With just about 4,000 buses for close to 10 million people, a fourth of all trips are made on personal motor vehicles and cabs.
The number of cars registered in the State has touched 25.41 lakh as on February 28, up from 23.61 lakh in March last year. The total number of vehicles in the State has crossed 2.75 crores. Of this, transport vehicles constitute 4.48 per cent while the non-transport vehicles constitute 95.42 per cent. A good majority of this is the two-wheeler segment, making up for 2.31 crore (84.30%) of the vehicles sold.
The number has been rising consistently over the years: the total transport vehicle population in the State has increased by 155 per cent in the last 10 years. Transportation experts said that a fourth of all trips are on personal motor vehicles and cabs, while over a quarter is made on public transport.
Amid the manifold increase in personalised transport vehicles like cars and two-wheelers, there seems to be a stagnation in the growth of public transportation vehicles, particularly, buses. The number of stage carriages - buses - has declined to 28,306, including 20,702 public buses and 7,604 private buses, in February this year from 29,546 in March last year.
In the case of Chennai, with a population touching close to 10 million, there are just about 4,000 operational buses, pointed out the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
According to national service level benchmarks, there should be 400 – 600 buses per million population in cities. Most Indian cities fall short of this number. “Going by that standard, Chennai records a shortfall of close to 2,000 buses. Even so, the city’s Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) records an incredible 4.7 million daily ridership—resulting in overcrowding and poor level of service,” it said.
Prof KP Subramaniam, an urban engineering expert, said that bane of MTC is bunching. “Bunching means on a particular route, two or three buses will come continuously but there won’t be any bus for another half an hour or so,” he said, adding that operation was very ineffective and routes were not rationalised. Stressing on the need for integrating with other modes of transports like Metro Rail or MRTS or suburban train, he said that at present others modes were competing with the MTC and running parallel services rather than complementing each other.
“MTC should be able to provide feeder service to other modes,” he said. Transportation expert insisted that the promotion of public transport not only involves promotion of Metro Rail, MRTS and increasing bus fleet, it also involves integrating them.
“Integration means fare and operation integration through the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA). But the CUMTA seems to remain only on paper since 2010,” he said.
The rise in private transportation would only accentuate the congestion and leads to an increase in road accidents.
“The imminent need is to promote the public vehicles. You need out of the box solutions. Travel demand management (TDM) which involves adopting the policy to provide incentives and disincentives for promoting public transport and de-promoting personal transportation,” Subramaniam said, citing the examples of London and Singapore adopting congestion tax to de-promote personal transportation.
The TDM involves congestion tax and also increasing the parking fee. “Parking fee is used as an effective tool to curb the use of personal vehicles. For example, in Chennai, anybody can park their car anywhere. There is virtually no enforcement. Even if they pay the parking fee, it also goes to private people, not to the government. Haphazard parking affects the free flow of traffic and actually increases the congestion,” he said, advocating the upwardly hike in the parking fee. “In T Nagar, one will pay Rs 10 for parking a car while they would be paying Rs 100 in a mall. Private malls charge prohibitively but people are willing to pay. There is a willingness to pay but there is no willingness to charge. Rightly or wrongly our decision makers believe such policies will make them unpopular. It is wrong. If you bring in the TDM and reduce the congestion on the road and make hassle-free travel, it will go a long way,” he said.
A senior Transport Department official pointed out that the CUMTA Act and its relevant rules were notified on January 16 this year. “The implementation of the CUMTA will ensure multi-modal transportation system a reality. Works are underway to implement the it soon. This will boost public transportation,” the official said, without providing a time frame for its implementation.