When we talk of Urban Transport, we are mainly talking about the situation of Public Transport in Metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune, or basically we are talking about the present state of affairs of these cities as regards their public transport efficiency, adequacy and affordability.
When it comes to Urban Transport or Urban Public Transport efficiency, the name that naturally pops up in mind is Mumbai – the city which has the most efficient integrated Public Transport system, compared to any other city in India. What is more creditworthy to achieve this distinction are the odds that are placed against this city – Most populated city in India, highest density of private vehicles per thousand population, maximum distance covered per trip, city with infrastructure that is bursting at its seams, city with highest percentage of public transport usage and above all a city which has the highest number of outside influx per day compared to any other city in India.
So what makes Mumbai’s Public Transport system most efficient?
Mumbai has the best integration of rail and road public transport. It also has a very healthy mix of private and public transport. So instead of competing with each other all three modes of transport compliment each other.
While the suburban railway takes the maximum load of daily commuters (more than 70%), the road takes the balance load shared between buses, taxis and autos that are available for public transport (around 20%) and the rest is taken by privately owned vehicles.
Mumbai’s transport system has consistently evolved with the passage of time and has tried to keep pace with the increasing population and speed of commuting that is required.
Trams were replaced by single and double decker buses, old steam trains were replaced by electric trains first, then by 9 coach rakes and now by modern 12 coach rakes of latest designs, old taxis and autos gave way for modern CNG vehicles. And Mumbai is still upgrading – it will soon have modern metro rail and mono rail for east west travel.
Like the vehicle upgradation, there was upgradation in basic infrastructure too. Old railway wooden slippers were replaced with concrete slippers, old manual signalling system was replaced with modern automatic signalling system, old coaches were replaced with modern forced ventilation coaches, old manual ticketing system gave way for modern computerised ticketing system, passenger handling system at railway stations also underwent changes like underground entry and exits, direct access to skywalks etc.
Similarly on road transport new flyovers were constructed, concretization of roads was completed for major roads, roads were widened, pedestrians walkways were created, dedicated bus corridors are being created, new elevated roads are being constructed above the existing roads to create parallel traffic handling on arterial roads, improved synchronised signalling system for creating uninterrupted flow of traffic and many such improvements in infrastructure have helped tackle the increased traffic density on Mumbai roads.
Mumbai has not only integrated its rail and road traffic system, upgraded and modernised its vehicle fleet, taken huge strides in augmenting its infrastructure but has also very efficiently managed and maintained its resources in peak operating efficiency. Very rarely you will see a bus under break down on road or train stalled on the tracks. Rickety taxi or auto rickshaw that you sometimes see broken down on the road gets repaired or moved / towed away efficiently before they start affecting the traffic flow.
However what really makes this efficient public transport super efficient is the discipline with which everything functions – on tracks as well as on roads. Trains observe their timings, buses utilise its full potential and ply from one end to another end at maximum permissible speed, Taxis and autos though violate traffic rules some times are quickly brought to books thus creating a fear about Mumbai’s law enforcement agencies, pedestrians observe the discipline on roads and rarely brake it on tracks, those responsible for keeping these objects of mass movement moving all the time do it as if it is their religion. But above all there is no denying that this happens because one dominating spirit of Mumbai – Every Mumbaikar knows that if ‘Mumbai moves India improves’ – No odds ever come in its way to reach its place of destination.
Those who govern Mumbai’s public transport system know it very well that to make it efficient, people must use it first. That is the reason Mumbai’s public transport system is one of the cheapest in the world. Every time there is increase in public fares, there is also corresponding improvement in the services offered to offset the effect of fare increase. The operators of brand new Bandra Worli Sea Link have also quickly realised this and has decreased the toll charged by 20% within the first month itself of the sea link being thrown open to the public.
With increasing urban population all over India, Mumbai’s case today is going to be other metro cities case tomorrow. If all these cities emulate the example of Mumbai and its discipline the “Life in a Metro” will be lot more easier.