Congestion is the biggest transportation concern in most cities, which is a result of demand for road space exceeding the available road infrastructure. City Governments are unable to provide more and more space for road infrastructure to keep pace with the growing vehicles. This is leading to congestion and is adversely impacting the development of cities and costing billions to its economies. In Indian cities such as Mumbai, private vehicles are growing at 8-9% pa and demanding more and more additional road capacity to accommodate growth. The density of Mumbai city is very high compared to many high density cities around the world. read more
It is impossible to provide transport capacity to match the increasing growth of vehicles.
In Mumbai the available road space is 11% of the total land area. In that, 20% of road space gets used for on street parking and almost in most cases free of cost. (Datar, 2013). Minimum Parking requirements, subsidies and incentives for parking supply considering it as necessary infrastructure or real estate based service exclusive parking lots are creating un sustainable parking supply which is generating traffic and further increasing road congestion,emission and adversely impact the productivity, quality of life and health in the city.
Cities need to adopt road pricing where consumers should pay directly for the costs of the expensive road space they use. There is a need to increase the parking charges in Mumbai to discourage more car trips. Further, strict parking restrictions on bus lanes, parking of private vehicles, autos and taxis near station areas and on congested roads is required to improve transport capacity.
The economic costs of road infrastructure including depreciation, interest on capital and running costs are very high. It is important to use it optimally and efficiently. Measures like reallocation of road space need to be considered seriously to bring travel efficiency and traffic calming in city planning. Reallocation of road space to pedestrian facility not only improves access to public transport but also its reliability (Reed, 2013). It helps creating safer streets and quality public spaces which has made cities like London more attractive and competitive.
A good quality of life needs a well-functioning infrastructure, which also contributes to economic prosperity of the city. Transportation is one such infrastructure area that has the biggest impact on city competitiveness and also on its economic and social life.
In and from the nineties, there is increasing awareness regarding the challenges posed by such sprawling, low-density car centric developments in developed countries. As they increase per capita demand for travel and consequent increase in more transport capacities it is becoming increasingly unsustainable for the city governments (Begg, 2013). At the same time the developing economies in the world like India are geared to mass production of personal vehicles at growth rate of 8-9%and aspiring as a sign of progressive mobility. City planners are forced to accommodate the increased levels of private traffic with more and more road infrastructure in spite of a very clear mandate in the National Urban Transport Policy to improve transport capacities with sustainable non-motorized modes and public transport.
Today’s on-road vehicles create over 20% of the pollution posing significant risks for human health and the environment. The growing private vehicles are not only squeezing the pedestrians, cyclists making their journey unsafe and hampering the efficiency of road public transport but also destroyed the street character as an important public space. Parking has taken up all the play areas within and outside the residential colonies. The convenience of door to door access has resulted in people having health issues not getting enough exercise.
Mumbai being financial capital huge amount of budget is spent over building transport capacity. Unfortunately, most gets consumed by 10% privileged. Mumbai HC has remarked that ‘Government cannot make 90 per cent of the general population suffer hardships and pollution to protect the interest of 10 per cent privileged.(Mumbai Mirror, 2009)
Today the biggest threat to improve public transport in Indian cities is fast growing motorized two wheelers (MTW). The efficiency of MTWs with its ease of parking, ease of overtaking in congested traffic and very low operating costs make them very popular. Easy availability of MTWs has further reduced the middle class demand for public transport. Public transport cannot attract MTW users unless the fare is less than the marginal cost of using MTW.(Mohan, 2008)
There is another rising concern in Indian cities, where city governments are promoting metro rail without even attempting to improve the existing road capacities with improved bus system.
Delhi BRT is been projected as a failure by most in the political, media and elite groups without understanding the fact that efficiency of the road is based on its carrying capacity to move on passengers and not the vehicles.
There is very important lesson we can draw from London. It has extensive underground metro system for over 150 years. In spite of it, the mode share is just 11% compared to 22% of bus share. The transport reforms have achieved 9% shift moving people from cars to buses, in a very short time. Why London with very high GDP, gave more priority to buses than metro to improve transport capacity needs to be understood by Indian cities. There is ann overwhelming evidence that capital-intensive metro rail system serve only a small portion of the total trips in the developing countries such as India. (Tiwari, 2013)
Buses require lower capital investment and operating cost and thus become more affordable compared to metro rail. As metro rail fares can never be less than the cost of using MTW, the only option available is to design very cost efficient bus system that comes close to matching this price.
London, Hongkong, Newyork has improved its road transport by not merely adding more road space but by allocating it to bus lanes. Bus lanes improve existing transport capacity significantly without much investment and time.
But only by improving the transport capacity will not help contain congestion in Mumbai. The bus lane will not work if the cars are parked on the lane. Traffic discipline and enforcement equally needs to be effective.
‘Mass transit will solve mobility but will not reduce traffic jams. Only restrictions to car use will reduce traffic.’ Enrique Penalosa.
The question keeps haunting that in a democratic country like India, why majority of commuters who walk, cycle and use buses are not putting pressure on government to discourage use of private vehicles?
Unfortunately the road looks busy with filled vehicles and it becomes difficult to comprehend the appropriation of road space by private vehicles. Also many non users of private transport belong to economically weaker sections and thus have less power and voice but at the same time there is a significantly growing segment of middle class commuters who aspire to own a car and do not want to oppose car usage. There is a lack of dignity using poor quality public transport. If we want to change travel behavior there is a need for coaching and awareness building towards using sustainable travel modes.