Our cities need fewer cars

The year 2018 witnessed a host of initiatives in the urban mobility sector. Governments in all the states strengthened their push for cleaner and sustainable transport system. Metro network was introduced and expanded in many cities, Delhi government came up with a policy on e-vehicles, and many cities launched cycle-sharing programs and so on. Several reports were also released that suggested revisiting mobility policies for making urban mobility smoother, sustainable and convenient.
An assessment from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) showed that ridership of Jaipur, Lucknow and Chennai metros saw a deficit of over 1000 per cent compared with the projected ridership due to hiked fares. Similarly, Delhi metro also saw a sudden drop in ridership approximately by 4.2 lakh passengers following the fare hike. The report suggested that the metro system is not the solution for all cities. You can come to the conclusion that metro would be a success in all cities because it is doing well in Delhi. The fare prices of the metro will also need to be formalized based on local realities.
Another report released by Boston Consulting Group said that the current Indian mobility scenario shows Kolkata as the worst hit city by traffic congestion in terms of traffic speed followed by Bengaluru. Whereas, the ‘Ease of Moving Index 2018’, by Ola Mobility Institute, showed that Kolkata offers the widest and the most affordable choice of travel modes. Delhi despite having the maximum number of registered vehicles seems to be a bit better due to its good road network. While Delhi seems to have the highest share of people using their private vehicles, Mumbai, on the other hand, tops the list when it comes to the use of public transport followed by Bengaluru and Kolkata. These are some of the few reports which tell the tales of public transport and mobility in the country.
It is not rocket science to find out that the problem of traffic congestion can only be solved by strengthening public transport. Public transport has to be safe, affordable, comfortable, accessible and fast to become successful. The good example is the Delhi Metro as it is always working to improve its services. Delhi Metro added 21 more metro trains in its fleet to improve frequency and facilitate more public. The recently launched Smart Card ‘ONE’ will be valid in Delhi metro rail and DTC buses, making it more convenient for the public to pay for their travel. The similar card was also launched by West Bengal government named ‘West Bengal Transport Card’ and ‘Pathadisha’ mobile application, which can be used for various transport modes such as buses, ferries and trams.
Electric Mobility was also one of hottest topics of discussion in the sector this year. Kolkataintroduced 80 electric buses in its bus fleet and the government is working on the installation of 30 battery chargers and turbochargers at various bus terminals. And, Delhi came up with the Delhi E-vehicle Policy and said that it wants to make 25 per cent of total vehicles electric by 2023.
Internationally, there were some major decisions taken in the mobility sector. Luxembourg is all set to shift its major chunk of the population to travel by public transport. It is the first in the world to make its public transport completely free for people under 20 years of age. The rest of the commuters only have to pay €2 for two hours of travel. The decision will probably lead to a significant decrease in the number of private vehicles on roads.Spain,to reduce traffic congestion, has planned to make all the city centres in the countrya ‘No Emission Zone’ by banning all but zero-emission vehicles. The ban would increase pedestrians on streets and would encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles or non-motorised transports (NMT).
India needs to look forward to similar reforms in the mobility sector to battle traffic congestion and smoothen the traffic flow. Some of the probable solutions could be improving the public transport services by enhancing frequency, maintenance, developing a common digital platform for booking seats, viewing the route map, making digital payments, and tracking time for all types of public transport, making the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for traffic management. Building multilevel parking spaces in the densely populated areas of the city like those near major markets, city centres, tourist spots, and commercial aggregates. This could help in the generation of more open space and would reduce congestion on streets. Another could be the building of skywalks, subways, and urban pathways with facilities like solar powered – travellators and escalators to reduce travel time and provide better convenience to pedestrians.

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