By Ankit Mahajan
India is sitting on a time-bomb about to burst due to high population growth, rising income, and urbanization. Already a third of India’s population lives in urban areas. By 2030, seven of India’s most populated cities will be accommodating more than 10 million people each. By 2050, half of India’s population is projected to reside in cities.
This has an impact on road safety; vehicle ownership; travel, and freight transport demand. Already according to a recent WHO study fourteen Indian cities are amongst the most polluted cities in the world. The average speed for vehicles in some metros is as low as 17 km/h.
An increasing number of private and motorized transport vehicles are the leading cause of chaos, confusion, and congestion leading to poor air quality, noise, and congestion in urban India. Finding a space for parking is a major problem in a number of cities in India which have narrow congested streets with high population density.
The answer lies in shared mobility – which means collective and shared use of a car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, or other modes of travel. Shared mobility reduces the cost of transportation as users pay for transportation when needed. In the U.S.A, vehicle ownership is the second highest annual expense for an average household, in spite of this, the vehicles are underutilized, and parked around 95% of their lifetime.
According to a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University in New York City, 3,000 shared 4-passenger vehicles could meet the demand served by 13,000 taxis. Each of these shared vehicles had the potential to remove around 9 – 13 other vehicles on road. This reduction of the number of vehicles on the road has the potential to reduce congestion, and save time, fuel and money due to fewer vehicle kilometers traveled.
In the days to come, even today – shared mobility is the cure for the mess that we have created for ourselves. Let’s face facts, the transportation sector in India is responsible for 18% of commercial energy consumption, and a leading cause for oil imports. As things stand, India imports 80% of its oil at a cost of well over Rs. 4.2 lakh crore.
Almost every house owner in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore thinks that he owns the adjacent road and has a right to park his vehicle on the public space meant for pedestrians, cyclists and other commuters. This leads to a serious parking crunch, and obstruction in the movement of – ambulances, fire engines, and other such emergency vehicles.
The answer lies in shared mobility, which means the movement of more people and goods in the same vehicle/vehicle kilometer traveled. Transition to shared mobility can help India reduce vehicle kilometer demand by 35%, due to an increase in occupancy of passenger vehicles.
Shared mobility has a number of potential benefits, like higher asset utilization and improved connectivity. Unlike private vehicles which are often lying idle, or having low occupancy, shared vehicles are better utilized, with more passengers and goods in available vehicle space and higher utilization, leading to a reduction in total vehicle kilometer traveled, lower fuel consumption, reduced emissions and lower cost of transportation. Shared mobility has the potential to bring about an affordable, reliable, clean, and efficient transportation eco-system.
The concept behind shared mobility is to move people, not vehicles. Shared mobility is a step forward to manage the demand for road space.