source]

CST: 58

Nariman House: 9 (includes 2 terrorists, 1 Marine Commando)

Oberoi: 32 (includes 2 terrorists, 10 staff)

Taj: 33 (includes 4 terrorists, 11 staff, 1 NSG Commando)

Cafe Leopold: 10 (includes 2 staff)

Girgaum Chowpatty: 2 (one terrorist, one policeman)

Cama & Albless: 8 (includes 6 policemen)

Metro: 1 (policeman)

Vile Parle: 2

Dockyard Road: 3

Saturday, July 11, 2009

7/11 Never Forget

6.24pm Khar Road - Santacruz
6.24pm Bandra - Khar Road
6.25pm Platform 1, Jogeshwari
6.26pm Platform 3, Mahim
6.29pm Mira Road - Bhayandar
6.30pm Matunga Road - Mahim Junction
6.35pm Platform 4, Borivali

11 minutes
7 blasts
186 dead
544 seriously injured
312 suffered minor injuries

The families of blast victims Parag Sawant and Amit Singh who lie in coma to this date, haven't forgotten. And neither should we.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bandra Worli Sealink Now Open

46 years after first being conceived and many years spent in delay, the BWSL is finally open to public. I drove there today morning and had the following observations:

- Despite being touted as an 8-lane road, the BWSL only consists of 4-lanes as of now. In fact, construction of the other 4 lanes is far from being complete as this photo of the exit at Worli clearly shows.

- Cranes are still there on the Central Tower and the two smaller towers. Work is obviously in progress here.

- Dispersal at Worli will remain a problem. Today, we had to go to the opposite end of Worli Sea Face road to take a U-turn and drive back to South Mumbai. Hopefully this arrangement is only for today and there will be a direct right turn at the exit point itself.

- Keeping the speed limit at 50kmph pretty much kills the point of such a bridge. Doubt it will be adhered to.

- Without a Worli-Haji Ali-Nariman Point link, this is just one part of the Western Freeway project. It will only benefit those who live/work around Bandra/Worli. For everyone else, they will only move faster from one traffic jam to another.

But for whatever it's worth, this is a significant event in Mumbai's creaking infrastructure saga. 3 photos below show the journey to this road.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Electoral rolls for Maharashtra State Elections 2009

Electoral rolls are already being prepared by the Maharashtra State Election Commission. I had a couple of EC officials come home (and visit our road) checking the rolls for any corrections. If you missed out on the recent Lok Sabha Elections, do ensure your name is there on the electoral rolls for the State Elections, due in September.

You can check out the Chief Electoral Officer's website to see, online, if your name is included or not. If not, then there is still time to get your name included. If these officials can slog on a hot, Mumbai afternoon to ensure the rolls are accurate, surely you can do your part by voting on the day that counts.