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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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  • Pranay Surakanti

    Erica, the numbers (commuter statistics) seem to twist reality. The source, Urban Age, talks about 56% of the people walk or bike to work BECAUSE they live close to their work places (less than 2 kms away). Average travel time in Mumbai is 28 mins which is much lower than  most developed cities and the percentage of public transport within motorised transport is high (close to 80%) for most Indian cities. These are all good things. Then there is a the whole simplification of everyone using only mode of transport. Most people will use 2 to 3 modes (including walking) to get to their destination. If the the graph represents travel demand in terms of km travelled then the interpretation is quite different. Combined with the low average travel time, it means that most of destinations are within close proximity of public transport, making it convenient to walk to these destinations. This interpretation is also supported by the low rickshaw, car and two-wheeler use.  We don’t make people walk unless its more convenient. The infrastructure is not poor, the city is growing faster than what the infrastructure developers can keep-up. I’m a ‘citizen’ of Mumbai (not just a resident). As far as I understand, the metro is not a augmentation of capacity of the existing infrastructure (local trains as we call them), it is creating new infrastructure along routes which are currently being served by the bus service. These improvements are designed to take the load off bus services and vehicular traffic, reducing road congestion, commuting time AND the cost of commuting (you burn more fuel in congestion, so per km cost varies according to time of travel on the same route). Also the road is not just used by private vehicles, implementation of Exclusive Bus Lane, will mean that roads be augmented. So the budgetary allocation plan is not as elitist as it is made out to be. With 4280 crore, at Rs.17lakh per bus (source: BEST website;- Status of MUTP), BEST will be able to buy 25,000+ new non AC buses. Currently, it runs 3380 buses for 45 lakh commuters, so you are imagine what it can do with ‘just’ Rs.4280 crore (close to a billion dollars). 

    Seems like you were in a hurry to write something (pro-poor) regarding the budget allocation rather than understanding what the statistics or the source was saying. I’d suggest you go to MMRDA’s (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) to see what work they are doing for pedestrians. Unfortunately much of this work in included under road network improvement (in terms of building subways and foot-over bridges on busy roads). I also invite you to live and work in Mumbai for a year. Maybe then you will start appreciating what we have. 

  • Pranay Surakanti

    Numbers (commuter statistics) somewhat twist reality. The source, Urban Age, talks about how 55% of the commuters walk to work BECAUSE they live close to their places of work (less than 2km away). Average travel time is 28 mins, lesser than  most developed countries and most Indian cities rank high in terms of percentage of motorised travel by public transport. These are all good things. Seems like the author of the post was in a hurry, to write something and just took the numbers from the graph and didn’t read what the numbers meant. Not everything in a developing country is bad. 

    ‘”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.” What exactly does the author have in mind in terms of resource allocation?

  • 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.