A clutch of Indian cities with a population of over 500,000 will soon showcase the government’s ambitious project to promote public transport across the country. The pilot projects, to be carried out in select cities, will either be government funded or based on the public-private partnership model, depending on the merit of each case. State governments are expected to support the initiative.
In a letter to all states and Union territories last week, the Ministry of Urban Development has invited proposals to promote sustainability of habitats. ‘Green’ travel habits, including popularising the international concept of the shared bicycle scheme and a shift towards public transport, would form the core of the project, an official said.
Among the steps the government is looking at is introduction of a common mobility card to be used for all modes of travel — metro rail, bus rapid transit system (BRTS), city buses and suburban railway. The same card would be used for parking and toll. Under the National Mission for Sustainable Habitat (NMSH), the project will be taken up in some cities where a metro railway and BRTS are already in place or under implementation.
The Public Bicycle Scheme is another measure being planned for the demo project across select cities. A standard feature in most international cities, the scheme is about making bicycles available for shared use by individuals who do not own any. Publicly shared bicycles are a mobility service, mainly useful in an urban environment for proximity travels. Barcelona’s ‘Bicing’ scheme and London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ are especially popular.
Besides, a passenger information system is being planned at bus stations in these cities, where electronic display boards would show the next time of arrival. According to the ministry’s letter to the states, information on bus arrival time would also be offered through SMSes and emails on request.
To make the projects successful, the government also plans to integrate the inter-state rail-road transport with the urban transport system. Selection of the pilot runs would be based on the willingness of the city or urban local authorities to have complete ownership of the project. Other factors include the need, demonstration effect, preparedness to take up the project, and commitment to pool necessary resources.