Lessons Indian cities can learn about Traffic

In the last few days, I have been using Mumbai’s public
transport system. The congestion that I have encountered, in every mode of
transport – bus, local train, taxi has left me enervated & frazzled.

This got me thinking. Has any place, the size of Mumbai, faced
this issue & overcome it? My mind leaped to city-state of Singapore. It is
approximately the size of Mumbai – only smaller. During my frequent visits to
Singapore, I have noticed the following strategic initiatives taken by them:

1. Encouraging people to use Public transport:

A. Dedicated Bus lanes during peak hours: This ensures buses travel faster & reach almost as per
schedule.

B. Dedicated Cycle Lanes.

C. Free / subsidised travel on MRT (Mass Rapid Transport, the equivalent of Metro systems in India):
To get people to shift the time of their travel to off peak hours, the
authorities decided to make people exiting 18 main MRT stations till 7:45 am
free; from 7:46 AM to 8:00 AM they offered a 50% discount. This saw many people
shift their travel time to avail this reward, leading to a marginal reduction
in congestion during peak travel times.

D. Off Peak Pass: This pass entitles
people to have unlimited travel on public transportation during non-peak hours.

2. Taxation rate to discourage people from owning & driving
vehicles & that too during peak hours:

A. Congestion Tax: If a vehicle wants to
enter a designated area which is congested, then a tax is levied upon vehicles
to be allowed in.

B. Certification of Entitlement (COE): Potential buyers & users of cars in Singapore have to win a
bid, which grants them the license to own & use cars in Singapore. Many times
the COE exceeds the value of the car itself. This prevents people from owning
cars.

C. Weekend Cars: Since the COE denies
many people the privilege of owning a car, authorities have introduced the
concept of Weekend Cars to make it easier on them: these cars attract a lower
taxation rate but come with a caveat. They can be out on the roads only on
weekends (Saturdays & Sundays), national holidays & on weekdays during
nonpeak hours (7:00 PM to 7:00 AM) only. If there is an emergency and such a
car has to be driven during the weekday peak hours, the owner has to pat SG$ 20
as a tax. These cars have distinctive red coloured number plates to
differentiate them from regular cars.

Has this strategy borne fruit?

It seems that almost 60% Singaporeans use public transport,
leading to reduction in traffic congestion, and a significant reduction in air
pollution. The only obvious initiative that I did not notice in Singapore is
‘Car Pooling’. Or is it that I missed it?

Indeed, there is no comparison between the populations of
Mumbai & Singapore. But at least the authorities can use their imagination
to come up with solutions, which can bring relief to people using public
transportation.

It would be wonderful if you can share your experience of
how other cities / countries are attempting to decongest their roads &
public transportation systems, it will be extremely valuable.

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