June 17, 2008 11:07:51 pm
While the transport infrastructure in the growing Indian cities is already crumbling, it may get even worse with the one-lakh Tata Nano. The rolling out of the world’s cheapest car in October this year will bring car ownership within the reach of more Indians than ever before, and is likely to take traffic volumes to unprecedented levels.
Incapable of supporting such a high level of car use, cities will witness congestion and delays, with lack of parking spaces further eating into the available road space. The already dramatic rise in car ownership and use, as a result of overcrowding and lack of reliability of public transport, has led to the cities reaching saturation point, note the findings of recently-released report Integrated City Making by London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)-based think tank, Urban Age. A joint venture of LSE and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, Urban Age undertook a research programme in four Indian cities to understand how these cities have responded to the challenges of growth, vis-a-vis the approaches adopted in London, New York, Berlin and Johannesburg.
Furthermore, a disconnect between the country’s urban planners and transport engineers has led to a complete transport collapse in four major metros of the country — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.
In Delhi, 13 people die on the road every day.
In Mumbai, more than 75 per cent car owners do not drive the car themselves.
In Bangalore, the average time taken by an IT professional to reach work is 2.5 hours.
The number of vehicles on Mumbai’s roads multiplied 33 times in 50 years, while the road network length only doubled.
If the above statistics are any indication of the way urban transport and space are being planned in the country, a sure shot recipe for disaster is surely on hand. Speaking to The Indian Express, Urban Age associate, executive director Philipp Rode said cities like Delhi and Mumbai had saturated completely, signalling a breakdown of the planning process. “Take the case of Delhi. The Delhi Master Plan tries to fix many details on a city level, instead of having a strategic plan defining the density and work corridors, similar to the concept of Boroughs in London.”
In the same vein, the capital’s experiment with the Metro rail system, with an investment of Rs 10,000 crore, finds disfavour. “Was it the most effective way? The subsidy per commuter is enormous. If equal money had been put into Bus Rapid Transport, you would have covered the entire city with buses shuttling between Delhi and Gurgaon every 10 minutes,” he added.
The report suggests formation of a single urban development department. To avoid bias towards a particular transportation system, it suggests formation of Multi-modal Transport Agency. The study looks at issues of governance and problems of planning — spatial planning and transport in detail. However, it refrains from suggesting a model of transport or urban planning that can be applied in India.
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