By Prakash Srinivasan
Almost every major country today is battling the problem of migration to cities. The people from the smaller towns and villages move to the larger cities in search of a livelihood. India faces this problem in a larger measure owing to its population.
One of the symptoms of the problem of mass urbanization is the proliferation of personal vehicles like cars and two wheelers. To add fuel to fire, India does not have the infrastructure viz. good roads, parking space to support such a large volume of vehicles. Already this has reached its peak with traffic jams being commonplace in the peak hours and it is only a matter of time when even the non-peak hours will be full. Half of the roads are blocked by parked vehicles like cars and trucks so the space available for vehicular movement is very less. The problem is very acute because even the essential services like ambulances get delayed and many precious lives are lost.
There is a very famous saying by one of the heads of state of the Latin American countries which says A developed country is not one where the poor have cars but it is one where even the rich use public transport.
There are many ways in which this problem can be handled and countries around the world have shown by example that public transport is the future for cities bursting in their seams
The obvious place to begin will be to have better roads but the increase in vehicles is almost exponential so this solution is not future-proof:
· Car-pooling is another workaround but it will not reduce the numbers as drastically as they are rising.
· Countries need to think bigger and that’s where other forms of public transport come into play. India has the choice to either follow the American model (of owning cars) or the European model of embracing public transport.
· One of the most viable solutions is a LRT (Light Rail Transit) system which connects the nook and corners of the city and there are train stops and not just stations. Countries like Malaysia have implemented this system to great effect and citizens are enjoying the benefit of a quick and cheap mode of transportation while saving a lot of time and money. LRT ($ 20 million per km) is much cheaper to build and maintain than a Metro system ($100 million per km) or even a suburban rail system ($ 50 million per km).
· An LRT system is also a green transport system as it runs on electricity and any form of transport that does not use electricity has an uncertain future. Many institutions like the IIT Madras have implemented rules like having Electric buses within the campus. Matheran, the hill station in Maharashtra has banned motor vehicles completely and only runs on horse carts!
-Dedicated bus lanes (as in Colombia) and even upgrade its existing suburban rail network to increase its connectivity.
· One thing that people can do at an individual level is to walk to places which are less than a distance
Its high time that governments act quickly to implement long-term solutions to this problem otherwise a day will come when everyone will have to only walk to work and that will be the last nail in the coffin.