The Institute of Urban Transport (India), a little-known agency that arranges dry and academic discussions on the state of urban transport in the country, held a conference late last year in New Delhi, on the theme of Urban Mobility India, 2009.
Although the Institute is obscure in the popular media, the speakers at this session were professionals, including those with a long record of work in key areas of mobility, such as pedestrians, vulnerable road users, walkability of cities, bus transport systems and integration of different modes such as rail, bus and non-motorised options.
One of the many presentations made related to the experience with formation of Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority in some of the bigger cities, including the national capital.
That presentation makes it clear that no State government in India has shown sufficient interest in getting a UMTA off the ground, and actually making a difference to the tax-payers, who are a harassed lot commuting to work each day by archaic suburban trains, creaking buses and lawless paratransit such as autorickshaws.
The presentation is available here, and if at any point you find this turning into a bad link, please write me and I will upload the entire document myself (the MoUD might change its mind about featuring it on its website).
Additionally, see presentations on pedestrian interests here, service level benchmarks here, and fare collection systems for buses here, and public transport and equity here. All the presentations are linked from this page.
The key points to note are:
The Ministry of Urban Development continues to fund State governments under various schemes, including the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), without calling them to account vis-a-vis the objectives.
State governments are loath to change their approach to service provision in the area of transport – they stubbornly refuse to modernise ticket-collection, have no transparency on decisions relating to services and are managed by bureaucrats who have no professional managerial training or experience in transport.
Many transport unions are unaware of the need for modernisation, and resist attempts to introduce reform in ticketing, service level assessment and commuter services. They need to be taken into confidence and persuaded to change their attitude to urban transit – it is a service, not merely an avenue for privileged employment granted by political parties.
I am discussing in a separate post, the stipulations on the JNNURM financing for bus acquisition, which the popular media seems to have entirely ignored.