THE ROLE OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP TO TRANSFORM URBAN TRANSPORT – LESSONS FOR INDIA

Transforming Urban Transport - The Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL) is compilation of case studies which try to highlight critical role of political leadership to implement path-breaking transportation policies. The team studied 8 cities around the world - Los Angeles (US), Mexico City (Mexico), New York City (US), Paris (France), San Francisco (US), Seoul (South Korea), Stockholm (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria) global leaders in transforming urban transport. These cases further amplify that the city needs strong political leadership and political will to reform transportation system in the city.

CASE STUIDES

TUT-POL covers the following case studies:

Los Angeles (US)Passage of “Measure R,” a ballot measure imposing a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation in November 2008

Mexico City (Mexico)Replacement of independent bus and jitney system with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network on key roadways between 2005 - 2014

New York City (US): Remaking of streets and sidewalks as mixed-use urban public spaces for greater use by pedestrians and cyclists since 2007

Paris (France)Urban transport improvements (i.e. metro, urban tramway, Vélib', bikeway network) emanating from the city proper through the region since 2001

San Francisco (US)Transformation of regulatory structures to legalize and enable expansion of ridesourcing services starting in 2013

Seoul (South Korea)A 2003 downtown expressway demolition followed by bus system overhaul, multi-modal transport system integration, and urban regeneration

Stockholm (Sweden)Adoption of congestion pricing on results of a voter referendum following a full-scale trial in 2007

Vienna (Austria)Transformational mode share shifts through reinforcement of complementary measures including public transit improvements and parking and traffic management since the 1990

POLITICAL STRATEGIES

All cases are successful example of policy initiatives. However, it is equally important to build governance capacity and regulatory structure for long term change. The study also recommends some political strategies for introducing change:

1. Identify appropriate timing - Need to identify right political atmosphere and opportunity to introduce reform

2. Strategically Frame the Issues - End goals should be cleaner cities, healthy life and economic growth. Take public opinion to frame the program appropriately 

3. Assess and Enable Stakeholders - Build partnership with agencies which can help and support. Create variety of leadership and champion

4. Integrate Technical Expertise - Build technical capability to execute the plan and convey the message in politically savvy manner

5. Work Across Multiple Levels of Government - Involve all agencies in the process to redistribute the political cost of decision making and enhance resources. 

LESSONS FOR INDIA

India is currently taking many initiatives to improve the urban and rural space including Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT etc. The country can learn from the above mentioned case studies to see how some of these reforms can be implemented in few cities. Some of the proposed reforms ideas for India are:

a) Transportation Tax - Government of India is currently imposing fuel cess of INR 2 on petrol and diesel. The cess is collected in Central Road Fund (CRF) and uses for the construction of highway and roads. However, there is no central cess or tax for the improvement of public transport. The country needs good roads, as well as, good public transport system across the country. There is need to make big investment in public transport infrastructure to improve mobility 

b) Bus Rapid Transit - The government is taking many initiatives to promote BRT system in cities, whereas the cities/states are more keen for metro infrastructure. It is important that Tier-II and Tier-III should build BRT system. The government should priority funding to BRT in smaller and medium size cities. BRT system should also include the reform in existing bus system including route ratioinalisation, ITS system, Depot ERP and maintenance system and Operational Control Centre

c) Mixed Urban Spaces - Some cities in India like Bangalore, Bhopal, Mysore etc. are working activity to expand pedestrian path and cycling infrastructure. However, it is equally important to allow the use of mixed urban spaces and create facilities for non-car users. The government should also ban some street completely for car use and allow pedestrian / non-motorised people to use urban spaces

d) Urban Mass Transit Authority - Government of India is pushing all cities / states to introduce UMTA, to enable coordination among different department. Some of the good examples are STIF in Paris, TfL in London, LTA in Singapore, and RTA in Dubai. Cities / States should create a central agency to regulate all transport related funding 

e) Ride-sharing Services - Government of India has also released a policy framework document on ride-sharing services in December 2016. It encourages states to adopt the new policy guidelines, allowing ride-sharing services in India. However, most of the states are still following their own regulations. The government should promote innovation and see how ride-sharing services can be integrated with other modes

f) Reform Bus System - Only 65 cities in India has organised bus services. Most of the public bus operators are incurring huge losses owing to operational inefficiency and lack of technologies. Cities / states should revamp the existing bus system by introducing new technologies, new buses, data analytics etc. 

g) Congestion Pricing - There has been lots of discussion on congestion pricing in Indian cities mainly Delhi and Bangalore. However, no initiative has been taken till date owing to lack of political will. Private vehicle ownership is growing in all metro cities in India. Congestion Pricing will help to reduce the traffic issue on the road, as well as, will provide financial resources to make further investment in public transport 

Government of India is pushing for lots of reform in urban and regional transport. It is observed that not all states or cities are taking forward the agenda in same spirit. There is need for more rapid reforms to keep pace with growing demand for mobility in Indian cities. As the study clearly pointed out that strong political leadership and political will are the catalysts for the rapid transformation.