A noted urban public-transport campaigner,Mark Gorton,faced some angry questions in the city after he advocated a complete public-transport oriented system for Indian cities.
How can India grow without automobiles and the mass employment that the industry generates? asked a young entrepreneur,who said he was setting up a low-cost car company to cater to rural India.
His question came soon after Gorton spoke about how many cities around the world are trying to regulate car ownership using high taxes (Denmark imposes 270 per cent of the car’s price as sales tax) and high parking fees while laying wider pavements and cycle lanes and blocking vehicles from entering certain stretches at regular intervals.
Gorton,who addressed audiences at the National Institute of Design (NID) and Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) at back-to-back sessions on Thursday afternoon,talked about the economic,social and health benefits of an anti-private vehicle policy that promotes walking,cycling,buses and rail networks.
He cited several studies,one of which showed that human relationships fared better in neighbourhoods with less traffic than in areas with heavy automobile populations the number of vehicles on the street is inversely proportionate to the number of friends a person has because people mingle better when they have space to move around in the streets of a neighbourhood,he said.
The automobile is a very useful tool for segregating people because you can get into your own little box and not mingle with others. The US used the automobile to keeps the blacks (who ride the bus) away from the whites, he said.
Gorton suggested that the capital and energy used in the car industry could be used to manufacture buses and trains and other machines,and was soon after confronted by another question how can the aspirations of millions in this fast-developing economy who wish to get off scooters and cycles and rickety buses and into air-conditioned cars of their own where they don’t have to deal with the dust,noise and beggars be denied?
Gorton’s two lectures were organized jointly by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP),NID and the Gujarat chapter of the Pan-IIT Alumni Association.