All this points to the need for a development model biased towards a public transport system that caters to current and future demand. Otherwise, our city streets will be cluttered with private vehicles, which in turn would raise the nation's economic costs through fuel consumption and wastage. In the city of Delhi, traffic congestion consume a massive 90 minutes on an average day and about R10 crore worth of fuel. Nearly 1,000 new vehicles are being added to Delhi roads every day. The trend is similar in other cities. As a result, the capacity of roads is over-stretched in most cities.
The irony is that even if a city plans an extensive, multi-modal transport system, it will still not provide a complete door-to-door convenience that will prod private vehicle user to shift to public transport. So, it is important to not just have mass public transport systems but also have them integrated in a way that provide commuters with first and last mile connectivity.
This lack of integration among the transport systems is a major hindrance in achieving a holistic public transport system, says a recent CII-UMTC study on Mass urban transportation. Integration essentially means the organisational process through which elements of the transport system are brought together across modes, sectors, operators and institutions with the ultimate aim of increasing economic and social benefits.
Integration rests on three pillars:
Physical integration: It includes integration of transport and land use, promotion of compact cities and transit-oriented development (TOD), and ensuring that transport and development plans are in alignment with future employment and transport demand. It also becomes essential to have integration of public transport services, which ensures coordination of timetables across all modes and providing stops for multi-modal transfers and interchanges where commuters can move from one mode to another with ease.
Technology integration: Next requirement is to provide all the information to the commuters about the services available. This is done by using technology i.e. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which present commuters with passenger information system (PIS), display screens, web portals and journey planners. To provide a seamless journey experience, it is crucial to integrate the fare collecting mechanisms.
Institutional integration: This will need a unified body or organisation that would look at the operation of the different modes. This generally includes policy steps towards physical control measures like park and ride, parking control, signal priority for public transport and restricted vehicular movement for private vehicles and the like. For example, Kochi, while initiating the Kochi Metro Rail System, has created an integrated institutional arrangement via the Kochi Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority, an umbrella body to ensure smooth integration between the metro, feeder, city bus services, inland water transport, etc. The perception here is that integration can be achieved only if it is implemented across all sectors and hierarchies.
India is currently at a stage where its public transportation systems are being improved and there is a need to integrate the efforts so as to maximise the benefits. Going ahead, every city in the country is required to undertake corrective measures, by aiming at a high modal shift from private automobiles towards public transport.
The need of the hour is to plan and integrate urban mass transportation systems to gain maximum benefits out of them. The transport and land use planning principles, and practices, should be in sync with each other and not exclusive such that they negate each other's benefits, says the study by the Confederation of Indian Industry and Urban Mass Transit Company Ltd.
Integrated urban mass transport systems are the road ahead. And creating such systems is not an impossible task. Knowledge is available globally on transport planning tools and technological service platforms. It is only a matter of putting the pieces together to create an integrated and synergestic system.