The classical economic theory terms demand for travel as a derived demand which refers to demand for one good or service in one sector occurring as a result of demand from another. People do not travel for the purpose of travelling but to reach somewhere such as work place, home school etc. Large scale urbanisation, development of urban sprawls, increased emphasis on service industry spread across the city have hugely increased travel demand in the cities. Traffic congestion is one of the most difficult challenges being faced by most of the cities globally. Metro trains have been introduced in these cities to meet the ever burgeoning travel demand. The proliferation of metro trains has been successful in meeting the demand to a limited extent as at the same time the demand has witnessed exponential growth offsetting the advantages of metro trains as mass transit system.

The congestion in metro trains has become another challenge haunting the traffic situation in the cities. The objective of transferring the people from private to public transport has not been met as most of the people have shifted from buses to metro trains. For instance, the daily ridership1 of buses in Delhi has come down from 4.42 million in 2011-12 to 3.54 million in 2015-16 whereas the average daily ridership2 of Delhi metro at the same time has increased from 1.86 million to 2.59 million. The number of personal road vehicles registered1 in Delhi has increased from 6.98 million in 2011-12 to 9.09 million in 2015-16 indicating unabated growth in the road vehicles in spite of a proliferation of metro train services as shown in Fig 1.

The roads of Delhi are clogged as ever, pollution is increasing and road accidents have remained a cause of grave concern. Even recently introduced odd-even scheme in Delhi has limited impact on level of pollution in the city. Had Delhi metro not been there, the traffic situation in Delhi would have been worst beyond our imagination. However, introduction of metro services in Delhi could not make much dent on prevailing traffic condition in Delhi. One of the main reasons for personal car users not opting for Delhi Metro services is extreme congestion in metro trains in peak hours.

Demand for Urban Transportation

The demand for urban transport is usually high during morning and evening peak hours as shown in typical hourly demand pattern for a metro system in Fig 2.0. Similarly, the demand is high near the Central Business District (CBD) of the city and it reduces progressively towards the outskirts of the city. Unusually high demand during peak hours causes extreme congestion in metro trains in peak hours. The level of service, a measure to assess congestion, plummets to the lowest level in the peak hours inside the metro trains.

The traditional approach to address the problem of overcrowding in the trains is to increase the number of trains or cars per train in peak hours, i.e., to increase the supply (availability of occupancy). However, the efficacy supply side solution is limited by the capacity of the system beyond which substantial investment is required to enhance the capacity of the system such as increasing length of platforms, modification in trains and train control system etc. Moreover, the supply side solutions may address the problem of overcrowding in peak hours in short term but this additional capacity will remain underutilised during the non-peak hours. A transport system designed and operated to meet peak hour demand will result in suboptimal utilisation of infrastructure during non-peak hours. The key to address the problem of overcrowding in metro trains on sustainable basis lies in supplementing supply with transport demand management measures.

Transport Demand Management

The transport demand management refers to strategies to rationalise the travel demand i.e. passenger trips per hour by redistributing the travel demand over time and space. The demand management in metro rail systems is essential for mitigation of overcrowding and for optimal utilisation of fixed assets. In road sector, the TDM strategies have been deployed quite extensively across the world to reduce the demand in peak hours on busy roads. The ‘Congestion Pricing’ is one such TDM measure which has been quite successful in mitigating the congestion on roads in peak hours and CBDs of the cities, where used. The transport demand management measures also need to be adopted ease peak hour congestion in metro trains. However, there is a fundamental difference in approach for demand management in road and metro train systems. The prime purpose of TDMs in road sector is to reduce over reliance on private modes of transport and encourage people to use public transport whereas the TDMs for metro trains are targeted to control peak hour demand only. The TDMs for metro train shall be cautiously adopted so as not discourage people from using public transport. The demand side measures recommended for metro trains can be grouped into following categories on the basis of implementation strategy:

1. Metro Planning Measures

The demand is the function of the design of the metro rail system, network plan, forward and backward linkages. These measures are required to be adopted at the planning stage of metro network.

(a) Network Design: In the early stages of development, the Metro rail networks in a city are designed radially to connect the high demand corridors with the CBD. The radial network forces everybody to move to the centre of the city even if one has to travel from one radial line to other radial line, resulting in heavy concentration of the demand towards the CBD. The connection of radial lines with circular lines helps in spatial re-distribution of the travel demand over circular lines and reducing the peak hour demand towards CBD.

(b) Integrated multi modal terminals: The metro stations need to be designed and developed as integrated multi-modal terminals which facilitate seamless interchange of passengers among different modes such as metro trains, buses, Non-Motorised Transport (NMTs), para transit modes etc. Integrated multimodal station helps in distributing the travel demand among most suitable mode of transport and thereby manages the demand.

(c) Convenient transfer stations: The transfer (interchange) stations among different lines of a metro system shall be convenient, hassle free and seamless for optimal redistribution of demand across different lines. The transfer shall not require entry or exit through fare control gates. The transfer stations should be equipped with escalators, lifts, travellators, adequate signages to minimise he time taken for transfer.

2. Metro Operations Measures

These measures are required to be taken at during the operational phase of a metro system. These measures can be adopted in phased manner by the metro train operator depending upon the level of congestion, efficacy of supply side measures and need of TDMs. Some of these measures are:

(a) Differential fares: Differential pricing entails higher fares during peak hours and lower fares during nonpeak hours. The differential pricing system encourages commuters to shift from peak hours to nonpeak hours and thereby levels the peak hour demand.

(b) Integrated fares: The integrated fare system for multiple modes of transport encourages hassle free and economical use of multiple transport options. The transport demand is optimally distributed among different modes of transport in the regime of integrated fares. The common mobility card called MORE Card launched by Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD), India in 2014, if adopted by all modes of transport across the country, can proved to be a game changer.

(c) Parking policies: A number of metro train passengers uses their private vehicles to access the metro stations. They park their vehicles in the parking lots available at the metro stations in the morning while going to the office. The higher parking rates during peak hours may encourage the passengers to arrive early (nonpeak hours) at the stations to park their vehicles and use Metro rail in the non-peak hours. The differential parking rates for peak and nonpeak hours may be helpful in levelling of travel demand of metro trains to some extent.

(d) Encouraging non peak hour travel: The passengers may be encouraged to travel in the non-peak hours by offering some incentive schemes special facilities for Senior Citizens, differentially abled etc. Singapore INSINC introduced the scheme to encourage people to travel in non-peak hours. To promote the travel in non-peak hours, the Singaporean government offers the Incentives for Singapore's Commuters programme ("INSINC programme"). The registered passengers automatically earn 1 point for every 1 km travelled on the train all day Monday through Friday. A weekday trip of X kms earns X credits, and if the trip was initiated in the non-peak shoulder hours (6.30—7.29am or 8.30—9.30am), it earns 3X credits. The credits earned by a commuter are redeemable either at a fixed exchange rate (1000 credits = SG$1), or for prizes ranging from $1 to $100 in a fun online game.

3. City Level Measures

These measures are required to be implemented by the government as the metro operator has limited control over them. These measures shall be integral part of the urban transport planning of the city for a sustainable city transport system. These measures are:

(a) Land use planning: Mix land use ensures multiple economic and social activities in a region thereby reducing the need of long distance transport for going to work, market, schools etc. Mix land use planning may greatly help in minimising the overall transport demand.

(b) Development of poly centric city: The city with multiple CBDs helps in evenly spreading of transport demand across the city. Unlike a city with one CBD where a predominant transport demand is concentrated to/from CBD, the polycentric city helps in spatial distribution and levelling of travel demand.

(c) Provision of NMT for last mile connectivity: The use of Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) such as bicycle, rickshaws, walking may be encouraged as substitute to both public and private transport trips and thereby to reduce the overall demand. However, a conducive user friendly environment is required to be developed to promote the use of NMTs such as separate lanes, cycle stands, cycle on rent schemes, permitting transport of cycles in public transport etc.

(d) Integrated multi modal transport: The transport system in a city is sum total of all modes of transport. All modes of transport shall be well integrated to provide seamless transport service in a city. The travel demand is optimally distributed among various modes of transport in a well-integrated multi modal transport system.

(e) Staggered working hours: Most of the offices in the urban centres work from 8-9:30 to 1730-1800. The same office hours results into very high concentrated travel demand in morning peak and evening peak hours. If staggered the timings of the offices is implemented say in three slots of 8:30-17:00, 9:00-17:30 and 10:00 to 18:30 for government offices, private offices, banks & financial institutions respectively the transport demand during peak hours can be levelled out considerably.

(f) Work from home: These days the concept of ‘work from home (WfM)’ needs to be encouraged. With the advent of reliable, advanced IT systems, WfM can be easily adopted. In many cities (Hong Kong, Singapore) the office space is quite costly, this practice of WfM has already. Government can also offer tax rebates on purchase and setting up of required infrastructure for video conferencing facilities so that the need for travel to attend meetings etc can also be reduced.

(g) Transit Oriented Development: Transit Oriented Development (TOD) refers to residential and Commercial Centres designed to maximize access by Transit and Non-motorized transportation, and with other features to encourage Transit Ridership. A typical TOD has a rail or bus station at its centre, surrounded by relatively high-density development, with progressively lower-density spreading outwards, which represents pedestrian scale distances. Transit Stops and Stations that are convenient, comfortable and secure, with features such as comfortable waiting areas, vendors selling refreshments and periodicals, washrooms, Wayfinding and Multi-Modal Navigation Tools. Integrated development of residential and Commercial Centre, mixed land use, encouraging NMTs and walk based trips, help in controlling the demand for transport.


Over reliance on supply side measures without managing the demand has caused extreme congestion in peak hours in metro trains which deters the personal car users to opt for metro train services. There is a need to make metro train services more convenient to attract personal car users. The efforts to increase supply such as more number of trains, longer trains, and high capacity trains have not been successful in long term. The supply side measures need to be augmented by demand management to ease peak hour congestion in metro trains. These demand management measures can be very effective in fulfilling the goal of sustainable mobility and creating a smart, liveable city provided the city planners, operators and government work together.


(Author - Dr Amit Kumar Jain, Indian Railways Email: / He has also written a book - “Intelligent Transport Systems” by Mr. Pradip Kumar Sarkar and Mr. Amit Kumar Jain, published by PHI Learning Private Limited)