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Revamping Buses for Better Transport

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August 07, 2019

What is the issue?

With increased congestion on roads in India’s major cities, there has to be relook at India’s policy on promoting buses a key public transport means.

Why are mobility plans significant for cities?

  • When cities fail at mobility, it results in congestion, lost productivity, worsening pollution and a terrible quality of life.
  • India’s big cities have all these attributes, and 14 of them were in the list of the 15 most polluted cities worldwide last year.
  • Congestion in the four biggest metros causes annual economic losses of over $22 billion.
  • This was highlighted by the NITI Aayog in its Transforming Mobility report.
  • In big cities, new roads are not possible, and no new land is available.
  • But they must prepare to serve more and more people who arrive each year.
  • In such case, successful plans build better mobility.

What are the limitations?

  • Number of buses - Indian cities need to add several thousand buses more, and not just spend heavily on Metro rail.
  • There are over 1.7 million buses in India, about 10% of them operated by governments.
  • Individual cities do not have enough of them to provide a good service, and the gap is filled mostly by unregulated intermediates, such as vans.
  • Comfort - The buses operated by governments are not properly designed, are uncomfortable and badly maintained.
  • Government corporations do a less appreciable job when it comes to using technology.
  • Use - Buses have an image problem in the society.
  • There lies an aspiration among people to progress from a bicycle to a scooter, then to a four-wheeler.
  • Information - One of the key barriers to taking a bus is not getting information about the service.
  • Bus corporations deprive themselves too, of revenue, by failing to act on this.
  • Cities such as London and Singapore have systems to tell passengers where the next bus is on a route and predict its arrival at a stop in real time.
  • Such a system is not available for even the biggest metro cities in India, something the Smart City mission could have addressed.

What could be done?

  • London, for instance, is a city with an iconic bus system that integrates famously with its equally popular ‘tube’ system (as the Metro is known there).
  • In India, buses need an image makeover and cities need several thousand more buses, of good design and build quality.
  • They need to use contact-less fare payments using suitable cards, since buying tickets is also a barrier.
  • Buses also need support to move faster through city traffic, using policy tools such as congestion pricing for cars.
  • E.g., London discourages the use of cars through a congestion charge within a defined area.
  • The London congestion charge immediately cut traffic in the demarcated area by 20%, helped speed up buses and improved revenues.
  • The biggest reform that the U.K. experience teaches is integration.
  • Bringing traffic authorities, road engineers and transport operators under the same umbrella helped eliminate planning and operational problems.
  • Indian cities have unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities to do that; they must be brought to life and given mandatory targets.
  • The goal should be a stipulated higher share of travel by public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Importantly, this should be evaluated through periodic surveys of customer satisfaction.

 

Source: The Hindu

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