Number Crunching in Transport

Thursday, February 12, 2009


To own, or not to own a vehicle is a classic catch-22 situation. Many want to buy a vehicle to gain freedom in movement. The public and non motorized transport doesn’t offer him any incentives, are not comfortable and socially acceptable, are more polluted…..
The pathetic image associated with public transport was highlighted most famously by Margaret Thatcher who once remarked that “anybody over the age of 30 who used a bus could consider themselves a failure”
At the first onset of affordability the person goes for the kill. The journey which often starts with a small vehicle or second-hand vehicle
grows to a bigger one to match his reputation…

Have we ever tried to analyze the moral dilemma of owning and using a vehicle? Why is the public transport image so bad? Why do we hesitate to use a Public Transport? Why cannot be the Public Transport comfortable and affordable (or free) at the same time to all cross-section of society? Why a person is willing to shell out more for Transport and reduce his budget for other aspects such as food?
The key to all the questions are with the government. With good policies backed by budget many of the issues can be solved. Let’s consider some examples…
Everybody knows that Singapore and Hong Kong have good Public Transport facilities. What is with Singapore and Hong Kong that Delhi and Beijing don’t have? The answer is the access to stations. By 1993, 50% of Hong Kong population lived within 500m of MTR catchment area and By 1994 Singapore had 50% of population living within 1 km of MTR catchment area. How many of us have that access and that comfort? Why don’t we have that?
Singapore has nearly 175 vehicles for 1000 people which is less than many of the smaller cities in Asia. It would be interesting to note that many such cities have high concentrations of bike but fewer concentrations of cars than Singapore. Out of 175 vehicles for 1000 people, 105 vehicles are cars. Then why do we hear about “Bangkok and Bangalore” Syndrome? Why the congestion in Singapore is less when compared to other cities?
The Cars are very expensive to use in Singapore and not in Bangalore and Bangkok where the government pays to make driving cheap thus neglecting the public transport. Many private automobile users cry foul when government tries to push some reforms like BRTS i.e. Delhi/Jakarta…. which gives more priority to public transport over private transport. The Media many a times offers lip-service to the cause of public transport users thus confusing the government. This results in governments spending more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.
If a city has a great public transport than the moot question would be TO USE, OR NOT TO USE “A VEHICLE” and this would be a great bargain….

1 comment:

zee said...

Call it a moral dilemma or not, I personally do not want to drive or buy a compact car not unless it is "clean, green and cheap". I await for the Philippine market to sell these "clean, green and cheap" private automobiles. Until then, I hope the government will aggressively do more to improve public transportation, as I ride patiently the MRT/LRT. Moreover, it sounds like the Philippines can easily adopt what Singapore or HK is doing for public transportation. When the government collects more money from driving private vehicles, maybe then the government can provide free public transport.

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