“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
We are a long way away from that definition of developed countries, but we Indians need to realise that if we want to reach there, we better start now.
Benefits of Mass Rapid Transport Systems (MRTS), as Metro is known technically are many:
- Social Transformation: As India transforms from an agrarian rural economy to an industrialised urban economy, there is a constant movement of human capital from villages to cities. Indian cities are bursting at their seams with people living in pitiable conditions at some irregular housing cluster (jhuggi jhopdi) in the city. For new-urban people to live a life of dignity, it is important that these people be provided the opportunity to live in an accommodation that is a fair bit of a distance away from the city centres and be provided with a cheap efficient means of transport to go to the sites of their employment or education. If you provide affordable transport to middle class or lower class to live away from places of work, they live a better life devoid of squalor. It is the duty of the government to provide people with this opportunity to live in better conditions. A metro system is the best way to provide a fast, efficient and comfortable urban transport to people, thus enabling them to live their dreams of a better life. The impact of better urban transport can manifest in the following:
- Better employment opportunities for the urban folk
- Ability to take better education by being able to commute to and from better colleges and universities.
- Improved quality of life by virtue of living in better conditions away from congested areas.
- Provides human dignity to people on lower strata and is a social leveller, with rich and poor using the same transport.
- Solution to Traffic Congestion: Have you often wondered at the time it takes for urban folk, struck in traffic jams. Elevated roads, Over bridges, Under passes are not a solution to clear the traffic jams in cities. We all have seen the best and the widest roads struck in jams, with vehicles burning millions of litres of fuel while standing in traffic jams. If you have to clear the traffic jams, the ONLY solution is to take the vehicles off the road and encourage people to use Mass Rapid Urban Transport. Picture this – Delhi Metro today carries over 27 lac people a day. Imagine 25 lac people travelling in their private transport on two-wheelers or four-wheelers or buses to work everyday. While a bus carries around 80 people, a metro rail carries over 1000 people in a 4-carriage train. An 8-carriage metro would carry 2000 people at a time, racing at breakneck speed, without inconveniencing the traffic. Just one train transporting 2,000 people at a time means taking 1000 cars off the road, or 100 buses off the road. No amount of investment in roads can clear the jams, only Metros can.
Source of Pictures:
- Air Quality: An MRTS runs on electricity, thus contributing significantly to improvement of air quality in areas where it operates. The Environmental impact of electric transport is far lesser than that of cars, bikes and buses operating on fossil fuels. Health hazards of urban life can be significantly removed by improving air quality.
- Safety in Commute: Except for some terror incidents in rail transport systems; metro rails have rarely had any fatalities in train accidents. Lacs of people die on Indian urban roads every year, thousands die every day. Imagine the number of lives that can be saved if people start leaving their vehicles at home.
- Comfort: It is well known that a comfortable journey can decrease work fatigue and can significantly improve the efficiency of people at their places of work.
- Longevity and Sustainability: A good MRTS system, once invested in, lasts for centuries and serves many generations. While a fleet of buses die within five years of service, or a tram dies within two decades; a good rail grid can last for centuries and even the trains (rolling stocks) can last for as long as four decades.
Metro systems can also be a means to develop new townships using the concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) – Metro Rail systems across the world are a means to develop new townships away from the traditional clusters; thus spreading the urban sprawl to newer areas and reducing pressure on a traditional area. In India we haven’t had many examples of TOD yet, but in the long run, this would be the way forward for creating new urban zones.
Theoretical discussions as above are however facile for frozen minds, who often ask whether investments in MRTS is worth the huge amounts of funds it uses. For perspective on the way our Indian minds are frozen, let us have a practical look at how far we are behind the developed world in terms of our vision:
- The first urban rail transport system began in Liverpool near London in 1863, that is around 150 years ago. In 1890, it was electrified and since then the system has grown into the ‘London Tube’
- Budapest Metro – 1893
- Paris Metro – 1900
- New York Metro – 1904
- Buenos Aires Metro – 1913
- Tokyo Metro – 1927
- Madrid Metro – 1919
It is NOT a matter of chance that all the cities that were amongst the first pioneers in Urban Transport later emerged as some of the most vibrant economic hubs.
Picture this in India: Pune was once the capital of Maratha kingdom, and Bombay was a small village. Even till early 1850s, Bombay was restricted to the Fort Area, populated by the Britishers and a few ultra-rich industrialists. And in 1853 came this train from Thane to Bombay, a train that brought people from sleepy swams into Bombay, driving prosperity and growth in the region. You take out the Bombay local from Bombay’s history and it would still have been a small village. British were wise enough to realise benefits of urban transport. A vibrant tram system over rail tracks was therafter developed for Calcutta and Delhi. Tram systems however can handle lighter traffic than metro systems and are hence called Light Rail Transport Systems (LRTS). 1853 – the time and age when the British realised the need for a mass transport system for their upcoming economic hub at Bombay.
Ironic that the world started switching to Metros in 1890s and we still ask this question in 2018!