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Mumbai: Where's the Money At?

Victoria Terminus in Mumbai
Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus, in Mumbai. Photo by thebigdurian on Flickr.

(Thanks to transport planner Madhav Pai for contributing to this post.)

Money spent on different types of transportation has little or no relationship with the way people actually move.

Consider the case of Mumbai, India by comparing transportation expenditures and modal shares (or, the percentage of travelers using a particular type of transportation):

The government proposes to make the biggest investment – close to Rs 139,000 crore – on Metro and suburban rail, but only about 22% of people ride the train. Instead, most people (56%) walk or bike.

Authorities would also like to spend a hefty amount – more than Rs 55,042 crore – on the highway system, but less than 2% of people travel by private car. Other than walking and taking the train, most people (14%) travel by public bus, a system that is receiving a proposed investment of only Rs 4,280 crore.

Given the current mode shares of transport in Mumbai, the financial allocation appears highly inequitable. The plan caters to the upper middle class by being metro rail- and car-centric. The largest constituency of travelers – pedestrians and bicyclists – who make up 56% of the travel demand aren’t represented. It would have been nice to see resources allocated to providing infrastructure for them.

The proposed investments are part of the Maharashtra government’s plan to spend about Rs 2 trillion in transport systems for Mumbai over the next 20 years, starting in 2011, in an attempt to improve the city’s poor transportation infrastructure. The master plan, which lays out the infrastructure building priorities of the local administration, has been termed the Mumbai Business Plan 2031, drawn up by Canada-based consultants LEA International Ltd. and LEA Associates South Asia Pvt. Ltd.


Proposed costs of Mumbai's new transport systems


Modal Shares in Mumbai
Source: Urban Age

Equity talks aside, Mumbai will be a great place to see how projects under public-private partnerships evolve and deliver what is promised. Though, judging from previous experiences in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila, public-private partnerships for systems like metro rail have not always achieved what governments had hoped. “The skills and resources of the private sector were expected to bring about a transformation in their cities, at little or no public cost,” according to a World Bank report. “We now know that things have not worked out like this.”

To read more about urban poverty and transport in Mumbai, read this World Bank policy research paper: “Urban Poverty and Transport: The Case of Mumbai.”

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  • KSK

    I agree, lots of people walk bike and take the bus and projects, funds, and attention should be paid to those modes. However, allocating funds based on current mode shares does not consider future potential mode shares. A metro, if designed properly and politics aside, could accommodate up a huge proportion of peak and off-peak travel into the future. Integrated with an expansive and well-designed BRT system and bike/ped pathways, the entire intermodal system would be well-patronized. Also, cities need advanced roadways – not necessarily 8 lane superhighways and flyovers, but 4 lane boulevards with areas for transit, pedestrian, and bike. Indian cities, in general, have some really awfully narrow and unsafe roadways.

  • Nice post, Erica. This sounds like a classic case of subsidies for the well to do. In the US, we’ve had the tendency to build billion dollar freeways to reach the ‘burbs while letting our urban infrastructure crumble.

  • Peter

    it would help to have some type of graph showing what all these different numbers mean. there’s no way to tell if or what may be disproportionate or by how much.