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C O V E R  S T O R Y

P U B L I C   T R A N S P O R T

Curse of ‘Immobility’—
can we ward it off?

It is obvious that all our cities are in a pretty critical shape. And conventional bus or rail systems are clearly not strong enough to ward off the crisis. The transport demand is too high—passenger load too gigantic. Also, the government agencies that handle urban transport now are hardly in a shape to take up the challenge.
Transit systems
We cannot afford to experiment anymore.

Towards Mass Transit Systems
So where do we go from here? Experts recommend Mass Rapid Transport Systems (MRTs). These are specifically designed to carry a large number of passengers rapidly at one time. They come in various shapes—metro, sky bus system, mono rail and also bus based rapid transit systems. They operate on fixed tracks, exclusively made for them and ply on fixed routes or lines.

A ‘combo’ of old and new
The problem is that our cities have started too late. MRT options should have been planned when their sizes were smaller and when they had less people to cater to. Again, lets take our capital as an example. Delhi authorities have been pondering over the concepts of MRTs for decades. Then after the city grew impossibly big and its population crossed the 14 million mark it began to experiment with the metro. In the rest of India, barring a few cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, MRTs have remained non-starters.

We cannot afford to experiment anymore. Because the costs are too high—both in terms of money and effort. The metro rail, for instance, needs huge investments and a great deal of time to start operating. If it fails to deliver the goods, that is, transport large volumes of passengers—comfortably and at an affordable price—the people will simply not use it. And the blow will be crippling …

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Kolkata’s twin wonders
A true blue Kolkatan still swears by the traditional ‘tramway’, set up way back in 1873. . But can he still rely on its services? Not really. As nothing has been done to upgrade the system, these electrically operated cars remain grindingly slow and are prone to frequent breakdowns.

Again Kolkata was India’s first city to offer an underground metro that took 24 years to build. While, the city authorities won many kudos for it, the system has actually failed to deliver the goods. A rail system that was designed to carry over 17 lakhs passengers hardly ferries a meagre 3 lakhs today.

So experts say that cities should integrate the rail and the bus transit systems. And make sure that they blend in smoothly. The scenario will be something like this: suburban rail networks, or metros would be supplemented by fast moving feeder bus systems. Their tracks and routes would be coordinated in such a way that a regular passenger would not have to cross several busy streets to catch the connecting bus once he gets off a train. His journey from home to the workplace and back again, would be a seamless interchange between buses and trains.

Only then can the government hope to combat the onslaught of private automobiles…

Rethink the Road code
Wait… there is more! Indian citizens will be truly‘mobile’ only when they sort out their road space. That is—they ensure that every form of transport—from personal vehicles to bicycles and pedestrian ways—has the freedom to move safely on the roads.

Too perfect to be real..did you say? Not really. We just need to relearn the rules of the road. In the rush to get moving we seem have forgotten them.

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