Swati Sanyal Tarafdar - Smart cities need rational thinking and intelligent transportation

Smart Transportation

In 2014, the urban population accounted for 54% of the total global population, says the United Nations database. This figure is predicted to reach upto 70% in 2050. The UN also finds that the urban population growth, in absolute numbers, is concentrated in less developed regions of the world. It is estimated that by 2017, even in less developed countries, a majority of people will be living in urban areas. For India, the prediction for 2030 says, this will be half of the total population.

While urban and environmental planners across the globe work towards solutions to cater to the ever increasing global urban population, the transportation planners already have a job that had to be done by yesterday. Clogging city roads and highways are becoming common international phenomena and the focus is towards integration of available modalities to formulate a trip – be it from your home to work or to the neighboring town.

Back home, our capital throws up a case study. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that less than 20% of Delhi's people drive cars and two-wheelers, and yet Delhi roads are choked in the neck.

Ever since the Narendra Modi government became a contender for power at the Centre, we have heard slogans around smart cities. At the time of his campaigning, the present prime minister promised to give India 100 smart cities if his party comes to power. Funnily, at that point, few had a clear idea of what is actually meant by a smart city. Not that we have a clear and final definition today, but we do have a working formula to start with, and with the Indian government's 'Smart City Challenge' warming up, we are gradually forming a vision.

Smart cities should make its citizens lives convenient. "Currently, 31% of India's population live in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation's economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India's population projected to live in its cities by 2030," recorded the government of India's Smart City Challenge.

A smart city is supposed to have the best available infrastructure, a highly sustainable real estate, and the most efficient communication systems, and all these must be tied up by the most ideal, automated, and efficient information technology system. In fact, information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents.

Promoting 'inclusive growth' and a citizen-centric planning approach, the Indian government's vision of a Smart City translates to an integrated city, where the various development policies of the government complement each other. Apart from several core infrastructural requirements, it is emphasized that a smart city will be judged by its efficient urban mobility and public transport system, and safety & security of citizens, particularly women, children, and the elderly.

Faced with the expansion of existing cities and the development of newer ones, given the changing livelihoods and city dynamics in a migratory urban space, there remains no doubt that transportation and mobility become one of the most important pillars on which the edifice of a smart city stands. Hence, it's quite relevant to ask - what are the considerations that a transport planner today should keep in mind while planning, re-planning, and designing roads and corridors?

Induction Priority Lane

With this in mind, we explored texts and researches, and spoke to several experts and here's what we gathered.

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