Will India’s youth find public transport compelling enough to shun personal motorised vehicles?
That would be on the appropriate question to ask, on August 12, when the “Youth for Public Transport” (Y4PT) tries to encourage young people to add this agenda to the United Nations’ (UN) International Youth Day.
Y4PT is an idea inspired by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP). This is a time when it launches its second worldwide Flash Mob to encourage young people to use public transport.
For the 2010 Flash mob, the theme “Public Transport makes us feel like home”, attracted hundreds of young people in 10 cities around the world. Now, Y4PT is calling upon young people to support improved urban mobility through public transport. This year, the worldwide event is being celebrated to highlight the theme “Public Transport makes us free!”
This is the right occasion for transport activists to urge India’s youth to get involved and press for reform. The changes have to be multi-dimensional: India’s bus systems are of World War II vintage, in terms of quality of buses, operating systems, ticketing and staffing. The need is for clean, efficient, affordable and climate-friendly buses and trains that are comfortable as private cars. Similarly, upcoming new generation systems such as Metro trains, Mono rails, and Bus Rapid Transit Systems should incorporate the needs of young people.
Some States in India provide concessions to youth, particularly students, but in terms of policy, repeatedly emphasise that this is a "drain" on the coffers of the State-run transport corporations. I think this is absolutely the wrong approach to the question. It is shameful to blame the young people of the country who are struggling to get to school and back safely amidst chaos and danger on the road. Subsidising public transport is a vital need for India, and the cost to society on account of this low-cost, eco-friendly form of mobility is far less than private motors clogging the streets.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that private van systems operating in cities to transport children have been found grossly lacking in safety, and are operated by untrained, often illiterate men. This has resulted in children being run over by the vans. The answer to such horrific loss of life is to improve the quality and supply levels of public systems, which are far more accountable.
Car Free Day
On 18 September, on the official Car-free day, young people in Bogota, Brasilia, Brussels, Dubai, Yekaterinburg, Guadalajara, Hamburg, Helsinki, Kathmandu, Melbourne, Monterrey, New Delhi, Rome, Saint-Louis, Salvador de Bahia, Sao Paulo, Sohar and Tallin will unite to pledge their support to public transport and to underscore the point that mobility-related questions, such as "sustainability, respect for the planet, urbanism and social inclusion form an essential part of their lifestyle", says a UITP press statement.
The statement adds that "since 2005, when the first “Youth project” was created, UITP has always considered youth as a priority and has shown its commitment to integrating young people as stakeholders in the public transport community through a series of initiatives – youth parliaments, workshops and cooperation programmes. Six years of positive results have made Y4PT what it is today: a youth network that shares knowledge and experiences of promoting sustainable urban mobility".