Monday Musings: Growing Pune city and its expanding infrastructure
With improved living standards, citizens are buying more vehicles with policy makers too focusing on building bridges and roads
Rarely has in the past, a proposed road has created an intense debate, dividing opinions sharply. The road in question — 2.1 kilometre-long Balbharti-Paud stretch – has brought residents and environmentalists from Pune at loggerheads with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), and those in favour of the new route.
That most cities in India have begun to asphyxiate with traffic congestion and is fast acquiring the contours of a permanent gridlock is well known. Like the factors that have added to the problem; be it growing vehicle numbers, constant digging up of streets along with encroachment by hawkers, roadside vendors, illegal hoardings and constructions.
With improved living standards, citizens are buying more vehicles with policy makers too focusing on building bridges and roads. This when we know that wider roads actually incentivise vehicle ownership.
In Pune though, the civic body, the state government and other agencies involved have not been able to build new roads that could match with growing population. The decision makers have built bridges and flyovers. They have revamped footpaths too while creating dedicated cycle tracks.
However, the pace and rate at which new roads should have been constructed in Pune hasn’t happened. Take the case of Balbharti-Paud Road. It was first proposed 35 years ago, although the civic body’s apathy, court cases, and opposition delayed the plan.
The high-capacity mass-transit route (HCMTR) project proposed by PMC had first come up for discussion in 1978-82. Also referred as elevated stretch, the 35-km long HCMTR would have served as inner ring road. As reported by HT in its November 17 edition, many crucial proposals about new roads have not been materialised so far even after decades.
In case of the Katraj to Kondhwa road, the land acquisition problems have now forced PMC to reduce the width of the proposed road from 84m to 50m. However, even that is going on at a slow pace due to funding issues.
Building new roads and widening existing ones lead to additional traffic that continues to rise until peak congestion returns to the previous levels. However, not building new roads will only aggravate traffic situation, and in turn halt the economic progress of city.
The strengthening of public transport instead of building new roads is certainly an option to offer a solution to the complex problem. However, the convenience, independence, flexibility, comfort, speed, reliability that private transport offers continue to disincentivise commuters.
So, if rationing car ownership is impossible, policy makers can think of extracting extra road tax from private vehicle owners and in turn cross-subsidise public transport.
Yogesh Joshi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org