Urbanization has been one of the prevailing contemporary progressions as a growing share of the global population lives in cities. Transportation in urban areas is profoundly intricate because of multitude of the modes involved, of starting points and destinations, and the variety in traffic. Traditionally, the focus of urban transportation has been on passengers as cities were viewed as locations of utmost human interactions with multifaceted traffic patterns connected to commuting, business exchanges and recreational/social activities. Be that as it may, cities are also locations of production, consumption and conveyance, activities linked to movements of freight. Transport sector is the second largest consumer of energy in India. The growth of transport not just puts pressure on the limited non-renewable energy assets but also extensively increments ecological pollution.
According to a report released by Planning Commission1, the population in urban areas in 2001 was 28 per cent, it is projected that by 2031 about 40 per cent population i.e. about 600 million people would be living in urban areas. Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India issued the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) in 2006, to bring about comprehensive improvements in urban transport services and infrastructure. The policy focus is on movement of people rather than the movement vehicles between destinations. The policy aims at increasing the use of green energy sources, energy efficiency and environmental protection. For urban transportation a central policy is necessary. Although each state has the responsibility for urban transportation, a central policy can provide the necessary framework for systematic progress through coordination. Through the NUTP, several acts, rules and programs (like Motor Vehicle Act, Metro Construction Act, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Viability Gap Funding, Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns) have important implications in dealing with urban transportation issues. The NUTP is employing a comprehensive approach, namely, Urban Transport Planning, Infrastructure Design, Public Transport, Non-Motorized Transport, Traffic Management, Financing, Governance and Capacity Building, for making urban transportation sustainable and user friendly. In the eight years of existence of NUTP several new initiatives have been taken by MoUD to promote good mobility in cities.
The NUTP committee while working on developing a sustainable framework for urban transportation have concurred on their research findings that investment can be reduced by nearly 30 per cent by proactively promoting sustainable practices. As advocated by the Asian Development Bank in its action plan draft2, the NUTP aims at shifting towards ‘Avoid, Shift & Improve’ strategy in transport planning. This ‘Avoid’ strategy aims at decreasing the demand for travel by reducing the number and length of trips. The ‘Shift’ strategy aims at transferring the traffic from personal vehicles to other Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) modes to reduce energy demand and hence pollution in cities. The ‘Improve’
strategy focuses on using clean fuels and clean vehicle technology. The NUTP in its urban transport planning has developed some key concepts such as Integrated Land Use and Transport Planning, Comprehensive Mobility Planning (CMP), Transit Oriented Development, Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Participatory Approach, to name a few, which aims at reducing the traffic load by augmenting public transportation and encouraging the public to make urban transportation more sustainable.
Despite employing proven concepts by the NUTP, urban transportation still remains an anomaly. The pollution level is on the rise because of adulterated traffic. Only a handful of UTs and states have fully functional CNG stations. Poor traffic management is another major hurdle in urban transportation. Lane segregation, a crucial method for managing urban transport has not been enforced uniformly across the country. Public transportation system is also marred by many shortcomings such as shortages of buses, spares and staff, overused, old & tattered vehicles, low wages which results in poor morale. The problems lie in the connectivity aspect of urban transit. Currently, there is no integration in public transportation. For someone to travel from point A to point B, multiple modes of transportation is used which results in more expenditure and wastage of time. People who can afford taxis prefer to hire them to get point-to-point connectivity and online cab aggregators, with the use of technology offer better services. The affordability of commuters is represented in the types of transit available in urban centres. From Mass Public Transit (MPT) such as buses to Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) such as metro system to single transit such as auto or taxis to private ownership of cars or two wheelers, there is a stark difference in the amount of commuters and their affordability. Lack of availability of more buses and other forms of MPT reflects the loop in scalability plans in an urban centre. Hence, affordability and scalability are crucial issues affecting urban transportation connectivity.
These are only handful of problems related to urban transportation in India. Some of the suggestions that can assist in reviving urban transportation can be done by shifting focus from planning and designing for mobility to enhancing accessibility which will strengthen transport/land‐use link. The aim should be to facilitate ‘complete streets’ using Transport Demand Management which should include congestion pricing, parking controls and enforcement. Innovative use of technology in urban transit can be used through fare integration. The concept of fare integration can be used across multiple modes of transportation which could well be cashless transactions. The role of private sector should be expanded and more private-public partnership enterprises should be welcomed on board for strengthening urban transportation. Ultimately, the ideology of ‘urban transport as a civil right’ should be acknowledged as a basic need enabling user‐side subsidies. To conclude, connectivity, affordability and scalability in urban transportation system is crucial for development of urban centres. With the NUTP already been implemented since 2006, the onus should be on further strengthening the NUTP and providing more urgency in making it a sustainable system.
1 Recommendations of Working Group on Urban Transport for 12th Five Year Plan
2 Action Plan to Make Transport in Developing Countries more Climate Friendly