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Need For ‘Smart’ Urban Transport In India

Syllabus: GS-I, II and III

There is a need to switch from the conventional model transport to smart urban transport.This switch is inevitable as rapid urbanization is putting pressure on the government to reduce congestion, pollution and improving mobility.

Smart Urban Transport Is The Need Of The Hour

In India, about 30 percent of the population from 1.3 billion people currently lives in urban centres. It is estimated that the urban population will rise to 60 million by 2031. According to Census India, number cities with a population of one million rose to 50 in 2011 from 35 in 2001. This number is expected to rise to 87 by 2031. Smart urban Transport can help in dealing with the mobility thereby managing the movement of population.

This points out to the problems that will be faced by the authorities to manage such a huge shift in the urban population of India. One of the main problems will be urban transportation. Urban transport infrastructure lags behind the growth of commuters. Majority of the Indian population rely on public transport. So there is an urgent need for an efficient, smart transport infrastructure. There is a need to switch from the conventional model of transport to smart urban transport. The switch is inevitable as rapid urbanization is putting pressure on the government to reduce congestion, pollution and improving mobility.

Current Urban Transport System in India

  • Since the 1990s the spur in economic growth has created a huge demand for transport infrastructure and services.
  • Despite increasing level of urban mobility in Indian cities, urban transportation is becoming increasingly difficult in terms of convenience, cost and time.
  • There is a high level of congestion, air pollution and increase in road fatalities.
  • Unaffordability of private transport and lack of proper public transit option has become a major concern, especially for the urban poor.
  • As the cities are spreading outwards rapidly, the growth of urban transportation has not kept pace with it.
  • Rapid urbanization, motorization, low share and popularity of non-motor transport are influencing the urban mobility in India.
  • India’s current urban transportation has inadequate intra-regional connectivity. Public transportation has become largely unsafe and unreliable.

Urban Transportation problems in India

  • Road congestion: Due to increase in urban population, the number of vehicles has increased to a level where the road infrastructure is unable to meet the demand of commuters.
  • Parking problems: Unplanned and faulty designing of buildings without foreseeing the future have caused problems of parking space. Most of the people park their vehicle on the roadside causing congestion.
  • Air pollution: According to CPCB (Central Pollution Control board), around 180 Indian cities face severe pollution concentration. In Indore, transport contributes 30 percent of PM10 but 46 percent of PM 2.5, while in Chennai it is 20 percent of PM10 and 35 percent of PM2.5. Air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death in Indian cities.
  • Deteriorating road safety: The increase in the number of vehicles had increased accidents especially pedestrian fatalities.
  • Caveats in law and regulations: Currently there is no comprehensive central or state legislation covering urban transport requirements of Indian cities.
  • Problems in land acquisition for transport infrastructure development.
  • Human resource challenges: There is lack of skilled personalities in urban transport management.

Benefits of Smart Urban Transport

  • According to Mckinsey Global Institute, Intelligent Transport System offers a superior option to the addition of physical road capacity.
  • It helps in increasing efficiency of economy and productivity.
  • Congestion can be managed in an intelligent way thereby reducing time in accessing places.
  • It helps in reducing traffic delays and boost smart management of vehicles.
  • Instead of building more infrastructure, using technologies, existing infrastructure can be optimized focusing on operational outcomes and customer experience. This help government to plan with a limited budget.
  • Urban transport also plays a role in the reduction of poverty, better access to the labour market, thus increasing the income of poor.
  • Smart urban transport can reduce pollution thus help in fulfilling the INDC target of India.
  • Elderly people who are reluctant to travel due to the difficulties in transportation benefit from barrier-free transportation.

Initiatives by the Government for Smart Transportation

  • National Urban Transport Policy(NUTP) emphasizes the development of public transportation system and plans to increase their share to at least 50 percent of all motorized trips.
  • The Government has come up with numerous initiatives ranging from Make in IndiaFAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles)Green Mobility Fund, and Smart Cities, to the recently announced projects in high-speed mobility, namely high-speed trains and the proposed ‘Hyperloop’ connectivity.
  • JNNURM(Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) focus on transport sector funding various projects for transport infrastructure development.
  • Cities are coming with new transport systems such as Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) and rail-based projects like MetroLight Rail Transit(LRT) and Monorail.
  • A 10 lakh crore National Transport Master Plan is on working which aimed at a smooth movement of passengers and freight across multiple modes of transport.
  • A lot of discussions has taken place over the feasibility and profitability of High-Speed Rail(HSR) Network.
  • The idea of the Electric vehicle has been promoted. The ministry of power has announced an all-electric car fleet inIndia by 2030.
  • The government has turned its attention to Transit Oriented Development which focuses on micro development focusing on transit nodes which result in improved ease of access to transit facilities. This will also encourage citizen to prefer walking and choosing public transport over using private vehicles.

Suggestions

  • Re-aligning legal and regulatory instruments: A comprehensive urban transport act should be enacted by each state and responsibilities should be shared with the city administrations.
  • Restructuring of institutions to strengthen the governance structure.
  • Proper Resource mobilization: Resource includes public finance, skilled professionals etc. This will help in quality planning and decision making.
  • Capacity building of Government agencies.
  • Best practices of states should be adopted by each other. This will help in improved urban mobility in cities which will benefit the users significantly.
  • Transportation should be considered as a collective responsibility by all stakeholders. There should be cooperation between public and private sector to develop India specific solution in Urban transportation.

Way Forward

Smart Urban transport opens a revolutionary window for the overall development of the country. Decision makers are increasingly recognizing the role of smart technologies in planning and policy formulation. It will provide the opportunity to modernize the infrastructure and help in driving the economic growth thereby creating more jobs in the 21st century. India can leap forward from the conventional transportation model to a more intelligent model by using the technological capabilities and emerging entrepreneurial culture.

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