McKinsey: India's "Urban Awakening" Depends on Sustainable Transport and Land Use
Even historical monuments in India face strains from modern patterns of urbanization. Photo by Carol Mitchell.

Even historical monuments in India face strains from modern patterns of urbanization. Photo by Carol Mitchell.

“If India continues with its current unplanned urbanization path, it will result in a sharp deterioration in the quality of life in its cities, putting even today’s rates of economic growth at risk,” says an April 2010 report published by McKinsey & Company.

Despite this daunting tone, McKinsey highlights many of the urbanization “opportunities” for India to seize by 2030, including the following projections:

  • 590 million people will live in cities
  • 70% of net new employment will be in cities
  • 68 cities will have a population of 1 million or more (up from 42 today)
  • 700-900 million square meters of residential and commercial space needs to be built – the size of the city of Chicago
  • 2.5 billion square meters of roads will have to be paved, and 7,400 of metros and subways will need to be constructed – both equaling 20 times the capacity added in the past decade

But in order to meet the increased demand associated with this growth, the country will need to focus its efforts on improving mass transit, developing comprehensive land use plans and providing affordable housing, especially for low-income people. Here, we summarize some of the  main transport-related recommendations.

McKinsey says “India’s planning is in a very poor state.” Its plans “are esoteric rather than pratcial, rarely followed and riddled with exemptions. For example, no city in india has a proper 2030 transportation master plan.”

The Context

Indeed, the country struggles with many strains on its roads:

  • The share of public transportation has declined from 40% in 1994 to 30% today.
  • Meanwhile, the number of private cars has skyrocketed. Peak private vehicular density is already 170 vehicles per lane kilometer – 50% higher than the basic requirement. This is only going to increase, likely reaching 610 vehicles per lane kilometer, which means that average journeys could take up to five hours in peak morning traffic! This is a severe threat to “urban productivity.”

The Solution

McKinsey calls for more intercity mass transit, especially rail-based and bus rapid transit, aiming for a 50% share of public transit in urban India by 2030. McKinsey estimates this would require a dramatic boost in infrastructure, which includes:

  • Building 35 rail-based mass transit systems, totaling 8,400 kilometers of track in the country’s biggest cities
  • Constructing 8,000 kilometers of BRT in 68 cities of more than 1 million people
  • A fivefold increase in the number of buses
  • Constructing  900,000 lane kilometers by 2030 to accommodate additional journeys by private transport
  • Building 350 to 400 kilometers of metros and subways every year, more than 20 times the capacity of what has already been built in the past decade
  • Building 19,000 to 25,000 kilometers of road lanes (including BRT lanes), which is equivalent to the length of road lanes constructed over the past 10 years

McKinsey seems to think that India can emulate countries like China, which has faced similar challenges, and eventually create a “mature urban planning regime that emphasizes the systematic redevelopment of run-down areas in a way that is consistent with long-range palns for land use and transportation.”

To read more about the best ways for India to implement these these changes – including operational strategies related to funding, governance, sector policies and planning – download the full report here:

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