Urbanization is rapidly increasing. By 2030, the United Nation estimates that 2 out of 3 people will live in cities. India is projected to be the fastest growing urban nation, adding 416 million urban dwellers.
India’s transportation infrastructure needs to keep pace to meet the rapidly growing demand.
For example, India has 1.2 buses per 1000 people, which is comparably lower than other developing as well as developed nations.
Further, the high population densities coupled with high car ownership rates, also mean that we have the worst traffic jams globally. India had 4 of the top 10 most congested cities globally, according to Tom Tom’s traffic index 2019. This congestion has a cost. BCG estimates that the annual cost of congestion is $21 Billion in the top 4 Indian cities.
We can look towards global case studies to see how India can meet the rapidly rising urbanization demand and provide adequate transportation infrastructure that is accessible, affordable, space efficient (given the population growth outpaces the increase in road space) and sustainable.
London: High density and coverage network
While it is common knowledge that London has one of the best underground metro-rail networks, people are often surprised to hear that it also has an elaborate bus network, which actually surpasses the rail in daily passenger rides.
London has one of the best ratios for a city globally at 1 bus per 1000 people, which leads to good frequency (and low wait times), higher coverage and better connectivity. This in-turn promotes the usage of the bus service, leading to a virtuous cycle.
Contrast this to Mumbai, where the population is more than twice that of London. The bus ridership is less than half that of London, even though the suburban train network is comparable in size. While trains have always been Mumbai’s lifeline, and additional infrastructure projects such as metro lines will supplement this network, Mumbai needs at least another 15,000 buses—both from public as well as private companies—if we are to meet the current and future demand. This will lead to a commute experience on par with global megacities.
Hong Kong: User-centric design
Hong Kong’s public transport system is regarded as one of the global benchmarks. Although frequently crowded, services are punctual and low cost. Each day, 12.7 million passenger journeys are made by public transport. With a dense metro rail network coupled with red and green minibuses that run throughout the city, car ownership is strictly optional.
Payments are convenient and can be made through the Octopus electronic payment system, which can be used from one’s mobile directly. It is accepted at all transport networks as well as retail and food locations, making it the only payment mode you need throughout the city.
Average wait times in Hong Kong are less than 10 minutes, meaning there is a ride always available at your fingertips. Contrast this to Delhi, where average metro wait times are 3 times as much.
If we can enable our transport systems through digital products with online payments, ride tracking and easy to use subscription options, we can bring better ride predictability and reduce overall wait times.
Bogota: Accessible, Comfortable Transportation
Gustavo Petro, the current president of Colombia said, when he was the mayor of Bogota, “A developed country is not where the poor have cars – it’s where the rich use public transportation.”
By building an expansive bus rapid transit system, Bogota was able to transform public transportation across the city, at a fraction of the cost of building metro lines. Bogota’s transport system was designed to provide access to rich as well as poor neighbourhoods, which has brought down overall energy consumption costs through dedicated bus lanes and has improved overall efficiency.
Buses in Bogota move at an average speed of 26 kmph during peak hours, saving time for everyone. In contrast, Bangalore is famous for its traffic snarls and has an average speed of 8 kmph during peak hours. Just 8% of the commuters occupy 65% of the roadspace, leading to a poor travel experience for everyone and high congestion costs.
If we can enhance our public transport and shared mobility networks by prioritising them over cars and therefore improving overall transportation times, the city as a whole will benefit.
Looking towards global cities case studies, if we can learn lessons in providing accessibility, convenience and comfort, these can help us build a truly user centric commute system that is also designed for the discretionary customer, leading to world class cities with a high standard of living. Commuting may be a burden today, but it doesn’t need to be. An aspiration where our citizens truly enjoy their commute time is a noble goal.
(The author is Mr. Rushabh Shah, Co-founder & CBO at Cityflo, and the views expressed in this article are his own)