Congested streets and polluted air are common experiences in India’s metropolises, although the average Indian contributes only minuscule amounts of transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to global climate change. The Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast as the global rise in 2018. It is important to note that globally, the transport sector accounts for a quarter of total emissions, out of which three quarters are from road transport.
Efficient public transport system leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban areas.
1. Pollution: As per a WHO study, fourteen out of the top fifteen most polluted cities in the world belong to India. Polluted air significantly reduces the quality of life and increases the risk of diseases such as lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and chronic bronchitis.
2. Losses: As per the World Bank, India’s welfare losses due to air pollution are currently estimated at 7.7% of GDP (PPP adjusted). By going low carbon emission vehicles huge amount of expenditure will be saved on pollution related health problems.
3. Discretionary spending: As Indian economy continues to grow at fastest pace the disposable income in India is also witnessing rapid improvement, which in turn is leading to faster rise in discretionary spending.
4. This led to increase in purchase of premium vehicles. Premium vehicles run on more fuel per kilometer, so there is need to improve the fuel efficiency in this segment.
However, various strategies of the Government like BRT, JNNURM, etc have not solved many of the problems. Reason being:
Unprecedented Transport Growth: According to Niti Aayog, the number of registered motor vehicles has increased from 5.4 million in 1981, to 210 million in 2015. This rapid growth in demand in the absence of widespread public transport system has caused a
rapid increase of private car ownership in India.
Inadequate Public Transport: According to government data, there are about 19 lakh buses in the country and only 2.8 lakh of them are run either by state transport undertaking or under stage carriage permits.
Further, a CSE study points out that the share of public transport is expected to decrease from 75.5% in 2000-01, to 44.7 per cent in 2030-31, while the share of personal transport will be more than 50%
Urban Congestion: Major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru are ranked among world’s most congested cities. For example: Average speed for vehicles in Bengaluru is reported as 17 km/h. These high levels of congestion have huge economic implications in the form of reduced productivity, fuel waste, and accidents. Further, there is an acute shortage of parking spaces both on and off the streets in the urban centres.
Road safety: Traffic injuries and fatality: According to the Report ‘Road Accidents in India-2016’, road accidents in India have decreased by around 4.1% in 2016 from 2015. However, fatalities resulting from these accidents have risen by about 3.2%. The major reasons for traffic crashes include poor quality of roads, poor traffic management, unsafe and overcrowded vehicles and unsafe driving behaviour.
Equity Issues: Unplanned urbanization in India has led to gentrification (as per upper and middle socio-economic class) of city centres and lower income groups are forced to live in peripheral suburbs which have increased their cost and time they allocate to
commute. Most of the lower income groups and urban poor fail to afford private transport and even public transport are high for them. For example, a CSE study ranks Delhi Metro as the second most unaffordable metro (after Hanoi in Vietnam) with lower income group people spending nearly 22% of their monthly transport on Delhi Metro fares.
Mobility for women: Safety or the lack thereof, is the single biggest factor constraining women’s mobility. According to Action Aid UK, 79% of women in major Indian cities reported being harassed on streets.
To address the institutional challenges there is a need for better cooperation among different transport agencies, departments, and ministries as well as better coordination of transport and land-use policies. Further, there should be adequate funding to address various issues plaguing public transport infrastructure
To address the issues of urban congestion and urban air pollution, it is important to augment mass and share transit capacity and discourage use of private cars by enforcing restraint measures through parking policy, low emissions zones approach, tax measures
and congestion pricing.
Further, policies toward enhancing public transport should promote inclusive access to mobility.
Well engineered, safe infrastructure for travel should be ensured. Further, there is an urgent need to address the issue of low woman mobility by ensuring women safety through gender-sensitive transport policies, dedicated seats/ coaches and emergency
There should be focus on enhancing non-motorised transport. Focus should be to encourage use of non-motorised transport for short distances. Further, Pedestrian zones, bike lanes should be made to ensure safety to commuters. For example, well designated Bike-lanes and bike-sharing solutions have promoted use of bicycles as a mean of transport in cities like Amsterdam and Paris.
Commuters should be provided with multiple modes of connectivity. To ease out travelling, a single smart card can be provided. For example, London’s Oyster “smart” card enables a commuter to change from one mode to another with minimal loss of time or effort.
There is a need for more equitable allocation of road space with people, rather than vehicles. Besides intelligent transport systems should be introduced and institutional mechanism for enhanced coordination between agencies and between agencies and people should be established. There is a need for 3C Framework (Clean, Convenient and Congestion free) for transforming mobility in India