Rethinking the Roads

By Vikas Tatad and Adiba Saher

Roads have simply become a means to demonstrate privilege. While one reason to not use public transport is the inefficient service by the bus-based public transport undertaking, the other reason is the efficiency of private vehicles in our day to day lives. There is a need for us to change our perception of public transport.

The morning starts with the chirping of birds, the skies are clear and as blue as the ocean, the fresh breeze touching our cheeks, this is a long-awaited peace that all of us have been seeking for ages. The lockdown has in some way contributed to making our environment so calm and pleasant. It feels like we all needed this break from the continuous hustle and bustle of the world. We all needed to take a break and think about ourselves and the nature. There are fewer vehicles on the road and more birds in the sky. Is the universe giving us a sign to rethink about the pollution that we gifted the nature till now? Can we rethink the functioning of the roads? Can we rethink the idea of controlling the pollution generated through transport?

India ranks 3rd in the consumption of petrol and diesel in the world. Citizens are largely dependent on private transport and the share of public transport is just 18.1% of work trips. we can actually control pollution by giving up the idea of private transport and encourage public transport. The officially reported road accidents in India in 2018 were 4,67,044 in the states and the union territories. This demerit is not only the consequence of bad quality roads, but we also have to consider that the more vehicles there will be on the roads, the more accidents there will be. Therefore, to promote this idea of public safety we should promote public transport.

Public transport can contribute to bringing a change in the social, economic and environmental aspects of the country. In India, the ownership of vehicles symbolizes the class and status of people. The more expensive the vehicle, the bigger status a person has in society. Roads have simply become a means to demonstrate privilege. While one reason to not use public transport is the inefficient service by the bus-based public transport undertaking, the other reason is the efficiency of private vehicles in our day to day lives. There is a need for us to change our perception of public transport.

The idea of implementing bus-based public transport and scrutinizing it’s functioning in big cities still stands on the positive grounds of the above-mentioned analogy, but when it comes to small towns like Nagpur, Amravati and Nashik, we will have to consider all the alternatives available for public transport and choose the best-suited transport for us. Now, let us look at the transport scenario of Nagpur. The process of establishment of the metro started in 2015. The estimated budget for the metro project is 8,260 crores. The total length is 43 km and the average speed is 33 km/h. There are two lanes in the whole city.

Now if we look at the usage of metro and understand which population it’s going to impact, the first thing that comes to my notice is that no lanes are connecting to a lot of underdeveloped areas of Nagpur, for example, south-west Nagpur. The speed and the timings of the metro seem like an adventure ride rather than an efficient means of public transport that enables the backward population of the city who needs the facility more than any other section of the city. If the idea of public transport does not meet the needs of everyone living in the society then rethinking its functioning should be the top priority. On the other hand, if we look at the bus transportation in Nagpur, it is seen that a new budget has been proposed by the Chairman of Nagpur Municipal Corporation for Aapli Bus service. The budget was revised from Rs. 277.84 crore to Rs. 206.19 crore. The development of bus services in Nagpur evolves with the idea of revenue generation as new E-buses will be introduced in the city with an intention to promote advertisement that will help in generating more revenue.

It is an important factor to think about implementing an efficient transport facility. If half the amount spent on the metro was spent on the restoration and renovation of buses, it would have been more impactful for both - the government and the commuters. In the course of promoting public transportation, it is important for the government to introduce more buses but not to impact the livelihood of alternative public transport drivers, for example, auto drivers. They should be considered as potential workers and more opportunities should be generated for them to increase their livelihood.

Thinking about the environment does not just mean planting trees but also questioning the different actions that cause damage or disruption to the environment. There are several reasons for the dramatic rise in the levels of air pollution. Among the most important is the rapid increase in the use of personal vehicles. A bus can carry more than 60 people and occupies an 8 square meter area of the road area. In comparison, a bicycle occupies only 1.9 square meters, while a car takes up 5 square meters. If 60 personal vehicles stand at the signal for one minute, the amount of space occupied fuel consumed, and pollutants emitted increases at an unimaginable rate. This shows we can avoid wastage of so much fuel by collective use of public transport.

Let’s think about, which transportation is better?

Talking about the collective use of transport in post-COVID is also an important aspect to consider. Physical distancing phobia among people with respect to public transport in the post COVID period is an uncertain phenomenon; we can only hope to think positively on the lines of making the environment clean and the city a better place to live in. This is the government’s responsibility as well as ours, to come up with solutions that will sustain a clean and healthy environment.

Parisar is one such organization working for this cause and is running a campaign in Maharashtra for improving the quality of bus services under the Sustainable Urban Mobility Network – SUM Net. It is possible for us to have a clean environment after lockdown, with clear skies, fresh breeze and birds chirping, but is it possible for us to give up dependence on private transportation? Can we rethink the roads?

Authors: Vikas Tatad is a State campaigner at Parisar, Pune and Adiba Saher is an Intern at Parisar, Nagpur

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