- India’s transport sector is large and diverse; it caters to the transport needs of 1.2 billion people. Mobility flows have become a key dynamic in the rapid urbanisation process of Indian cities with urban transport infrastructure constituting the skeleton of the urban form.
- Despite the increasing levels of urban mobility in Indian cities, access to places, activities and services is becoming increasingly difficult in terms of convenience, cost and time.
- The present levels of urban mobility are already generating a crisis situation characterized by high levels of congestion, environmental pollution, traffic fatalities and inequity eventually leading to a situation of undesired accessibility crisis.
Urban transport problems:
- With over a quarter of India’s urban population below the poverty line, the mobility problems of the poor are of special concern. The unaffordability of private transport or the lack of public transit options forces this segment of the urban population to walk or cycle increasingly long distances, and, consequently, suffer severe pollution.
- As Indian cities continue to spread outward, those residents too poor to afford motorised transport will be increasingly put at a disadvantage, and further cut off from employment, recreational, educational, medical and other activity sites they need to access in the city.
- Reforming archaic transport planning and management for urban India remains the still bigger challenge.
- While, in some states, the transport department undertakes urban transport planning, in others, it is the urban development or municipal administration at the urban level that does it.
- There is a severe lack of horizontal and vertical coordination among these agencies at central, state and local levels, making accountability very difficult.
- Apparently, there is an absence of any effective coordinating agency where urban transport and land use plans can be formulated and integrated keeping an overall goal in mind.
- Another weakness is the limited authority delegated at the local city level.
- Generally, city administrations are inadequate to undertake efficient city management either because of the lack of technical capacity in city administrations or because of the weak revenue base and dependence on state and central governments for most of its financial needs.
- According to the Seventh Schedule (Article 246) of the Indian Constitution, urban development, which includes urban transport, is in the State List.
The National Urban Transport Policy
- The central government, under the Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD), issued the National Urban Transport Policy in 2006 with specific policy objectives of achieving safe, affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable and sustainable access to jobs, education, shopping and recreation and other such needs to an increasing number of urban residents within our cities.
- The policy acknowledged problems of road congestion and associated air pollution.
To address these issues, the NUTP proposed four strategies primarily focusing on
- increasing efficiency of road space by favouring public transport,
- using traffic management instruments to improve traffic performance,
- restraining growth of private vehicular traffic and
- technological improvements in vehicles and fuels to reduce vehicle emissions.
- The NUTP recognized the states as the main facilitators in the process of policy implementation and the central government’s role was confined to supporting the states with the necessary financial support and technical expertise.
The Need of the hour:
- Urban transport systems require several functions to be performed in a well-coordinated manner for seamless and comfortable travel experience for commuters. Unfortunately, these are performed by multiple agencies under the central, state and city governments which do not necessarily work together.
- There is immediate requirement to remove physical and policy bottlenecks i.e. clear pathways inside and adjoining railway stations of obstacles, install escalators, create multiple entry and exit points, and put in place an organised feeder transport network to stations and bus terminals.
- Urban mobility is multi-dimensional in terms of policy and operational implications. Therefore, coherence in policy interventions and linkages among processes are essential.
- Improved accessibility is neither achieved by adding more roads, rail or vehicles, nor through ad hoc spatial interventions such as traffic management techniques in isolation to achieve delocalization and decongestion.