Chhavi Dhingra, EMBARQ


Indian cities contribute to over 60% of the country’s GDP and are today facing the brunt of ever-increasing travel demand and personal motorization. Policies favoring the use of the personal automobile, urban sprawl and mismatch of transport demand with reliable, good quality and accessible public transport supply have resulted in problems like traffic congestion, public health, air pollution and inequity in travel. These are further exacerbated by the fact that institutionally, there is hardly any impetus at planning or managing urban transport at the city level.

In India interestingly, urban transport by itself is not the primary function/responsibility of most city governments unlike many western countries where transport services are mandatorily provided by law by the city authorities (like any other basic urban services-water, sanitation, housing and energy). Historically, there has been unclear division and high fragmentation of responsibility of urban transport functions between city, state (provincial) and national governments, and hence, its planning and provision is weak, inefficient and to a large extent ineffective. The regulatory environment governing urban transport in India is defined in multiple legislations and rules, and there is a lack of technical capacity to understand and plan for this sector in city governments.

As Indian cities continue to modernize and the government continues to provide stimulus packages to give urban mobility the necessary ‘facelift’ on the lines of cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bogota and London, the core of the problem very much remains with the forms of governance that Indian cities are choosing to manage and sustain these changes. There is now a considerable discussion at the policy level to revamp the present institutional structures and look at newer models especially ones supporting sustainable mobility, as well as augment human capacity. The Indian Government together with international development aid has already earmarked 10 million USD towards institutional and individual capacity building for urban transport over the coming years. However, capacity building can only be effective once the enabling institutional structure is in place.

How are some of the Indian cities responding the national government’s recommendations of revamping their governance structures for urban transport provisioning? How successful have attempts at creating single integrated urban transport governing bodies in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai been? What module should the smaller cities adopt? What could Indian cities learn from cities like Singapore and London, which offer successful examples of integrated planning and governance of urban transport services? This paper will address some of these questions and make recommendations on developing institutional frameworks that enable sustainable mobility and transport choices in cities. It will comment on the kinds of policy, regulatory, monetary, legislative and capacity related reforms that would be necessary to bring about governance systems that help achieve sustainable mobility conditions.