NEW DELHI: As the traffic chaos on city roads has become quite common, Union Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri calls for a shift in the preferred mode of transport, from private to public transit saying it is an imperative for Indian cities. However, the minister admitted that the poor quality of public transport systems and the unavailability of abundant free parking in cities across the country have exacerbated the problem.
The minister acknowledged the negative impact of rapid growth of Indian cities saying it has put immense pressure on our infrastructure, including the transit systems. “Our cities have focused on moving vehicles rather than people; paving wider roads without providing the necessary infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and vendors. This has had a negative impact on the quality of life in our cities and contributed to the sprawling expansion of our cities – thereby increasing distances between people and their places of work and leisure. As a result, people waste up to 4-5 hours every day on commuting, remaining cooped up in cars and trapped in traffic jams,” he added.
Puri was speaking at Urban mobility conference held at Hyderabad on Saturday. He said that to ensure that the transportation system is inclusive, cities need to ensure access and safe last mile connectivity. “This is particularly important for lower income households, women, senior citizens and children (people who depend most on public transit),” he added.
The minister expressed confidence that works in the ‘Smart City’ projects are in an advanced stage of implementation and would be visible by June, 2018. "This is a scheme which is operating very well. 90 cities were selected by competition, another 10 will be selected before this year. I am confident that by June next year, you will all begin to see the physical manifestation of the work that is done,” he added.
The minister also talked about the shortage of affordable housing in the city which has forced poor households to live in distant areas, which are mostly not served by public transit. “The absence of a strong public transit system results in lack of access to jobs, healthcare, education and other services in the city for such households. This also means that we have to improve our urban planning at the same time as we work to increase the supply of public transport. To make transportation sustainable, we must integrate it with land use so that we ensure an overall reduction in the need to travel,” he added.