Development of a proper and efficient transport network is a science in itself, but the least understood.
India is today a world leader in clocking high GDP growth. Rapid urbanisation is a natural corollary of a high GDP growth. Urbanisation brings in its wake many unintended miseries; primary among them is a perceived paucity of civic amenities like schools, medical facilities, adequate transportation to name a few.
The ‘middle class aspirations’ are catalysing the process of urbanisation. Between the two censuses of 2001 and 2011 the urban population in India went up from 27.8 percent to 31.2 percent. By 2020, it is estimated to go beyond 35 percent. An urban center mushrooms around nodes which have great potential for employment avenues in both secondary and tertiary sectors. A robust transport network in the urban center nurtures such employments to a great extent, because workers have to necessarily commute from their residences to their places of work which are located, generally, in a different sector of the urban node. A dependable suburban transport network reduces the commuting time, directly promoting better mental and physical health of residents. It is imperative that due attention is paid by the government in providing for an adequate transport infrastructure in every town populated by more than one million citizens, to begin with. Development of a proper and efficient transport network is a science in itself, but the least understood in our country. Consequently, deficiency in transport services is endemic all over India.
As India is poised for a leap in urbanisation, the government has an unenviable task on hand. It has to set the transport network in its top eight towns, which have a population of more than five million, and also frame a policy for creating an efficient network in 45 other towns, which have population between one million to five million. An urban transport network can be a costly affair and there are many options which should be weighed critically to arrive at the most suitable option or options.
The primary question at this stage is that which mode of transport is the most ideal for being adopted in various scenarios. Traditionally, India has followed a binary system of rail and road modes to serve disparate needs in various mega towns. Mumbai developed its own version of suburban rail system, like of which does not exist anywhere in the world. It is suitably complemented by another robust, but severely strained, road transport system functioning under the aegis of BEST. On the other hand, Delhi developed its own bus transport system which could never become the backbone of Delhi’s transport needs as the Delhi metro has now become. The experience of Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru have not been much different than that of Delhi.
An efficient transport network must have the following characteristics:
Various kind of transport architectures are available to serve these diverse characteristics. One should first assess the total volume of commuting traffic in terms of ‘passengers per hour in peak direction’ (pphpd) which is a measure of capacity of a rapid transit or public transport system. The capacities of various modes of public transport are listed as below along with their approximate cost of construction.
|Type of system
|Capacity in pphpd
|Cost of construction
|Rail based EMU
|Up to 60,000 (12-car rake at 3 minutes frequency)
|INR 100 crores/kilometre
|Metro rail (elevated)
|Up to 35,000 (6-car rake at 3 minutes frequency)
|INR 250 crores/kilometre
|Metro rail (underground)
|Up to 35,000 (6-car rake at 3 minutes frequency)
|INR 700 crores/kilometre
|Bus Rapid Transit
|Up to 25,000 (one bus every 30 seconds)
|INR 150 crores/kilometre
|Up to 15,000 (one service per minute)
|INR 50 crores/kilometre
|Up to 3,000 (one service every 2 minutes)
|INR 200 crores/kilometre
The strength of a transport network is ensured by the proper selection of the mode of public transport to serve the needs. As seen from above, for a pphpd of up to 35,000, metro rail is an ideally suited architecture. But, if the expectation of the volume of traffic is beyond 50,000, metro rail may not be able to cope up with it.
The financial viability of the network adopted has to be assessed by factoring in the cost per kilometer for the required pphpd. This binary relationship is the most crucial factor in selecting the best suitable option for an urban transport network for a given town.
Movement of men and material within a large urban conglomerate is akin to what nature has designed for human body in the form of its circulatory system. Commuters move like the blood within the various commuting nodes which are like the arteries and veins, to their destinations in circadian rhythm imparting energy and vigour to the town. Nature has designed the circulatory system with great care and thought. The secret lies in understanding it properly and adopting it for any town’s transport network to achieve the optimum results.
The two most important channels for flow of blood in the body are aorta for oxygen rich blood and vena cava for oxygen depleted blood. They are large in size and can carry the largest volume of blood with great force within them. Then they branch off to smaller size arteries and veins which are connected to all limbs and parts of the body. The capillaries which are a net of thin tubular structures couple arteries and veins within these limbs and parts of the body where exchange of oxygen-rich blood with oxygen-depleted blood takes place. The capillaries are a veritable ‘last mile connectivity’ within the circulatory system to ensure smooth functioning of every part of the body. In case this architecture gets disturbed in the body, that affected part starts suffering and leads to its ultimate decay if not attended in time.
We should plan a town’s transport network in a similar fashion. The heaviest patronised routes must be served by either a rail-based EMU service on dedicated track or a metro rail or an elevated bus rapid transport i.e. an architecture which has its own ‘right of way.’ Then we can have a normal bus service like that of BEST of Mumbai or DTC in Delhi or electric rickshaws/autorickshaws for dissipation of commuters. The last mile connectivity must be provided by properly designed and maintained footpaths on either sides of the road. These footpaths should not get clogged with encroachments like kiosks, hawkers, broken tiles, etc.
The ‘Metro Rail Policy 2017’ of the Government of India has acknowledged this aspect of intra-city commuting by stipulating that “There should be a comprehensive approach to planning for urban land use and transport infrastructure.. By treating the urban area as a system, and recognising the interaction between land use, traffic and transport, it is possible to predict future requirements and accordingly evaluate alternative modes for the most optimum mobility plan for the city.”
The policy has further emphasised on the need for developing a ‘Comprehensive Mobility Plan’ (CMP) as a mandatory prerequisite for planning metro rail in any city. The problem is that most of the ongoing metro projects in the country have been finalised and sanctioned without the CMP in place. This should not be the case now at the least.
If holistically designed and implemented by a single managing body for a metropolitan region, creation of an efficient transport network on above lines is not a very difficult task. What is needed is a strong will of the government and clean thinking among the bureaucrats to sew all ends together.
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Rgis Gourdel PhD candidate Institute for Ecological Economics Vienna University of Economics and BusinessRead More +