Agenda for governance: Transportation
Because my friend Saurabh Bhardwaj is minister for transportation in Delhi now, I thought let me start with what he can consider.
What needs to be done to improve public transport in the cities of India?
1. Get rid of permits for autos or cycle rickshaws
Do we have permits for restaurants, barbershops, movie theater or any other public recreation or requirements? Society finds its equilibrium. Those who make money stay others wind up and leave. By imposing artificial restrictions on number of autos that can ply on the roads we are creating 1. Monopoly 2. Dearth for service 3. Demand supply gap. and incentivizing corruption. It also smacks of communist style governance where Government know and would also decide what is good for the people. Which definitely is not true. Government shouldn’t dictate terms on what services and in what quantity are good for the society. In current situation, auto unions force the rate. i.e. In Bangalore auto costs 13/KM while cab costs 14/KM. Auto drivers can demand arbitrarily high fare and refuse to go by meter. This can be because of scarcity of autos on the roads. It also creates black market where un-registered autos ply and traffic police harasses them for want of permits. It’s also reported that in some places mafia controls the entire auto market and it costs 4 lakhs to 5 lakhs to buy one and operate. Condition is much worse for cycle rickshaws where they are already carrying burden of fellow human being (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUPQPnsIOpc)
2. Rationalize and Privatize routes for buses
This is remarkable that in all Indian cities government works as monopoly as far as large public transportation is concerned. And they do very poor job of it. Very poor connectivity and very poor availability in many cities. (I have lived in 6 cities). What is needed is comprehensive transport policy to ensure that no one in the city needs to take their vehicle if they are willing to walk no more than a kilometer. Once the objective is clearly laid out 1. Identify current capacity 2. service delivery gap 3. See who can fill it (i.e. Autos can be feeders from home to main road etc or mini buses in congested areas). It can be done fairly easily. On top of that government must build all weather shelters at all the bus stops. It can also provide digital devices to let passengers know when is the next bus coming. Show routes on the stops. If government can’t provide let private players chip in and develop the system for the public.
3. Let taxis have their stands
In most Indian cities taxis are not allowed to have their stands. It has stifled the growth of taxi services in many Indian cities. Just like autos they should be allowed to have their meters, stand and pick passengers on the go. Bit by bit auto drivers might find more value in having taxis and we might see transition. Current mechanism just doesn’t allow alternate transport medium to grow.
4. Cycle transport
Today cycle transport is mostly toy and has very little utility value. There are few near Bangalore metro. Has very limited use for multiple reasons. One it’s not well advertised. Two not many cycle stands where people can drop their vehicles. Three roads on which they ride are not very cyclist friendly. For short distances government should allow having cycle stands and companies that allow people to rent cycles and drop at nearest places. For small distances with convenience it may find many takers.