Vehicles double as Mumbai roads stay same in 10 years
MUMBAI: This decade saw traffic flow choke up with the number of vehicles more than doubling but the citVehicles double as Mumbai roads stay same in 10 yearsy’s road length remaining consistent at about 2,000km.
Transport department statistics show there’s been a 109% rise in vehicles between 2009-10 and November 2019 (see box). There are 22 lakh bikes registered, translating into 1,100 bikes for every km, and with 150 new cars and SUVs (10.6 lakh in all on streets now) on average hitting the roads daily, problems like severe traffic congestion, dearth of parking slots, noise and air pollution have peaked.
“The roads are bursting at the seams and it’s high time the government strikes a balance between public transport and private vehicles,” said A V Shenoy of Mumbai Mobility Forum. The car industry creates jobs, so the government promotes a car-centric economy. “But there should be emphasis on public transport as well. A single bus occupies less road space but carries a many passengers as in 9-10 cars/taxis,” he pointed out.
Increasing purchasing power of the 25-30 age group, lower car prices, better fuel efficiency and easier loans coupled with rising aspiration over the last decade saw a boom in auto ownership, especially over the past 5-7 years. “Many of the buyers travel to work by train but prefer a car for the family or to go on drives during weekends,” said a car marketing executive.
Motorcycles and scooters guarantee quick mobility and loans for them are even cheaper. If first-time earners found them affordable, home-makers chose them to run errands like dropping and picking up children from school, and many bought one over and above their cars just to drive to a station a few kilometres from their housing societies and leave it there while they commuted by train. On return, they could zip home instead of waiting for autos or buses. No wonder over 10 lakh motorcycles and scooters flooded city roads in the last decade, resulting in indiscipline among many riders, rash and negligent riding and a spate of fatal mishaps.
The boom in personal vehicles coincided with a downswing in BEST services, inadequate train services and the inability of the government to add to critical infrastructure like Metro and Monorail. Transport commissioners have proposed several measures to control car population by introducing cess on petrol/diesel, preventing registration without guaranteed parking and increasing permit/road taxes. But most of these proposals have gathered dust in government files.
Transport experts say there’s an urgent need to impose congestion tax in the business hubs to discourage use of personal cars and push for zero-emission electric vehicles, whose demand is yet to pick up in Mumbai. Rudimentary e-cars have been there for some time, but with the government finally taking an interest and providing incentives, more and better models are being made available as facilities like charging stations also grow. It is time for Mumbaikars to go green.