This excellent blogpost by Madhav Pai, founder of Embarq India, explores the relationship between sustainable transport solutions and urban development in India. In particular, he points out the existing model of urban transport solutions, which, as he writes:
…have centered mostly on moving vehicles farther and faster, largely by increasing road space. Urban development planning is often characterized by a separation of land uses, such as residential from commercial. These two trends shunt growth to a cityâ€™s periphery and reduce density, leading to urban sprawl and increased trip lengths.
Such policies also make it difficult and expensive to develop public transport networks with quality service and wide coverage. The result is a cityscape where personalized vehicles are the only convenient option.
This means, then, that simply building more roads, or wider roads, isn’t the answer. Rather,
Indian cities will need to invest in public transport, with a priority on city bus services integrated with other transit modes, as well as pedestrian and cycling networks to encourage non-motorized transport. Cities will also need to actively manage their growth and development patterns in order to both facilitate and reinforce the advantages of sustainable transport modes.
While India has begun making smarter investments into urban transport solutions, and has created guidelines for new development, we still have a long way to go. Despite the clear need for public transport, private cars do tend to have a greater ownership of the roads, for example. Pedestrian paths and lanes for cyclists continue to be an afterthought, despite the huge number of people who commute by bicycle or foot everyday. Initiatives like the BRT, which were aimed to ease public transport, have succeeded in some places (like Ahmedabad), but have met serious criticism in Delhi, largely due to complaints from private transport users. All this said, however, this skewed ownership of public spaces and transport systems is beginning to be addressed and rectified by organizations like Embarq and iTrans, which highlight the need for more equitable ownership of urban spaces. It will be interesting to revisit the scenario a few years from now, when the efficacy of new solutions will become more apparent.