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The Pune Urban Agglomeration, which comprises Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, has seen a steep increase in population over the last 20 years due to economic and industrial growth. But the disappointingly dismal growth of sustainable public transport and infrastructure for non-motorised transport, such as walking and cycling, has also resulted in a staggering increase in the number of private vehicles. This mismatch has had a deep impact on Pune’s traffic situation, which has become an endless nightmare for local residents over the years.
Data obtained from the Regional Transport Office (RTO) shows that there has been a 700 per cent increase in the number of vehicles in Pune Urban Agglomeration in the last 20 years. The number of vehicles in May 1997 was 7,88,223, and it is approximately 49,79,985 today. In the same period, the population of Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad has grown by around 90 per cent.
While the rise in the number of vehicles was expected, given the increase in the population over the years, the alarming growth in the number of vehicles becomes clear when put in the context of vehicles per thousand persons. It also indicates the failure of the city’s public transport system to cater to its residents, who are becoming increasingly reliant on private vehicles.
Also, a look at the population of two-wheelers and four-wheelers reveals that there has been an exponential rise in their numbers in both Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
In 1997, there were 185 two-wheelers per 1,000 persons staying in Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad, and in 2017 it has risen to a whopping 663, a rise of over 250 per cent. In case of four-wheelers, the ratio was 27 cars per 1,000 individuals in 1997, and it today is 150 per 1,000 persons, a 455 per cent increase.
Ashish Bankar, a resident of Bibwewadi, has worked in offices in Vimannagar, Pimpri and Shivajinagar over the last 18 years. He said, “We are all used to it now. But if I compare what my daily travel was during peak hours 20 years ago, and what it is now, I have to say that it is a nightmare. Earlier, I had a motorcycle and now I have a car, but had there been a fast and timely public transport, I would have definitely used it.”
Harshad Abhyankar, co-coordinator of policy of advocacy at the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, said, “The rise in the number of vehicles, along with the population increase in Pune, has to be looked at in the light of the fact that public transport and infrastructure needed for non-motorised transport (NMT) has not grown along with it. In 2008, Pune came up with a Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP). There were various components of the CMP. While some of them push for development of public transport and facilitating NMT, some others such as flyovers encourage private vehicles.”
He added, “While there were regular budgetary allocations for flyovers, sustainable ways of transport were not given the emphasis they deserved. There are also serious question marks on the work that has already been done. The fact that people are not using footpaths and cycle tracks point to the failure in their design and construction. Also, public transport systems, existing and planned, lack connectedness.”
The increase in the number of vehicles has resulted in traffic choking at bottlenecks like narrow bridges and busy junctions, which has resulted in an increase in travel time.
City Traffic Planner Shrinivas Bonala said, “The CMP has short, medium and long-term objectives. The work on these objectives is continuously on. All the aspects of the plan have been given attention.”
A senior police officer, who has served as the DCP, traffic department, said, “Locals blame traffic police for the chaos. But we are mere regulators. I am not denying the fact traffic control branches have to work on a lot of issues. If we look at the growth in 20 years and the measures that have been taken to deal with the traffic chaos, they are all short-term ones. For example, since the last seven to eight years, we have started taking measures to make more road-width available for traffic. These measures include making two-way traffic into one-way, declaring no-parking zones etc. But these measures will prove insufficient within three to four years, when the number of vehicles increases further. The solution is not to increase the number of roads but to reduce the traffic. You are thinking about the past 20 years, but unless efficient and comprehensive public transport system is introduced, the future 20 years is going to be hell.”