ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Are We Ready for Public Transport?

Although experts and citizens accept the need for a good public transport system, the question remains whether people will accept better road access for public transport than for private vehicles. The Indian experience shows that enhancement of public transport is only accepted if it does not inconvenience the private vehicle owner. Can such an attitude help promote and sustain public transport?

The need for good public transport has been accepted by most policymakers, experts and citizens. Often this is justified to help reduce vehicular pollution, congestion and traffic accidents in cities. While there is a consensus justifying investment in a good public transport system, there seem to be divergent views on accepting different strategies to improve the quality of public transport systems. For instance, investment in metro rail systems is justified and widely accepted. However, creating public transport priority on roads—exclusive right of way, junction designs to prioritise buses and bus stop locations to ease bus commuters’ movement—has been opposed in Delhi, Indore, Pune because the congestion in car lanes has increased. Increasing the number of buses is the most common strategy that cities are using to improve road-based bus systems. But for this to work, there needs to be easy access to bus stops, a safe environment at the bus stop and good quality buses that are not stuck in congested roads. If bus stops are inaccessible or good quality buses are stuck in congested roads, owners of two-wheelers and cars may prefer to use their personal vehicles. Therefore, exclusive right of way is also an important element for creating an efficient and attractive public transport system.

In this article we discuss the contradictions in declared public policies and their implementation and show that at present, implementation of public transport friendly strategies are accepted as long as there is no adverse impact on car use. Often the goal of a public transport friendly policy is to reduce traffic congestion. However, a lower level of congestion on roads encourages more people to use their personal cars and motorised two-wheelers and not public transport. Therefore we have to accept a public transport friendly strategy, including exclusive right of way for buses and non-motorised vehicles that may lead to congested car lanes but congestion-free bus movement. The question we must ask is whether we are ready for a public transport system.

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