TIMEBOMB IS TICKING: INDIAN CITIES ARE LOSING CONGESTION WAR

Rapid urbanisation and economic growth are fueling the growth in India cities. The infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the rising demand and putting stress on the basic utilities like water, electricity, sewage and transport. The continuous higher demand in the cities will lead to catastrophic outcome in next 5-10 years. Air pollution and traffic congestion is one of the rising challenges. None of the cities in India have good public transport infrastructure, compelling people to rely on private vehicles, mainly two-wheelers. India has more than 242 million registered vehicles, out of which 75% are two-wheelers.

Two global studies clearly highlight the state of public transport infrastructure in Indian cities:

1.  Arthur D. Little has released its ‘Future of Urban Mobility 3.0’ report, assessing the mobility maturity, innovativeness and performance of 100 cities worldwide. The report covered 4 Indian cities – Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Jaipur. The report rated transport infrastructure in Indian cities insufficient. The solution for the future is an interconnected multimodal mobility system, with increased convenience and efficiency, tailored to the city’s growth project and balancing economic development and well-being. Sadly, both federal and state governments have no political visions to improve public transport infrastructure.

2.  Boston Consulting Group (BCG) also conducted the study on traffic situation and impact of ride-sharing in Southeast Asia and India (Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore). The study highlighted that Indian cities are 149 percent more congested than other Asian cities. On average, commuters in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata are taking 1.5 times longer to travel a given distance. The country is losing over $22 billion a year in peak traffic hours compared to travel time during non-peak hours in those cities. In Delhi and Mumbai, travel by public transport accounts for 19 percent and 54 percent of kilometers travelled respectively.

Both these reports clearly highlight the need for more investment in public transport infrastructure. However, there is no sign of urgency at the political level. In case of inaction from policy makers, Indian cities will become unsustainable and lose their importance. The case study of Pune city is a wakeup call for policy makers at both federal and state government.

Pune is the second largest city (population of 3.5 million) of Maharashtra. The city is known for its manufacturing, automobile industries, information technology (IT), education, management and training, attracting students, and professionals from India, South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The city has expanded in last decades, attracted population from different part of the country. The popuation has increased from 2.5 million in 2001 to 3.5 million in 2018.

The total vehicle population in the city till March 2017 was 3.4 million, which has increased to 3.62 million by March 2018. This denotes at least one vehicle owned per family in the city, and in many cases, a combination of either a four-wheeler and two-wheeler or multiple two-wheelers. The graphics clearly shows that the city did not make investment in public transport, which led to decrease in number of buses from 5,536 in 2010 to 2,540 buses in 2018. On the other hand, the number of two-wheelers and cars has increased to 2.7 million and 0.6 million in 2018. 

The increase in private vehicles population has led to a colossal traffic management problem while increased pollution has also had a devastating effect on the city. All Indian cities are facing the similar situation like Pune. The future of Indian cities is looking bleak in such situation, where the vehicles will out-number the human population. Time-bomb is ticking and needs urgent attention of policy makers.