Improving Public Transport Systems

Improving Public Transport Systems
May 2021 , by , in Interviews

Coordinating Authors: Aman Srivastava, Chandni Nair, WRI India

What is the current scenario of public transport system in India?

Rapid urbanization and motorization are burdening the current transportation infrastructure in India, resulting in traffic congestion, traffic fatalities and injuries, higher emissions, and increased energy consumption. While it took nearly 60 years (1951-2008) for India to cross 105 million registered vehicles, it took only six years (2009-15) for this number to double. The share of registered buses however witnessed a reduction, from 11% in 1950 to 0.6% of total registered vehicles in 2016. 

CSE projections estimate a decrease in the share of public transport, from 75.7% in 2000-01 to 44.7% in 2030-31, and a rise in the share of personal transport, to more than 50%, of total passenger kilometers.10 The share of trips made using public transport is only 7% in India as compared with 86% in Singapore and 29% in Brazil.11 In the absence of good public transport systems, even smaller cities such as Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chandigarh, which were traditionally dependent on non-motorized transport and paratransit, are now witnessing a rapid shift towards personal vehicles, largely two-wheelers.

What are the suggested efficient mobility solutions?

Undertake multi-modal integration, i.e., integration of public, intermediate paratransit and personal – and also non-motorized – modes of transport allowing seamless travel and increase in ridership, and institutionalize such planning and action by:

  1.  Revamping to a system of unified governance wherein a single agency plans, monitors, and finances the entire public transport network, ideally through structured contracts with private operators.
  2.  Facilitating ease of operation by creating open platforms for operators of all modes to share data and making it mandatory for operators to conform to an open data protocol. This may help allocate public funds in line with usage, equity, and other policy goals.
  3.  Regulating private mobility services so that they operate as complementary to, rather than in competition with, public transport and public taxi services.

What are some of the challenges in the implementation of the right solutions?

It may be challenging to find a balance between the financial sustainability of public transport and addressing access concerns among the poorest and most vulnerable.  New models of contracting, especially with private operators and public-private partnerships, will require rethinking existing models of governance.  In the short term, agencies will need to address hesitancies about using public transport that have arisen due to Covid-19.

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