Tuesday, September 23

How Green is your City ?

Streetcar, San Fransisco

SustainLane has come out with a study that ranks cities according to their sustainability. While Portland ranks the highest, New York, Chicago and San Fransisco are also in the top five.

One of the criteria for measuring this was environmental costs of traveling in the city and commuting options. As they put it :

...affordable and convenient public transit will pay dividends for a city, having positive impacts on childhood asthma rates, traffic congestion and associated stress, fuel consumption, and greenhouse gases.

Of course this is not a new argument and many times when switching to better fuels (unleaded petrol & CNG) we have heard them in India. However there is still a negative attached to public transport in India. People want to stop using it as soon as possible and move to personal transport. It is still affordable to use personal transport as long as you are willing to suffer the traffic snarls and smoke.

In the US while cars may be cheaper, the parking and toll charges are so high that it is often cheaper to use public transport. Also the time saved in commuting is significant and you don't suffer from driving stress.

Then why is this not happening in India? Primarily most public transport systems - buses, trains, autos and cycle rickshaws are not coordinated. Out side the metro station near my house there are host of cycle rickshaws waiting to pick up commuters and ferry them to their homes. But this is temporary system - they are often pushed away by the traffic police during peak traffic hours. Then the commuter has no option but to walk home. The next time he will use a car than the metro if he has a choice.

Buses timings are not in tune with trains. And this is true of not just of Delhi but even Mumbai and Kolkata where a suburban train/tram system has been operational for at least 70 years. They still haven't figured out a system where a person could walk from his bus to the station and catch the 8.40 local to Andheri. Most of the times the buses are late because of jams near the station.

In planning transportation our mindset is till to widen roads for personal transport not to look at reducing use of such vehicles. We do not want efficient public transport since most planning is done by people who drive cars to work. Now why would we want to give up an opportunity like that !!

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