Print Friendly
The Next Big Challenge: Latent Demands for Personal Transport Ready to Explode
Evening rush hour traffic outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Photo by Vikas Hotwani.

Evening rush hour traffic outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Photo by Vikas Hotwani.

If the entire world starts living like a North American does, we would need three more planets to fulfill everyone’s needs. However, if everyone starts living like an African, only two-thirds of our existing planet would suffice.

‘Earth from Above’ photo exhibition by Yann Arthus Bertrand

At present, India’s scenario is roughly equivalent to a planet where every person’s consumption pattern is slowly escalating to match up to that of a North American. With rising income levels, the change in consumption patterns touches every aspect of life, including the choice of transport systems. Today, we are practically sitting over a demand curve that’s ready to escalate. Here’s why…

1. Owning to a large discrepancy in income levels, there’s a mammoth underlying latent desire and aspiration to own a personal vehicle. This means that as soon as income levels reach a mark where it’s possible to own a car (even if it’s on a down-payment), people will go for it, not caring about issues such as sustainability or the availability of infrastructure.

2. Now that the Tata NANO has hit the market with its world’s cheapest car, that tipping point when those with modest earnings can purchase a car will be reached much sooner. This means we have far less time than we think we do. Simultaneously, income levels are rising and prices are falling.

3. The public transport system (especially in Mumbai) needs considerable attention on the parameters of safety and comfort. This will act as a catalyst when it comes to pushing more and more people towards owning private transport.

With no interventions, the demand and sale of cars will continue to rise and clog the roads even further. Building flyovers and the much-hyped Bandra-Worli sea link can be short-term relief mechanisms but not the final solution.

Then what?

A more effective strategy is to make the maintenance — not just the ownership — of personal transport an expensive deal. For instance, apart from the fuel costs, owning a car in a city like Mumbai is not as costly an affair as compared to other cities.

  1. Parking charges lie at Rs 25 to Rs 200 an hour (depending on where you park). Increasing the parking charges can dissuade people from opting for cars, and the extra money collected can be used to develop better roads and organised parking spaces.
  2. Singapore, for instance levies a road tax on cars. Though it’s a small amount, it increases exponentially after the car is more than 10 years old. In combination with this operates a strict policy for periodical checks of every vehicle.
  3. The registration fee for the car in Mumbai, again, doesn’t match up to international standards. Singapore, for instance, not only has a registration fee, but also an additional registration fee, which creates artificial inflation when it comes to car prices.

The above mentioned points are only suggestions from other cities that, if emulated blindly, can cause more chaos than order in Mumbai. The suggestions must be supplemented with adequate development of high-quality, high-capacity public transport systems.

The point here is that it’s crucial to make personal transport maintenance more expensive today than it was yesterday because vehicles by themselves are getting cheaper. And infrastructure is already feeling the pressure.

We need to widen our perspective of resources. Fuel is a resource, but so are public spaces and roads. With scientific and technological advances, we will find alternate sources of fuel. But space is finite. We have just one Earth, and it can hold only so many cars. So think: It’s either you, or the car.

Print Friendly
  • Air Pollution: What is the Main Cause, Cars or Rickshaws?

    Cars pollute as soon as they are turned on, whether they are moving or sitting still in traffic. To blame air pollution on rickshaws because they slow down cars is outrageous. Even when moving smoothly and well-maintained, cars pollute; internationally, cars are the major polluters of our air and the major contributors to climate change. Worldwide, the most air pollution is created by the United States, not because their cars are slowed by rickshaws, or because their cars are poorly maintained, but because Americans drive so much. Cars pollute; lots of cars pollute a lot.

    CNG is cleaner than other fuels, but as it is a carbon-based fuel, it still releases carbon dioxide into the air as well as the cancer-causing chemical benzene, for which no safe level of exposure is known. People travelling by foot, bicycle, or rickshaw arrive at their destination without contributing to air pollution; people travelling by a motorized vehicle, even a bus, contribute to air pollution. While the rich are the main sources of air pollution, everyone breathes the air. Meanwhile, if the rich believe they are somehow immune to air pollution because they live with air conditioning, they might wish to remember that they too must breathe the same air that they are polluting; the more cars, the more they too will suffer.

  • No mechanism to curb misuse of govt vehicles
    Govt spends Tk 35,000 a month on each car
    Mustafizur Rahman

    The government does not have any central mechanism to check misuse of its transport, especially the vehicles under various projects, allowing many officials and employees to avail themselves of transport facilities round the clock which they are not entitled to.

    An officer of the rank of joint secretary and above belongs to the ‘privileged group in the civil service and is entitled to 24-hour car facilities’ but those below the rank of joint secretary are not entitled to such facilities, said an official at the establishment ministry.

    ‘Those who are entitled to 24-hour car facilities are enjoying it. So there is no question of misuse of the transport under the government pool….But there is no central mechanism to oversee the use of vehicles procured under different projects,’ transport commissioner of the directorate of government transport Md Ibadat Ali told New Age on Thursday.

    He said the authorities concerned were supposed to hand over the vehicles to the transport pool on completion of the projects under various ministries.
    ‘It is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to look after the project vehicles until they are given to the transport pool on completion of the projects,’ Ibadat, who holds the rank of an additional secretary, said in reply to a question.

    Nowadays most departments and directorates do not hand over the project cars – mostly sport utility vehicles – to the government transport pool on the pretext that the project duration could be extended or that new projects were being taken, said officials.

    They alleged that the departments and directorates offered the SUVs procured
    under different projects to the high-ups for their personal use as they wanted to make happy the high officials close to the ministers and secretaries.

    ‘The authorities under different ministries and divisions offer luxury vehicles to the high officials at the ministries for personal use…It is a common practice in the administration,’ an officer said. ‘Some senior officials in this way get one vehicle from the pool and another from a department and his family uses the cars.’

    Many such officials below the rank of joint secretary are using cars from various projects under different ministries, said the official adding that private secretaries to ministers and secretaries holding either the rank of deputy secretary or senior assistant secretary usually enjoyed car facilities offered by the departments and directorates under the respective ministries.

    ‘Some ministries have their own arrangements for providing car facilities for officials like PS, APS and PRO at the offices of the ministers.’

    All these luxury cars, originally procured for project works, do not have an emblem for identification while each car or jeep of the government transport pool has a flag stand for a distinction, said a deputy director of the directorate of government transport, adding that the government cars had number plates in red till 1990.

    The colour was changed into black and white at the fag end of the HM Ershad’s government to avoid the public wrath when an anti-government movement was at its peak, said the official who has been serving the transport pool for 27 years.

    He said the transport pool provides a car for each minister and one microbus for use by the officials of his office.

    The government has to spend around Tk 35,000 against each car for driver, fuel charge and maintenance as each official is allocated 180 liters of fuel a month, said the official.

    During 1997-2009, the transport pool received around 900 motor vehicles from various projects while it has a total of 602 cars and microbuses of its own in operation, according to official record.

    Meanwhile, the government has taken an initiative to procure 40 cars and 30 microbuses for its transport pool.

  • Pingback: re:place Magazine()

  • Erick

    I remember taking a design studio looking at the mill redevelopment in Mumbai. As an exercise, I looked at the width of highway Mumbai would need to accommodate American-level automobile rates for downtown commutes. The carriageway would be over half the width of the narrow southern section of the peninsula. Similarly, accommodating the automobiles with surface parking alone would take up over a quarter of the entire peninsula. Managing automobile levels and use is inevitable. The sooner it happens, the better.