Tier II cities need mass transport

Urbanisation is happening at a rapid pace In India and it is expected that by 2030 over 40 per cent of population will be in urban areas. Tier II cities are expected to grow in population and the demand for transportation will rise.

Providing a sustainable transport in tier II cities will be of critical importance to reap the economic benefits of urbanisation, while also protecting the environment.

The road transport sector in India accounts for more than 10  per cent of CO2 emission and about 30 per cent of total oil consumption, this is mainly because of inadequate and low quality public transport and a large urban population using personal motor vehicles.
This scenario is projected to increase as vehicular statistics shows an expected manifold increase in personal vehicles of two and four wheelers by 2030.

Given the road space constraints in Indian cities this is not only likely to cause high traffic congestion and urban air pollution, but will also increase the CO2 emissions and will put a threat on energy security as by 2030 about 500 million tonnes of oil a year will have to be imported for the transport sector needs alone if the current trend continues.

Promoting investments

When the peak oil crisis affected Cuba, the country survived only because it was able to shift rapidly to mass transportation. The Indian government has already put in place several policies and programmes towards mass transportation.

The National Urban Transport Policy in 2011 has laid major emphasis on promoting investments in public transport in Indian cities, and encourages state capitals as well as other cities with a population of more than one million to start planning for high capacity public transport  systems, and  promote shift  from personal modes of transportation to public modes of transportation. The NUTP also focuses on integrating land use, urban and transport planning.

JNNURM focused on providing buses to the cities and provided stimulus package for purchase of buses in 2009. The urban local bodies were to send in proposals in the form of detailed project report ( DPR) giving details of city bus service/Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) planning, financing arrangements, user charges, sustainability analysis, operation and maintenance.

The JNNURM were then to release funds to the cities for purchase of buses as per allocation. The Central government covers over 90 per cent of the costs towards purchase of buses and typically about 50 to 300 buses were allotted for Tier II cities based on the population and needs.

While successful models of BRTS and beneficiaries of JNNURM are there like in Indore where Indore City Transport Service Limited operated on a PPP basis and the Ahmedabad BRTS where exclusive lanes were made and a significant share of rise in commuters using BRTS was noted, these success stories however, were not easy to replicate in other tier II cities with many constraints.

Dehradun for example has narrow roads with no scope for laying BRTS lanes, and cities that were planned decades ago have no wide roads and provide no scope for BRTS, financial constraints, and willingness of urban local bodies to improve mass transit are other factors.

A few transport specialists argue that a congestion fees will discourage use of individual vehicles and promote mass transportation, but given the problems associated with mass transportation especially on service quality it is likely that people may still pay a congestion fee and take their vehicle out.

In India, CDM projects in transport sectors comes from Metro Rails transports only in large scales and electric vehicles in small scales. The scope for CDM in BRTS are not fully realised in India and has immense potential despite constraints on methodologies and data requirements for getting Certified Emission Reductions. Also on PPP models BRTS can be planned and all that is required is willingness on the part of urban local bodies and little bit of push from the government.

There is now clear need to focus more on BRTS in TIER II cities with high quality service to promote mass transportation. The co-benefit approach of climate change mitigation through shift to mass transportation is necessary to be reaped along with CDM for developing sustainable transport in tier II Indian cities.

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