Issues with Urban Mobility

  • IASbaba
  • February 4, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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  • GS-1: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies. 
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Infrastructure: Roads

Issues with Urban Mobility

Context: Urbanization is supposed to bring modernity and prosperity. The Western example showed how a mass movement off the farm and into cities went together with great leaps in productivity. The hope that a similar experience would be repeated in India resulted in vesting a great deal of hope in cities

The Union Budget 2021-22 has recognised the multiplier effects of Urbanization and has made provisions for it.

What are the key provisions made for Urbanization in Budget 2021?

  • Expansion of Metro rail network: A total of 702 km of conventional Metro lines were in operation and 1,016 km of Metro and Regional Rapid Transit System lines were under construction in 27 cities. Government announced Central funding of ₹1,957 crore, ₹63,246 crore and ₹14,788 crore for the Kochi, Chennai and Bengaluru Metro projects,
  • Augmentation of city bus service: A new scheme will be launched at a cost of ₹18,000 crore to support augmentation of public bus transport services. The scheme will facilitate deployment of innovative PPP models to enable private sector players to finance, acquire, operate and maintain over 20,000 buses
  • Metro Connectivity in Tier-2 areas: Two new Metro technologies, MetroLite and MetroNeo, would be used in tier-2 cities and peripheral parts of tier-1 cities to provide connectivity at a lower cost compared to conventional Metro systems.

Issue with Urban Commuting

  • Poor Bus Infrastructure: India’s ratio of buses to population is a low 1.2 per 1,000 people, compared to 8.6 in Thailand and 6.5 in South Africa, although some States like Karnataka are well ahead of the national average
  • Pandemic shifted people to personal transport: COVID-19 has had the perverse effect of driving people away to the safety of personal car and two-wheeler bubbles.
  • Private Sector Participation in bus transport: Licensed private urban bus services remain a politically sensitive topic in many States, where State monopolies coexist with unregulated paratransit, and it will take a major effort to convince them that a bus renaissance is a good post-pandemic recovery strategy. 
  • Weak Regulations by umbrella authorities: State governments, which retain effective control over urban development rather than city administrations, have failed to operationalise the umbrella authorities to regulate transport.
  • Vehicular Exhaust causing Pollution: As per a WHO study, 14 out of top-15 most-polluted cities in the world are in India. Rising pollution levels also translate into economic losses. As per current estimates the World Bank, the losses amount to 7.7% of the nation’s GDP.
  • Traffic Congestion: Vehicles in some metros move at an average speed of 17kph. The congestion on the roads doesn’t exist in silos, and its adverse effects are carried forward to productivity and economic growth. As per the BCG-Uber report, the combined estimate of losses caused due to congestion in the top-four metro cities of India is worth more than $22 billion per annum.
  • Multi-purpose use of roads in business zones: Roads in cities are multi-purpose public goods, used by various classes of motorized and non-motorized vehicles to travel, park, street-selling etc. Non-transportation uses of the roadway do slow down motorized vehicles.
  • Innovative Products still at nascent stage: Common mobility cards that would help citizens use bus, train and feeder networks seamlessly were largely in pilot project mode even before the pandemic
  • Expensive Mass Transport: There is valid criticism that the existing paradigm is one of “exclusionary urbanisation”, which makes Metro and bus services expensive for the majority, particularly for those forced to live in the suburbs due to housing costs, and sometimes making the per kilometre cost of using a two-wheeler more attractive.
  • Poor Recognition of Urban areas: Census 2011 showed that the number of Census Towns, which are urban for census purposes but not named urban local bodies, grew tremendously over a decade. They lack access to funding, infrastructure and capacity to meet the needs of large populations even now

Way Forward

  • Enhanced Investments: Standard policy recommendations such as congestion pricing or other types of travel restrictions may do little to improve mobility. Instead, potentially costly travel infrastructure investments may be the only way to improve urban mobility
  • Comprehensive Approach: Centre is required to work with State governments to integrate key areas with its transport vision, such as affordable inner-city housing, including rental projects, access to civic services and health care, and enhanced sustainability, greenery and walkability

Connecting the dots:

  • Smart Cities Mission
  • Hyperloop Technology: Click here

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