Value Addition to Public Transport

Public Transport

J.B.Kshirsagar, Chief Planner and Dr. Pawan Kumar Associate TCP, Town and Country Planning Organization, New Delhi.


Traditionally, Indian cities especially their core areas are characterized by confusion and chaos. Urbanization and its prolonged effects have had a direct impact on intra-urban, sub-urban and inter-urban mobility. A city can function efficiently if both people and goods are transported through optimal utilization of transport systems, infrastructure and services at minimal investment and operating cost. Passenger mobility is predominantly based on road and rail based transport. In Kolkata, in addition to bus services, tramways, suburban rail and metro services are used but there is still lack of planned integration of metro with other modes. Mumbai has a combination of bus services, ferry services, suburban rail, and metro network, though railway stations are not integrated with other modes but the use of suburban railway is extensive due to the linear structure of the city. In Chennai, bus services and suburban rail are used as major modes of public transport but no common facilities are available to integrate different modes. Delhi Metro fails to achieve its full efficiency in the absence of synergy with other modes. Delhi ring rail is still under-utilized (less than 25% of its designed capacity) due to most of the stations having low travel demand. Therefore, need for value addition to public transport through integration and improvement of both road and rail based systems to meet travel demand and quality of services, is required.

Mobility Pattern in Indian Cities

Early Indian cities were designed for walk, bicycles, cycle rickshaws and public transport (bus). Gradually, road based transport in cities became saturated and was not able to cope with the increasing transport demand. Further, a single mode of transport is neither viable nor economical and efficient due to extension and expansion of city boundaries. In a linear city like Mumbai, and a ring and radial city like Delhi, the normal trip length from home to work may be 25-30 km or more, whereas in a relatively compact city like Chennai or Hyderabad such a trip length may be 15-20 km or more. Similarly, a typical home to work trip for a male office goer in Mumbai from a northern residential suburb to the Central Business District (CBD) in the southern part may comprise the following modes:
  1. Home to Intermediate Para Transit (IPT) Stand by walk
  2. IPT stand to suburban railway station by IPT mode
  3. Railway station to CBD by suburban rail and
  4. CBD to office by walk
In the return direction however, the suburban railway station to home trip may be performed by bus on account of time availability, cost and the need to shop for daily essential in the vicinity of the suburban railway station. For a female office goer performing the same trip, the home to bus stop trip may be performed by walk and upto suburban railway station by bus on account of cost and security issues.

A typical student trip from a home (South Delhi) to the University Campus (North Delhi) may be performed as follows:
  1. Home to bus stop by walk
  2. Bus stop to metro station by feeder bus
  3. Metro Station to University Station by Delhi Metro
  4. University Station to College / Department by walk primarily on account of cost considerations.
Sydney Circular Quay
Figure 1: Sydney’s Circular Quay: Rail and Boat Integration defining Urban-Mobility Identity
(source :

Based on these facts, mobility by the public transport is supplemented and complimented by non-motorized, intermediate para transit and feeder modes which enable performing a complete trip from origin to destination depending on time, cost, weather conditions and the level of comfort desired. In this context, integration and improvements with the broader objective of efficient mobility, has multi-dimensional effects for value additions to public transport.

Concept of Integrated and Improved Public Transport

Modern Bus Stop
Figure 2: Modern Bus Stops with Signage and other Amenities
A study on "Traffic and Transportation" conducted by M/s Wilbur Smith Associates across 30 cities in India shows that the public transport share has decreased from 78% (1994) to 54% (2007) in cities having 8 million plus population. The average journey speed has reduced to 17 kmph (2007) which will further reduce to 6 kmph by 2031, if corrective steps are not taken. Therefore, the share of public transport needs to be improved to promote for environmental and sustainable transport in Indian cities. The concept of integration is defined as measures for improving the overall quality of services to the commuters which attracts more people to use public transport. The integrated system through modal, physical, and network, institutional and financial integration as a whole provides seamless journey to the commuter.

An integrated public transport system also needs improvement in demand and supply side management measures. A commuter while choosing a bus route/metro corridor prefers minimum travel time, maximum comfort and proper connections to reach the desired destination and ensure all safety and security. The options may be either a direct bus route from origin to destination or integrated route comprising both metro and bus. Commuters always prefers a route and mode which connects the destination directly and completely. Commuters may prefer metro if the trip requires minimum effort for interchange and shorter travel time and provides maximum comfort, even if its composite fare is high.

An integrated public transport connects education, health, housing sector, etc to achieve harmonious and inclusive society. Public transport not only provides accessibility to school going children, patients and disabled persons but also promotes development along the transit corridor. In fact, it enhances the socio-economic characteristics of the areas served.

Public transport requires improvements in terms of reliability and attractiveness so that the commuter shifts to public transport. It should also meet the needs of the weaker sections of the society by providing affordable fare and covering outskirts of the city. Further, public transport should be available from origin to destination with the least transfer options.

Urban Transportation
Figure 3: Integration of Underground RT Platform, Pedestrian Underpass and Bus Stand at Oval Bus Island, Hamburg
(Source: Vuchic and Kikuchi (1974) Design of Outlying of RRT Station Areas, pp 31-32)

Improved integration among various modes of public transport helps people to move around easily and reduces cost and inconvenience of travel. Thus, it brings reduced congestion on the road, convenience to commuters, efficiency and cost efficacy. The information regarding parking facilities near interchange station, unified ticket, coordinated time tables, real time display and public awareness plays an important role.

Integration and Improvement Measures

'Urban transport' is a 'State Subject' as defined and enlisted under the List – II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, which forms the exclusive domain of the State Government for framing laws under these subjects. Hence, the responsibility for management of urban transport comes under the preview of the State Government. Therefore, multiplicity of agencies, jurisdictions, operators and disciplines become responsible for planning, design, construction, operation, administration and maintenance of urban transport. These seem independent but are highly interdependent. In Delhi, multiple agencies and authorities are playing various roles and responsibilities in transport sector.

It is therefore imperative to achieve institutional integration at State and city level. Recently, the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt. of India has asked all States having cities with million plus population to speed up the process of setting up a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). To streamline public transport, the Ministry has directed the states to nominate a single department to deal with all urban transport issues. The states have also been asked to set up a traffic information management control centre and to frame parking policies. The Ministry has suggested the setting up of a regulatory and institutional mechanism to periodically revise fares for all public and intermediate public transport.

Under 'Economic Stimulus Package' funding for procurement of buses for urban transport under JnNURM has been a remarkable achievement. The modern buses numbering 15,260 have been sanctioned under economic stimulus package at a cost of $1020 million for improvement of public transport in cities. The efforts for operation of buses in good conditions and maintenance need long-term contract system to be followed.

Sometimes, improvement measures are subject to conflicts among the users, operators, and investors. All stakeholders have different preferences and priorities. Therefore, the formulation of short- and long-term strategies are required which include dedicated commitment to improve coordination among transport authorities, accelerate use of advanced technologies, enhance mass transit and encourage non-motorized transport etc.

Commuter satisfaction is a prime concern of public transport. Modal integration in a journey chain must bring ease, comfort, and convenience. Hence travel behaviour of the commuter and preferences are required to be considered in the planning process. Similarly, multiple modes are running with different frequencies, capacities, fares, etc. The effective plan for managing transport requires all modes to be brought under one authority responsible for planning and operation. However, each mode is a subset of the whole system and plays an important role in mobility. Each mode requires well defined good route-set to provide transport to the large portion of commuters effectively. The route planning of various modes must have the following characteristics as reflected in Table 1.

Route Planning

Connectivity of main trunk of transit corridor with bus rail, CBD, residential areas needs special improvement measures through route planning. Terminals and Interchanges are the place of commuters for changing of modes at various levels to undertake further journey. These are also part of infrastructure which involves multi modal activities. Table 2 suggests improvement measures at each stage of journey at the interchange points.

Concluding Remarks

The purpose of any integration and improvement measure is to provide maximum comfort and satisfaction to the commuters and overall value additions to public transport. There is a close relation between commuter satisfaction and transit quality and hence, transit quality evaluation is required to assess commuter satisfaction. The improvement in commuter satisfaction retains the riders, increases usage of the system, attracts new commuters and improves image of public transport. Further, there is need for transport authorities and operators to be more rigorous in performance measurement of 'integration' and 'seamlessness'. Changes in perceptions of commuters with respect to transit accessibility and ease of use need to be addressed for further improvement at/around bus stops/metro stations.

There is need of "Co-ordination" and Co-operation" among the transport authorities, operators, etc. Co-ordination between operators of different modes enhances ridership and revenue generation. Similarly, co-operation between transport authorities is mutual agreement to distribute or accept each other's tickets, provide timetable information and common route maps, coordinate departure times at interchange points.

Interchange Points

Generally, access and egress are the weakest links in public transport chain. The various initiatives aimed at improving access and egresses have potential to reduce journey time significantly. Further such improvements are less expensive options compared to the expensive systems infrastructure creation and vehicle enhancement alternatives.

The impact of route planning/corridor planning on city profile in short-term such as reduced road congestion, less noise & air pollution, aesthetics along transit corridors, etc and long-term such as change in land values, skyline, economical activities along the corridor, development controls, etc should be studied. Furthermore, capital and operation cost components of transport in different parts of the city should be examined with the economic viability of the project and fare affordability of the commuters.

The integration and improvement of public transport needs a recognition of "Transit Station" as a mirror of "City Image" as it is blended with different building form, colours, materials, texture, facade, form, etc. Therefore, all stimulating, convenient, enjoyable amenities should be provided to the commuters. Such stations may also include provisions of green buildings such as conservation of energy and water, waste management, minimization of carbon di-oxide emission, etc. Further, whole transit station should be designed for various commercial activities for both commuters and non-commuters in order to develop vibrant spaces which are safe and provide accessibility to all in promotion of value added public transport.
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