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Is Public Transport in Ahmedabad Inclusive?

Bhargav Adhvaryu (bhargav@cantab.net) teaches urban and transport planning at the CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Mukesh Patel (rp.mukeshpatel@gmail.com) is an urban infrastructure consultant based in Ahmedabad.

There are two types of public transport riders: choice and captive. Key captivity factors could be higher generalised costs of alternative transport and inability to drive (age, medical conditions, etc). In this context, the travel behaviour of the urban poor in Ahmedabad—most of whom are captive riders unable to access private transport and therefore dependent on public transport—is studied.

Public systems (including transport) that are socially inclusive represent a fair society. Citizens not being able to access public transport, both monetarily and physically, are excluded from participation in the economic and social activities in a society. In public transport there could be two scenarios which lead to social exclusion. First, the public transport system offers poor accessibility, that is, it does not cover the areas where the urban poor live and work. Second, even if the system is accessible, it is unaffordable in terms of the generalised cost which includes monetary cost (that is, fuel or fare, parking, and operations and maintenance [O&M]) and value of time.

In this article, we use Ahmedabad as a case study. Ahmedabad was founded in the year 1411. It is the largest city in Gujarat and the seventh largest in India with a population of 5.58 million (DCO 2011). Most of the existing footprint of the city is within the limits of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). The AMC, which has an area of 465 square kilometres (sq km), is engulfed by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) area of 1,800 sq km. The city has two major bus public transport systems: the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) running in mixed traffic and the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) running on dedicated right-of-way (except at junctions and a few other stretches), which are operated by Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL). Both the AMTS, which is one of the oldest transport organisations in India, functioning since 1947, and the BRTS are wholly owned subsidiaries of the AMC. A metrorail system is under construction in Ahmedabad and is expected to commence in 2019. There are a huge number of para-transit vehicles in Ahmedabad that comprise hail-and-ride autorickshaws and shared autorickshaws (point-to-point). In some areas, the shared autorickshaws directly compete with public transport.

As per the city’s Development Plan 2011 (AUDA 1997) in 1998, 32% of the city’s population lived in slums, of which 60% were below the poverty line (BPL). The percentage of Ahmedabad housing categorised as slums increased from 17% in 1961 to 23% in 1971 and to 26% in 1991 (UN-Habitat 2003). Somani (2011) estimates that 40% of Ahmedabad’s population lives in informal settlements (slums and chawls). The modal share in Ahmedabad is 17% public transport (all buses) and 54% non-motorised transport (NMT) (walking and cycling) (GIDB 2001). This suggests that a very high proportion of the population cannot afford the generalised cost of public transport.

In 2014, a study on public transport accessibility levels (PTAL) in Ahmedabad (Shah and Adhvaryu 2016) generated thematic maps to visually represent accessibility of various locations in the city by public transport. However, the limitation of the PTAL map is that it does not include the second social exclusion scenario in terms of whether a service available at a particular public transport stop goes to where one wants (within
affordable generalised cost). This study attempts to modify the Ahmedabad PTAL mapping with the focus on affordability for the urban poor.

Using the 2014 PTAL study as a starting point, we update the Ahmedabad PTAL map for 2017. Slum and chawl locations are then superimposed on this PTAL map. The urban poor falling in high and medium accessibility areas are surveyed to ascertain if higher accessibility of public transport actually translates as a reasonable choice for their desired destinations. The analysis is then presented, followed by conclusions and recommendations.

Methodology

The data required to update the 2014 PTAL mapping consisted of secondary data such as geographic information system (GIS) shape-files for boundaries, the AMTS and BRTS bus stops, metrorail stations, which were obtained from Shah and Adhvaryu (2016) and updated for 2017. For simplicity of representation, the 10 bands originally used were re-classified as low (levels 1–4), medium (levels 5–7), and high (levels 8–10). The reclassified 2017 PTAL map with the slum and chawl locations superimposed is shown in Figure 1. This shows that most of the urban poor live in areas with high public transport accessibility. Primary data was collected by random sampling of 511 persons (each person selected from a different household living in slums and chawls). Household locations were selected from those that live in areas with high and medium public transport accessibility. There was no need to survey those in low accessibility areas as the study focuses on whether living in higher public transport accessibility areas actually translates to higher accessibility to desired work destinations of the urban poor.

The survey was carried out in two groups (Figure 2). Group 1 were those who did not use public transport at all, but used either private automobiles (two-wheelers) and/or non-motorised modes such as walking or cycling. This group was asked the reasons for not using public transport and what factors would make them shift to public transport. Group 2 were those who used public transport and it consisted of people who had no other option but to use public transport (captive riders), and those who used public transport and other modes depending on their destination. This group was asked whether the first/last mile connectivity was satisfactory and whether they had to use any mode other than walking or cycling to access the first/last mile. This would include those being dropped off/picked up or using para-transit to get to and from the bus stop.

The main reasons for Group 1 not using public transport were either that it was more time-consuming or it was inconvenient. Public transport was considered time-consuming because of three factors or their combinations: (i) public transport stop (origin and/or destination) was beyond comfortable walking distance, (ii) there were more than acceptable number of interchanges to the final destination, and (iii) the route was circuitous. Stating inconvenience as a reason for not using public transport was applicable especially to those carrying heavy loads to work (for example, hawkers and street vendors), including oddly shaped objects.

The predominant reasons (of course, not mutually exclusive) for not using public transport from the survey are shown in Figure 3. These were bus stop beyond comfortable walking distance from either the origin or destination (60%), the in-bus journey was time-consuming either because of circuitous routes and/or many interchanges (28%), inconvenient because they were carrying heavy loads (10%), and monetarily unaffordable (2%).

When asked what would make the respondent shift to public transport (Figure 4), the top trigger for the shift was reduction in journey time (42%). This was followed by improvement in first/last mile connectivity (34%), fare reduction (22%), and better bus quality (2%). This is corroborated by the survey analysis that about 88% of the respondents did not use public transport because it was more time-consuming either due to many interchanges or circuitous routes and/or poor first/last mile connectivity. Although not an overwhelming proportion, 22% of the respondents found the fares to be higher than their willingness
to pay.

Analysing the responses of Group 2 (that is, the 73% who used public transport, either exclusively or in combination with other modes), the top problem was difficulty with first/last mile connectivity. For 77%, the main problem was the last mile connectivity while 26% had listed first mile connectivity as the main problem. For the former group, this implies that although they lived in areas that had public transport stops within comfortable walking distances, their desired work destinations were not that well-connected by public transport. Two further behavioural patterns were revealed from the analysis: 94% of those who had problems with first/last mile connectivity, had to use other mode of travel (NMT, drop-off/pick-up, or para-transit) for the first/last mile and a third had faced difficulties in completing the trip, because of long waiting times, more interchanges, and circuitous routes. Lastly, only 5% were willing to pay more for better public transport services.

Conclusions

Mapping of public transport accessibility presents a useful but a limited view, 
especially as it does not account for the desired work destinations of the urban poor. This study attempted to analyse whether living in a higher PTAL area translates into higher connectivity to the desired destinations, and the specific requirements and problems faced by the urban poor regarding public transport. The analysis revealed that 27% of the urban poor do not use public transport. The prime reason is the lack of first/last mile connectivity. This is especially important as a significant proportion of these urban poor— such as construction workers, casual labourers, street vendors, etc—have variable job destinations. Currently, they make informal travel arrangements or use non-motorised modes of transport (Bhakuni 2017). For those for whom first/last mile connectivity is not a problem, the deterrent to using public transport is the time-consuming journey (circuitous routes and/or many interchanges). About 10% of the urban poor do not use public transport as their work required them to carry heavy loads, which were inconvenient and this was compounded if it involved many interchanges. Interviews with urban poor households revealed that those who did not use public transport currently incurred more cost as they have to use para-transit services or rely on favours from family and friends to manage their transport needs.

Four key problems emerged from the analysis, which are discussed below along with the recommended actions. To reduce circuitous journeys and improve the first/last mile connectivity, parts of existing routes (with new bus stops) need to be rerouted; new direct routes to specific destinations need to be introduced; the frequency of existing routes along with the quality of footpaths need improvement. This will require detailed choice surveys of the desired work destinations of the urban poor (if variable by month or season), and road inventory surveys. To address the problem of street vendors being able to carry heavy loads (including oddly shaped objects), the bus vehicle needs modifications to create more storage space. This will require detailed surveys of the load-carrying needs in terms of dimensions, types of goods, etc. The AMTS has several types of concessional fares, but income does not seem to be a criterion. To make public transport more monetarily affordable, especially for those BPL, concession schemes need to be provided. To establish cut-off values for authenticity of eligibility, transport operators need to collaborate with non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) to devise a system for concessions.

Most of the captive public transport users are usually the urban poor. In terms of public transport network, Ahmedabad has a better public transport system than similar midsized Indian cities. However, this study reveals that the public transport system in Ahmedabad could certainly be made more inclusive, by improving the quality of infrastructure to enhance first/last mile connectivity, introducing more high-frequency direct routes, and addressing on-board carriage requirements of street vendors. Finally, although monetary unaffordability of public transport is not a major concern, concessional fares for people below the poverty line should also be introduced.

References

AUDA (1997): “Revised Draft Development Plan of AUDA 2011 AD, Part-I, Volume 2: Surveys, Studies and Analysis,” Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority.

— (2014): “Draft Comprehensive Development Plan 2021,” (second revised), Part I: Existing Conditions, Studies and Analysis, Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority.

Bhakuni, N C K (2017): “Role of Transportation in Labour Market Dynamics of Urban Poor: A Case Study of Ahmedabad,” PhD dissertation, CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

DCO (2011): District Census Handbook, Ahmedabad, Directorate of Census Operations, Gujarat, http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011census/dchb/2407_PART_B_DCHB_AHMADABAD.pdf.

GIDB (2001): “Feasibility Study on Integrated Public Transit System (IPTS) for Ahmedabad,” Interim Report, Section-1. Prepared by Louis Berger Group Consortium for Gujarat Industrial
Development Board.

Shah, Jay, and Bhargav Adhvaryu (2016): “Public Transport Accessibility Levels for Ahmedabad, India,” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol 19, No 3, pp 19–35, https://doi.org/10.5038/2375-0901.19.3.2.

Somani, Avanita (2011): “Slums and Incidence of Diseases in Ahmedabad, IDRC–TTI,” Working Paper, Institute of Rural Management Anand, Gujarat, https://www.irma.ac.in/institute/doc/wpr9.pdf.

UN-Habitat (2003): “The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements, 2003,” UN–Habitat, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/files/Challenge%20of%20Slums.pdf.

Updated On : 22nd Feb, 2019

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