Bengaluru is one of the most congested cities in the country, with over 80 lakh private vehicles on the road. Public transport falls way short, with inadequate bus services, no progress on suburban rail and Namma Metro still a long way from total connectivity. Single-occupant vehicles choke roads and for the average citizen, who travels 35 km a day, commuting is harrowing. ‘Pool’ and ‘shared rides’, offered by cab aggregators Ola and Uber, reduce cost of travel by 50 percent and have many takers. It also means fewer vehicles on the road. The state government, however, is refusing to back down, saying the onus is on the Centre to amend the Motor Vehicles Act to accommodate carpooling. A robust public transport system, backed by options like carpooling is the way to the future and will reduce the burden on infrastructure and environment. But without political will, the commuter ends up paying the price. Literally. Nischith N reports
The Indian transportation of system has experienced a whirlwind of change over the last few decades, accompanied and spurred on by a rapid increase in both population and wealth. According to reports, this explosion of demand for transport, whether public or private, has increased eight-fold since 1980. While private transport has kept pace with demand, public transport has failed to provide curated solutions for commuters. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru have been consistently ranked as the world’s most congested cities.
We live in a time where the average working Indian travels for approximately 35 kilometres every day. While there have been considerable infrastructural developments in the country, these have proven inadequate still, keeping in mind the increase in population, per capita income, spending capabilities and aspirational values. Indian roads are cluttered with private vehicles: Mumbai, for example, sees close to 32 lakh private cars and bikes on the road everyday and this estimate doesn’t take into account other modes of transport, which add to congestion levels. Private ow nership of vehicles in India is predicted to increase by 775 percent over the next 20 years, which will not only be fatal for the environment but also the economy. Research shows that congestion in Delhi is estimated to cost 12% of its GDP annually in accidents, air pollution, fuel consumption and reduced productivity.
While the transportation landscape in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in India is transforming, shared mobility needs to be given the driver’s seat for a change. Shared mobility can utilise existing vehicles in circulation for better efficiency, more economical commuting and a reduced carbon footprint. A decade ago, shared mobility would have been a conceptual idea but with technological innovations and a significant rise in smartphone ownership, it has emerged as a pertinent reality. It will help reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and contribute to a healthier shared economy.
The advantages of shared mobility in a society can be elaborated at length, it also becomes vital to draw upon the effect of shared mobility on individual commuters. Here are five ways shared mobility can change commuters’ travel experience.
The economic viability of shared mobility: A car owner recognizes the surplus expenditure that comes with owning a car. The maintenance and servicing of a car is a recurring cost that could be avoided without having to compromise on comfortable mobility. Car/bike pooling services help you offer or find rides on your preferred route. These services can be availed at prices as low as INR 30 for 10 Kilometres. Economically talking, it is unreasonable to invest in an asset that depreciates in value when you have efficient alternatives in place.
Networking opportunities: While elevator rides are too short to network and socialize, car/bike pooling services can provide adequate time for the commuter to network and forge healthy relationships. The congested roads and peak traffic can even prove to be beneficial and you wouldn’t have to wait to take solo trips to engage with different people with varied interests and opinions.
Environmental obligation: We have a compliant duty towards the environment, to help save and protect it from further damage. While vehicle possession and usage is a right for every individual, we cannot ignore the damage that these fuel powered automobiles are doing to the environment. What can be done is to monetize on vehicles already in circulation in ingenious ways that will reduce carbon emission. Shared mobility will ensure the empty seven-seater SUVs that you see on the road are filled with people sharing space and contributing towards saving the planet.
Covert mental health stability: Research over the years has found driving to be linked to higher blood pressure and anxiety levels, accompanied by a decrease in overall job and life satisfaction. There is no doubt that being stuck in traffic isn’t a mood uplifting experience at any time but studies show that it could actively have an adverse effect on mental health, causing anxiety, frustration and lowered tolerance levels. Shared mobility provides an answer to this by decongesting roads and providing the commuter with a pleasant, interactive travel experience, even during peak hours.
Considerable decrease in transit time: Shared mobility will lead the space in point-to-point transit. Prolonged commuting hours can affect an individual’s personal well-being and raise anxiety levels. With the evident decrease in de-congestion owed to shared mobility, transit time will also reduce considerably.
Reduction in parking costs and space: Tech parks, shopping complexes and the experience of commuting through the city are crippled by parking issues. With an increase in private cars and bikes on the road, the parking issue has become a colossal problem for operators, owners and those who use these commercial hubs. Shared mobility can leverage the cost savings of reduced vehicle commuters through a decrease in employer-paid and commercial paid parking services.
Powered by technological innovation, shared mobility is the quintessential future of the modern travel experience. The constructive aim of shared mobility is to not compromise on commuters’ travel experience while creating an environmentally friendly alternative by utilizing the present resources in place.
Ban hits techies who travel long distances
Karnataka has developed quite the reputation for its treatment of app-based cab companies, after a series of bans and mishaps over the last few months. The trouble began with the state transport department’s ban on Ola, on the ground that it was operating bike taxis. A ban on carpooling followed, on the grounds that it is the duty of the central government to standardise licensing norms. With aggregators offering ‘share’ options that are efficient, always available and a fraction of the cost of travelling alone, the ban has hit Bengalureans hard.
Ramya K, a techie who regularly uses Ola Share and Uber Pool services, said, “There is no metro connectivity in Whitefield and many other IT hubs. Cab-share services are the only affordable and reliable option for working professionals. Now, the government has imposed a ban on our only viable transport option and we are worried that we will have to shell out a lot more for the same trips now. It has been a week since these services were called off, we hope the government will see the error of its ways and lift the ban soon.”
Carpooling facilities have gained widespread popularities, chiefly because the rides cost less than half the usual fare. All this comes under the Motor Vehicles Act, which was enacted by the parliament in 1988, primarily to standardise licensing norms, prevent accidents and ensure effective compensation for accident victims. Encouraging shared transport or solutions to reduce congestion don’t strictly come under the original purview of this law.
A senior transport official told Deccan Chronicle that the subject of motor vehicles has been constitutionally divided between the central and state governments. “The Centre has the power to determine the broad parameters and principles for regulating motor vehicles, under the Motor Vehicles Act. The state governments, on the other hand, can frame their own laws to determine how the Act will be implemented and also to tax vehicles under independent state law.
As per the state transport department guidelines, cab aggregators like Ola and Uber fall under the contract carriage permits and as such, cannot stop to pick up or drop passengers while the ride is still ongoing. The only allowed stops are the pick-up and drop-off points. Only vehicles with a stage carriage permit, such as public buses, are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at multiple points.
“We believe that it’s the duty of the government to support and promote solutions like carpooling, which is a solution to the problem of decongestion. Instead, they have found a new way of harassing helpless citizens and worsening the traffic problem by bringing more single occupant vehicles onto the roads. The city has a negligible rail network, Metro services are inadequate, so people depend on the carpool. Now they have no option left should spend more money on daily travel,” Jeevatha G, software professional told DC.
Conversely, cab drivers and union members continue to complain that aggregators have not stopped the share cab services and it is still on....