Why a Smart City needs smart transport solutions?

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Posted on 16 January, 2016

The central government has allocated INR 48,000 crores for developing smart cities and another INR 50,000 crores for AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation). A city can only become a smart city if it provides its residents with a smart, connected urban mobility system which can improve the quality of life in these cities.

One of the biggest issues that needs a solution today is the increasing number of vehicles on the city roads and poor state of public transport.

There are over 7.3 million vehicles on Delhi roads, followed by 3.7 million in Chennai and 3.38 million in Hyderabad. Even though Mumbai is the most populated city in India, when it comes to vehicular population it falls way behind other tier 1 cities in India with 2 million vehicles on its roads. One of the biggest reasons for this is the existence a well organised and affordable public transport network which is missing in other Indian cities. The suburban railway network of Mumbai is considered to be the lifeline of the city and then there are buses and taxis which run efficiently. Various modes of public transport run efficiently and people prefer using them for their everyday commuting needs.

Most of the developed countries and cities around the globe like New York, London, Sydney, Paris, and Singapore have a sophisticated transport network and commuters rely primarily on public transport for their everyday commuting.

Traffic congestion is an expensive affair for both individuals and the society. Not only does it lead to loss of productive man hours, but it drastically hampers the environment with pollution and fuel wastage. Singapore was the first nation in the world to realise and act aggressively on this issue in the early 70’s. Singapore dealt with the problem by:

a) Providing its residents with an efficient public transport system which catered to its present and future needs
b) Curtailing the number of private vehicles on the road by introducing measures like road pricing during peak hours in CBDs, Vehicle Quota System which limited the number of new cars registered, park and ride scheme where motorists can park their vehicles in certain car parks outside the CBD and then use public transport, making parking expensive

These measures were obviously not appreciated by the residents but over time these smart solutions have drastically reduced the number of vehicles on Singapore roads during peak hours, have made commuting fast and people have started using alternate measures like carpooling.

When we come to the Indian scenario, on the one hand there is the Delhi metro rail which is regarded as the second best in the world, and on the other hand Delhi suburbs namely Gurgaon, and Noida lack even basic public transport. As a consequence the number of private vehicles entering and exiting these suburbs every day is high and unmanageable. The Delhi Gurgaon toll booth had to be removed as commuters were spending 30 – 40 minutes just to cross this junction.

To increase awareness and encourage people to use alternate modes of transport ‘car free day’ has become a popular concept these days. The idea which began in Gurgaon in September 2015 has been adapted by various cities in India like Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai. On a car free day certain corridors in the city with high car density are made car free.

Recently the Delhi government announced that the majority of the road space in Delhi is taken up by cars which constitute only around 1.5% of the total road users. To deal with the issue they announced the redesigning of over 1200 km of roads in the capital at a cost of around INR 5,000 crore. These roads would be designed to promote public transport, cycling and making streets friendly for pedestrians and physically- challenged people.
Some of the smart solutions they plan to implement include keeping certain roads only for public transport, increasing the frequency of public buses, installing lifts with glass panel, solar powered street lights, toilet blocks and rain water harvesting system. A cluster scheme for buses would be introduced to meet shortage of buses in the capital. An odd even scheme will be introduced in Delhi from January 1st 2016 for a period of fifteen days to control the ever rising pollution levels there.

To build smart cities the government is also taking suggestions from citizens via forums like Mygov website, conducting town halls in various cities etc. Citizens have actively participated and given many valuable suggestions to improve the state of transport in Indian cities.

• Making public transport systems GPS enabled and making the timings and location for the same available through a mobile app or screens at bus stops and stations.
• The interstate bus terminals, railway stations, airports, CBD areas and other major junctions in a city should be linked with public transport.
• The interstate buses should be kept away from the city roads by building zone wise bus terminals. This would not only decongest the city roads but also the bus terminal as well, thereby leading to a better experience for the commuters.
• To keep trucks and other heavy duty vehicles away from the city bypass roads should be made.

Poor public transport ultimately leads to a chaotic lifestyle for the ordinary citizen. It is one the most basic expectations of the common man that has to fulfilled by the government. With 100 cities set to become “smart”, quality transport may ultimately be the one factor that differentiates them from other cities.