Saving Mumbai from coming to halts

by Basudha Das, TERI | The Energy and Resources Institute
Thursday, 11 December 2014 04:41 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Non-motorized transport facilities should be encouraged in Mumbai for a smooth traffic flow


Mumbai, the city which never sleeps, can also be termed as the city where the traffic never comes to a halt.

The business capital of India is experiencing major traffic problems and is being choked by congestion even though public transit represents more than 60 per cent of the motorized transport modal share. Mumbai and the metropolitan region around it has been growing seamlessly, with its total population expected to touch 44 million in 2052 even as the resources to service the burgeoning masses remain more or less stagnant.

Mumbai has enjoyed strong public transport services since the 19th century. The city's railway system – the ‘local’ – often hailed as the city’s lifeline, covers 319 km, services more than 7.6 million people every day and has the highest passenger density in the world. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport is the world’s largest public transport body catering to more than 3.5 million passengers daily over 365 routes. 

But like other metros, public transport system in Mumbai is overburdened and challenged with an ever-increasing demand. The rising prosperity of the middle class and the continuing migration has added to the problems of the already crippled transport infrastructure of Mumbai.

While the road and rail length and the fleet capacity of the public transport have remained stagnant over the years, there has been a significant increase in the number of private vehicles on the roads of Mumbai. Around 450 new vehicles are registered in Mumbai every day, much lesser than Delhi’s 1,335, but large enough to choke the erstwhile efficient transport system.

“The rail-based transport system consisting of suburban rail and newly introduced metro and mono rail would cater the major transport needs of the city. These modes are sustainable. In addition to this, provisions of adequate facilities for growth of non-motorized transport are also very essential for accessible and sustainable transport systems,” says Mr Shri Prakash, Distinguished Fellow, TERI.

The Government of Maharashtra and the Indian Railways are planning to initiate an ‘integrated multi-nodal transport body’ to get rail, air and water transport agencies together for better co-ordination and faster services.

Mumbai also lacks public bike-share schemes. Even the Bus Rapid Transport Systems (BRTS) are not in place, despite having an efficient bus system.

The city has been making investments in building new infrastructure like new roads, flyovers, bypasses, etc., but there has been little improvement in the traffic situation in the city. The city has actively responded to these pressures and problems by augmenting/introducing new public transport systems like mono rail, metro rail systems, etc. But experts feel an efficient and sustainable system is needed to have a long-term solution.

Sustainable Transport facilities

Smart or sustainable transportation system is essentially a mix of small interconnected sub-systems like local trains, monorail, metro rail, catamarans. In short, the authorities should explore all possible means of transport to offer faster and more reliable connectivity to the age-old suburban railway system.

“For sustainable solutions, we should increase provisions of public transport with simultaneous measures for discouraging the use of personal mechanised transport. For a better public transport network, we need investment in creating infrastructure and also immediate implementation of new modes of transport,” says Prakash.

Also, the system should also help build mechanisms that are more safe and secure, he adds. With a very high number of accidental deaths because of road or rail accidents, advanced communication networks are required.

Transportation is an essential human activity and will continue regardless of the state of the transportation infrastructure. Although the current transportation system has served the city well for over the years, it is imperative to upgrade the system to a more sustainable one and meet the growing demands of the ever-growing and never sleeping city.

NOTE: TERI is organizing its third and last Regional Dialogue in Mumbai which is on Sustainable Urban Transport and Solid Waste Management in Mumbai. The dialogues are been organized in the run up to Delhi Sustainable Development Summit to be held in February 2015