Sunday, December 21, 2008

Urban Transport

Urban transport system faces the challenges at the rapid urbanisation process happning in Indian context. Various committees and recommendations are in the air to improve the system. Rather than looking at an uniform solution in every cities, we need to study the various elements influencing the transport system in these cities. Urban transport system needs to be looked at with an utmost care. 


Under the national action plan on climate change being prepared by the urban development ministry, the mission on sustainable habitat has made  several recommendations in order to check the growth of private vehicles in Indian cities and boost public transport. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles which, the mission warns, could increase by 580 per cent by 2035. But while the motive behind the proposal is laudable, pushing public transport as an alternative to private transport will be difficult when there is abysmally poor public transport in most Indian cities. 

Sure, the sheer volume of new vehicles being added to roads every day needs to be checked. The growth of registered vehicles has been four times the rate of growth of the population in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Oil consumption by vehicles is slated to increase by 600 per cent in the same period. That's why the government's proposals concentrate on making it more expensive for people to own and drive cars. To that end, the plan seeks to impose a congestion charge on vehicles for entry into busy areas. There is also a proposal to make the parking fee reflect the cost of land, while bringing in differential parking rates. 

But before penalising people for turning to private vehicles, the government must provide a clean, efficient and well-connected public transport system, which would include local trains, the metro and buses. Most of the ideas proposed by the mission are hardly revolutionary, though some, such as the one requiring prospective car buyers to demonstrate ownership of a parking spot before purchase, appear unenforceable. Indeed, measures like congestion tax and differential parking charges have been implemented with some success in cities such as London and Singapore. However, both those cities had well-developed and efficient public transport systems in place before they charged people for driving cars to get to work. 

The recommendations are typical of urban planning in this country, which has tended to be myopic. As it is, these measures will disrupt public life far more than they will solve traffic blues. If implemented now, these measures will only force people to spend more on purchasing and running a private vehicle. It is unlikely to discourage people from buying cars. Until public transport systems in cities are improved, it is unlikely that there will be a slowdown in the growth of private vehicles. Vehicular emissions are a cause for concern in the fight against climate change. But the government cannot seriously begin to reduce emissions without first putting the infrastructure in place to make it possible for people to give up their cars.

1 comment:

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