India’s Urban Mobility

India’s Urban Mobility

NITI Aayog and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) presented a report titled “Transforming India’s Mobility- a Perspective”.



Problems because of Poor Urban Transportation:

  • Unprecedented Transport Growth:According to Niti Aayog, the number of registered motor vehicles has rapidly increased from 5.4 million in 1981, to 210 million in 2015.
  • Inadequate Public Transport: According to government data, there are about 19 lakh buses in the country and only 2.8 lakh of them are run either by state transport undertaking or under stage carriage.
  • Urban Pollution:According to a WHO study 14 out of the top 15 most polluted cities in the world belong to India.
    • Vehicular pollution has been one of the major contributors to rising urban air pollution in Indian cities along with other factors such as construction activity, road dust and industrial activity.
  • Urban Congestion:Major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru are ranked among world’s most congested cities.
    • Further, there is an acute shortage of parking spacesboth on and off the streets in the urban centres.
  • Road safety-Traffic injuries and fatality: According to the Report ‘Road Accidents in India-2016’, road accidents in India have decreased by around 4.1% in 2016 from 2015.
    • However, fatalities resulting from these accidents have risen by about 3.2%.
    • The major reasons for traffic crashes include poor quality of roads, poor traffic management, unsafe and overcrowded vehicles and unsafe driving behavior.
  • Equity Issues:Unplanned urbanization in India has led to gentrification (as per upper and middle socio-economic class) of city centres and lower income groups are forced to live in peripheral suburbs which have increased their cost and time they allocate to commute.
    • For example, a CSE study ranks Delhi Metro Transportation system as the second most unaffordable metro (after Hanoi in Vietnam) with lower income group people spending nearly 22% of their monthly transport on Delhi Metro fares.
  • Mobility for women:Safety or the lack thereof, is the single biggest factor constraining women’s mobility.
    • According to Action Aid UK, 79% of women in major Indian cities reported being harassed on streets.

Government Initiatives to address Urban Transport issues:

  • Promotion of Electric Vehicles:Indian Government plans to have an all-electric fleet of vehicles by 2030.
    • For promotion of electric vehicles FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (hybrid &) Electric vehicles. 
    • Under FAME, the Centre subsidizes the cost of electric buses and has sanctioned 390 buses in 11 cities (as of April 2018).
  • Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission JNNURM, 2005:
    • JNNURM was launched in 2005 and closed in 2014. It is now succeeded by Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
    • It attempted to improve the public transport system in larger cities through funding of public transport buses, development of comprehensive city mobility plans and supporting city transport infrastructure projects
  • Green Urban Transport Scheme, 2016: The scheme aims to improve non-motorised transport infrastructure such as dedicated lanes for cycling, pedestrians, increasing access to public transport, use of clean technologies and adoption of intelligent transport systems (ITS).
  • Mass Rapid Transit/ Transport Systems (MRTS): In 2017, the government introduced new Metro Policy which aims to improve collaborations, standardising norms, financing and creating a procurement mechanism so that the projects can be implemented effectively.
  • Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS):BRTS segregates the movement of buses from all other transport modes, and introduces other changes in the road infrastructure that are associated with safety. BRTS is an important component of AMRUT.
  • National Transit Oriented Development Policy, 2017:The policy framework aims to promote living close to mass urban transit corridors like the Metros, monorail and bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors.
  • Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP):The project in partnership with Ministry of Urban Development and UNDP aims to promote environmentally sustainable urban transport in India
  • Personal Rapid Transit System (PRT):It is a transport mode combining small automated vehicles, known as pods, operating on a network of specially built guideways.
    • In 2017, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had called the expression of interest (EOI) for launching India’s first driverless pod taxi systems on a 70 km stretch from Dhaula Kuan in Delhi to Manesar in Haryana
  • National Public Bicycle Scheme (NPBS):In 2011, NPBS was launched to build capacity for the implementation and operation of cycle sharing systems across the country. The first public bicycle sharing (PBS) initiative — Trin Trin was launched in Mysuru.


  • Gaps in Laws and regulations:There is no central, state or local level that comprehensively covers urban transport requirements and issues in Indian cities. Further, the weak enforcement and lacunae in existing laws such as the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 fail to manage fast motorization in Indian cities
  • Poor Institutional Framework:Functions of Urban transport system are performed by multiple agencies under the central, state and city governments which lack coordination and makes accountability difficult.
  • Land as a Barrier to development of Transport Infrastructure: High cost of land acquisition and time-consuming processes has been a major hindrance to integrated urban transport infrastructure. For example, land acquisition issues have delayed the East-West metro Corridor Project in Kolkata over years.
  • Human Resource Challenges: Lack of urban transport skills amongst city and state officials is a major challenge in effectively implementing transport projects.
  • Absence of Reliable Transport Data:The lack of standardized, systematized data and scientific analysis of urban transport statistics is a major barrier in assessing impact of various ongoing government initiatives and formulate a robust urban transport plan
  • Lack and Delay in release of funds: The urban infrastructure projects have a long gestation period which requires locking of huge amount of funds for a longer period of time. This creates problems in accessing the required funds, thereby impacting timely completion and maintenance of projects

Suggestions to overcome the challenges

NITI Aayog Recommendations:

It calls for a 3C Framework (Clean, Convenient and Congestion free) for transforming mobility in India. To achieve this, it lays down the following action-agenda.

  • Connect Bharat: Niti Aayog calls for a Safe, Adequate and Holistic Infrastructure (SAHI)for the Indian population including women, elderly and the disabled. Major recommendations for achieving this
    • Increased emphasis on safety and accessibility
    • Leveraging multiple modes of transport – road, rail, coastal and inland waterways, small regional airports, ropeways etc
    • Higher usage of data for holistic mobility needs
  • Optimize Travel footprint: It calls for increased emphasis to reduce congestion caused by passenger and goods flow in urban areas. Major recommendations include
    • Integrated land use- Planning residential and commercial complexes in an integrated manner so that travel time is reduced
    • Data-based measures such as intelligent transport systems
  • Promote Seamless Public Transport: it calls for an efficient and convenient public transport to address the issue of air pollution and congestion in Indian cities. Major recommendations include
    • Data-driven planning and urban transport, with a clear hierarchy amongst different modes- from non-motorized(pedestrians, cycles) to public and lastly private transport
    • Focus on multi-modal systems
    • Make public transport affordable, comfortable and accessible for urban India, to ensure better adoption
  • Adopting Green Modes and Technologies: It calls for rapid adoption of electric vehicles and non-motorized transport (NMT). Major recommendations include:
    • To improve adoption of non-motorized transport, the routes and paths should be planned so that they integrate seamlessly with public transport.
    • To ensure safety for NMT users by outlining norms & dedicated traffic signals should be a key priority
    • There should be a clear push towards clean technologies. This has to be enabled through ecosystem development which includes domestic manufacturing, deployment of charging infrastructure etc

For effective execution of these actions-agenda, the Niti Aayog recommends to optimise the following strategic enablers:

  • Skill developmentwhich will ensure high employability and address the issue of human resource demand
  • Intelligent Transport systemsbased on ongoing technological developments
  • Well-defined Governancemechanism involving different stakeholders.
  • A strong public awarenessand communication campaign

Taking cue from Best Practices:

International Best practices- Singapore:

  • Nearly 80% of trips in Singapore are performed on Public Transport comprising of bus, MRT, LRT, Taxis.
  • Singapore has one of the highest supplies of public transport per capita in the world.
  • A well planned and extensive public transport system coupled with travel demand restraint measures, like area licensing system, vehicle quota system, congestion pricing etc. has resulted in decreasing registration of private cars and high usage of public transport.
  • Singapore has also introduced “Incentives for Singapore’s Commuters” – a scheme which incentivises commuters to shift their travel time to an earlier or later time belt to avoid the peak travel period on trains and thus avoid overcrowding.