Navigating Urban Growth: Smart Public Transport Solutions for growing Indian Cities

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2024-02-14 06:45:00 Viewer: 2,884 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Navigating Urban Growth: Smart Public Transport Solutions for growing Indian Cities

Urbanization in India is on the rise, fueled by a booming industrial sector and increased economic activities. The Census of India reports a significant growth in metropolitan areas, from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. This urban sprawl is set to continue, with a projected urban population of 590 million by 2031. With this expansion comes the critical need for sustainable public transportation, as India aspires to rank among the world's top economies.

The Impact of Urbanization on Mobility

Urbanization has not only increased travel demands but has also escalated the number of trips made in urban areas. Projections indicate a surge in per capita trip rates, leading to potential adverse transport externalities such as traffic congestion, accidents, suboptimal travel experiences, overpopulation, and environmental degradation. The cost of congestion in major cities is approximately US$14.7 billion annually, and road accidents have seen a significant increase.

Growing traffic congestion also takes a toll on air quality, evident in cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai, where the air quality has been categorized as hazardous and unhealthy. Addressing these challenges requires strategic planning for sustainable Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS).

Guidelines for Rapid Transit Systems in Indian Cities

In response to the need for better public transport, Indian cities have focused on implementing the National Urban Transport Policy since 2005. Various guidelines, including the 12th Five-Year Plan and those developed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), provide guiding principles for selecting suitable urban public transport modes.

Considerations include peak hour traffic, population, density, and trip length, with threshold values for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), or Mono Rail. However, the current scenario reveals disparities in the implementation and ridership of these systems.

Public Transport Scenario in Indian Cities

Presently, 24 Indian cities have MRTS, but only five hosts two or more rapid transit systems. Metro rail systems, operational in 16 cities, often fall short of achieving estimated ridership forecasts. Conversely, bus-based transit systems exhibit higher ridership despite inadequate fleet sizes, highlighting the overemphasis on mega rail-based projects.

Most cities do not comply with MoHUA guidelines for a minimum bus fleet size, leading to an unintegrated and unsustainable operation of public transportation modes.

The Way Forward

Achieving sustainable urban public transportation is pivotal for India's economic growth. While metro rail systems are essential, smaller cities should focus on enhancing bus fleets before investing in expensive rail-based options. Guidelines should consider trip time, cost, and a city's form and size.

Strategic planning for MRTS in Tier 2 and 3 cities should integrate with existing public transport infrastructure, particularly city bus systems. A well-organized bus system proves to be cost-effective and expeditious, addressing demand efficiently before considering capital-intensive rail-based MRTS.


The path to sustainable urban public transportation in India lies in a balanced approach. Prioritizing bus system enhancements and thoughtful evaluation of the need for expensive rail-based options will ensure efficient and integrated transport systems, ultimately contributing to India's economic aspirations.

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