ISB Updates

Solutions to Ease Urban Congestion

Dr Agarwal made a presentation on “Removing Congestion” at a special session, attended by 1500 elected municipal councilors and presided over by the Deputy Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Nitin Patel. During the presentation, he highlighted that congestion is only the manifestation of a deeper problem, namely rapid motorization. It is important to remedy this deeper problem, rather than struggle with the manifestation of the problem. He drew the analogy of trying to treat infection by administering a fever reducer, like Crocin, instead of administering an infection removing anti-biotic.  He argued that so far we have been adopting a wrong approach in trying to remedy congestion rather than remedy the deeper problem of growing motorization. He highlighted that during 1981 to 2011 India’s population grew by 77%, but the number of motor vehicles grew by 2500%. Hence, we should try to deal with the unprecedented growth of motor vehicles.

People are compelled to buy their own motor vehicles because cities are sprawling and travel distances are growing longer. Besides, the alternatives to using one’s own motor vehicle are weak and of poor quality. Therefore, the way forward is to bring about significant improvements in public transport, and in designing compact cities with high density rather than low density sprawling cities.

He also argued that metro rail systems by themselves are not enough, and will solve no problems. They need to be well integrated with bus systems and other modes of transport. He gave the example of Delhi where despite a high quality metro rail system the number of motor vehicles in the city has doubled in ten years, since the metro was commissioned. This is because the Delhi metro is integrated with nothing.

Apart from this, it is also important to constrain the use of personal motor vehicles, and nudge people towards sharing vehicles or adopting more sustainable modes of travel. Only very few cities around the world have been able to effectively deal with the problems of congestion. Wherever this has happened it’s because the cities have adopted a comprehensive package of measures, and not because of one-off measures like only building a metro. Building high quality and well integrated public transport networks, good integration with spatial planning and strong demand restraint measures have to come together to effectively remedy growing motorization, and its consequent manifestation in the form of congestion