India is urbanising at a fast clip. People are migrating from rural areas/smaller cities to the bigger ones for jobs, education, trade or breaking the barriers for social mobility. One of the key factors that help citizens to achieve their goals is connectivity — ie a dependable, efficient and cost-effective mass public transport system, which improves their livelihood opportunities and allows better access to education, health care and recreation.
Take, for example, the Delhi Metro, which has proven to be a boon for the Capital. Looking at its success, many other cities — Bengaluru, Mumbai, Jaipur and Chennai — have operationalised or are about to begin their first phases, while in others like Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Pune and Lucknow they are yet to be completed. These public projects involve huge investments and have multiple spin-offs for the economy because of the involvement of so many related sectors in them.
As these cities go ahead with their plans, they must learn from the Delhi Metro experience as an ongoing series in this paper shows. Despite being a success, there are serious problems that the Delhi Metro commuters face today. First is the last-mile connectivity. Several stations have no or inadequate last-mile connectivity. The number of Delhi Metro feeder buses is inadequate, the service patchy and the journey uncomfortable. This forces people to depend on other modes of transport to reach their destination. Even the entry and exit points at stations are congested in several cases. Insufficient parking at metro stations is another problem that commuters face. The third is the steep rise in ridership over the years. The procurement of coaches has not happened at a similar pace.
The new metros must factor in these challenges to ensure that more and more people are encouraged to use public transport. India cannot afford to move ahead without proper and sustainable mass/public transport systems, which are far more efficient than personal motor vehicles in terms of road space, safety and energy consumption.