For a city that prides itself as the financial capital of the country, the crush of vehicles zipping around Mumbai's roads could be seen as a sign of prosperity.
Then again — given that the city's vehicle population rose from 1.52 lakh in 1971 to 17.15 lakh in 2009, and we're adding an average of 1.03 lakh vehicles every year, all of it into a road system that hasn't kept pace —it starts to look less like prosperity and more like a massive problem. The increased number of vehicles gave the city the freedom of mobility, but it also exposed our inability to keep all that metal moving smoothly.
In the last 58 years, Mumbai's road length increased by 250 per cent to 1,930 km, compared to the 3,700 per cent rise in its vehicle population, which now stands at 17 lakh, says a transport study by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.
The study says the number of vehicles in the Mumbai metropolitan region is expected to reach a phenomenal 75 lakh by 2024 — that becomes alarming given the fact that many citizens from MMR use their vehicles daily to come to Mumbai for work.
That number may be far less then that seen in cities like New York or Beijing, which have a vehicle population of five million and two million respectively, but the speed at which Mumbai's vehicles have grown is considered dangerous.
According to information from the State Transport Commission, in the last five years, Mumbai has seen the addition of nearly 66,767 two-wheelers and 29,263 four-wheelers every year. Traffic experts have red flagged the lack of control over vehicle growth and almost stagnant infrastructure development.
“A 10 per cent increase in car population increases parking woes by 25 per cent and traffic congestion by around 20 per cent. We need to introduce ideas that will put a premium on using vehicles in Mumbai,” transport expert Ashok Datar said.
Among the suggested solutions are the much discussed Bus Rapid Transport System, and an increase in parking charges for vehicles. “The need of the hour is sustainable public transport consisting of fuel-efficient and space-saving alternatives,” transport consultant Bina Balkrishnan said.