Bangkok Declaration 2020, which was released during the Fifth Regional EST Forum in 2010 at Bangkok, Thailand, helped in realising a promising decade with Avoid-Shift-Improve strategies to achieve safe, secure, quick, reliable, affordable, efficient, people-centric and environment-friendly transport. As stated in SDG 11.2, mobility and transport are crucial for the achievement of sustainable cities and communities. There is a need to encourage public transport as it has low carbon footprint, reduces emissions and travel time, provides alternate mobility options. It also helps in integrating the sub-urban areas that support population growth and hence provides accessibility to all the sections of the society. A report on mobility and SDGs by UCLG says it enables the provision of efficient multi-modal public transport systems that are well integrated, safe, affordable, accessible and inclusive to address the rapidly growing demand for mobility in cities.
Impelled by several global megatrends, public transport is witnessing transformational changes across the world. In the past decade, Asia has witnessed deep penetration of metro rail, bus-based public transport system, ride-hailing services, and many other innovations. Although there is more focus on adopting innovative solutions to meet the growing mobility needs, there is a surge in transport and travel-related challenges. This includes an increasing number of motor vehicles, road-related fatalities and travel distances propelled by an increase in population and the economy.
A report by KPMG ‘Reimagining Public Transport in India’ says, 42 per cent of the urban population lives in 53 cities (with populations of more than 1 million) while the balance 58 per cent lives in 7,88,204 urban centres with population ranging from 50,000 to 1 million people. Most of these (7,882) smaller urban centres are dependent on intermediate public transport (IPT) modes to satisfy their mobility needs, viz. shared auto rickshaw, jeeps, vans.
Challenges faced by Indian Cities
It has been estimated that in India approximately 88 million trips (70.04 million by buses, 18.04 million by railways and 0.2305 million by air) are made on public transport on a daily basis which translates to 6-9 per cent of total trips being catered by public transport as against 30-35 per cent in most countries worldwide. The mobility concerns and the state of public transport in India was discussed during the recently held pre event of EST Forum held in Delhi recently.
Samir Sharma, Head – Transport Planning, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd. (DIMTS), Delhi, underlines that 55 lakh people made trips by the bus-based system in 2017-18 and this is expected to rise to 165 lakh people by 2041-42. He even pointed out various challenges, which need to be addressed to make these mass urban transportation systems work effectively and efficiently. He stated that “With 25 per cent of deviation from time-table only 23 per cent of routes are found to be operating with some reliability, due to which there is high headway variation resulting in overcrowding leading to dissatisfaction among passengers”.
RS Minhas, Deputy Chief GM, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), stated that 3781 buses with a daily ridership of 31.01 lakhs are controlled by DTC. He said, “DTC was the backbone for transportation in Delhi since 1948, but the fleet has now reduced to 3781 buses from 7000 buses due to problems associated with procurement of the buses.” Secondly, due to lack of planning and integration, there is low load factor, i.e. some areas experience overcrowding whereas some buses run empty. Thirdly, due to complex route structure, high overlapping along with long routes again make the buses to run empty. The absence of first-mile and last-mile connectivity, the institutional gaps and lack of integrated ticketing system are some additional issues at the users’ end depriving them of a consistent and seamless experience.
Rail based public transport infrastructure such as metro rail transport system is proposed in all large and medium-size cities, irrespective of travel demand. Professor Sanjay Gupta, HOD, Department of Transport Planning, SPA Delhi said, “Every citizen wants a metro system, whether the city needs the system or not.” The rail-based system is costly and is beyond the financial capacity of the local bodies. Metro rail is preferred for long-distance trips. Since many Indian cities have a majority of the population travelling shorter distances, the investments in the metro-based system in such cities are unnecessary. As an example, Lucknow metro is running in losses due to low ridership and lack of system integration with the existing modes of transport.
Preparatory measures to improve public transport
The vision of Mater Plan Delhi (MPD) 2041 as per Sarika Chakravarty, Urban Transport expert, NIUA, the preliminary objective is to draft various policies for electric vehicle, parking, and walkability policy providing the scale of walkability and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) policy where integration of land use and transportation system will be considered with node-based approach. The vision will enable a shift towards the use of sustainable modes of transport, providing alternative choice for travel demand for all the sections of the society, having unified institutional body and strategies for making high-risk unsafe areas safe for movement of the vulnerable population like pedestrians, cyclists, children, and elderly.
Some public transit systems like Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Light Rail Transit System (LRTS), Monorail, Trolley Bus, Heavy Rail, Metro (light) and Metro Neo, all have different specifications and requirements for the implementation of the project. The project selection should be based on the city’s existing infrastructure and travel demand. This can be identified by calculating average trip length, per capita trip rate, average ridership, the modal share of existing public transport, population, and the urban form of the city.
To enhance public transport there is a need to revise the existing mass transit system identification guidelines that shall include rational system development and funding mechanism. Last-mile connectivity is an essential component to enhance the utility of the public transport system. Integrated multimodal transport networks need to be established that shall include unified institutional system for the governance of all types of public transport systems and integrated ticketing systems. Specific policies are required to discourage private vehicle ownership. Since public transport system is a public goods and service, innovative non-fare box revenue resources need to be established.
The bus system as public transport can be improved through electronic ticket data and balancing the fleet through benchmark. The frequency can be enhanced through route extension and curtailment where transfers are heavy. Along with network-based bus hierarchy system that is direction oriented, dynamic timetable could be prepared by considering the actual speed of bus rather than average speed through GPS data as suggested by Sharma from DIMTS.
Achieving 2030 Agenda
Agenda 2030 is a roadmap to achieve common good but is also a call to action. Despite the issues of inadequate integration, the multiplicity of departments in planning, managing and implementing, which leads to discouraged use of public transport and financial planning at the same time, BI Singhal, Former Director General, Institute of Urban Transport (IUT) mentioned six key points to enhance the public transport effectively. The city-wide planning of public transport with first and last-mile connectivity, seamless connection of all modes, route interchanging with a minimal time penalty, financial plan as part of the project plan and public image of bus service shall be improved to achieve the idea of sustainable urban transport. The role of integration for smart, resilient and sustainable cities can only be accomplished holistically if planning, policy, design, finance, regulatory framework and institutionalisation is focused on being system oriented rather than infrastructure oriented.
Some public transit systems like BRTS, LRTS, Monorail, Trolley Bus, Heavy Rail, Metro (light) and Metro Neo, all have different specifications and requirements for the implementation of the project. The project selection should be based on the existing infrastructure of the city and travel demand