Campaigners on climate change are hoping that more people will switch from personal vehicles to public transport. Emissions from transport are a significant percentage of atmospheric carbon gases, which contribute to climate change. One piece of Indian Environment Ministry data puts share of transport in total energy-related emissions at 14 per cent (see this presentation on UNEP).
Yet, it is clear that the AIADMK government shares none of this concern. It recently added some buses to the Chennai MTC fleet which are two generations behind even the standards set by the Narendra Modi government for the AMRUT scheme, not to mention smart city goals.
As the picture taken today on Anna Road at TVS shows, there are four steps to climb to get to the floor of the bus, which should translate into some 1100 mm of floor height. This is simply unacceptable, as it is impossible for elderly passengers and those with disabilities, and even children to use. In the JNNURM scheme, Chennai was sanctioned 800 buses with a floor height of 900/850 mm floor height (which is still high).
Why is the AIADMK government building bus bodies with such a hostile design, when bus technology has advanced so much that people expect it to replicate the “metro” experience – with low floor, damped suspension, air-conditioning and good route boards, besides GPS data? Why did not this government buy a single low-floor Janbus from Ashok Leyland, which is a TN-based company? Is it because the government thinks, cynically, that the traveller should have no comfort in his commute?
Quite an unintelligent move by the Jayalalithaa government, and requiring censure as much from the Indian Central government, as from climate campaigners. The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) should take note of how its member, MTC is a laggard when it comes to bus design, and also its objective to achieve a “modal shift” – people moving from personal vehicles to buses, trains and other public transport options.
Such outmoded buses lock-in a monopoly bus operator such as MTC into an unfriendly model for years, and the idea that more people would ride the bus out of choice becomes even more remote.