...while 70% of Mumbai roads are occupied by private vehicles, carrying just 8% of travellers
Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has unwittingly or otherwise dashed Mumbai's dream of becoming a world-class city. The road to becoming one is mass transport system. Recently, the MMRDA had cleared 36 proposals, totalling around Rs7,000 crore, in a single sitting. There was not even one mass public transport project on the agenda.
People from Mumbai and its outskirts -- the region under MMRDA purview -- are heavily dependent on suburban rail transport, along with the bus network. Every day, in Mumbai alone, 10 million people travel by suburban trains and buses.
According to a senior MMRDA planner, methodical and systematic development of urban mass transport in the city is still a distant dream. A city like Seoul, with an equivalent population, has more than 10,000 government buses plying on its roads. There are hardly 3,500 BEST buses for a population of over one crore. And there are just 1,500 buses running in the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR).
Autorickshaws are a major hindrance in traffic discipline in Mumbai. Bangalore curbed the menace by implementing a system of dedicated auto lanes — which can be tried out in Mumbai as well.
The city has a coastline that can be utilised for mass transportation from the eastern and western suburbs to the city. Unfortunately, government machinery has been slow in implementing this system.
"If the central government can provide Rs650 crore just to fill the viability gap of Mumbai Metro, why is so much apathy being shown towards water transport?" a senior MMRDA official questioned. "Once Mumbai has metro and monorail systems in place, commuters will be divided in classes. But this is going to take a lot of time. Till then, mass transport will remain a mess for Mumbai," the official added.
According to transport expert Ashok Datar, mass transport has been overlooked by most government bodies. "In Mumbai, BEST buses occupy only 12% space on the roads, but almost 60% Mumbaikars travel by bus. And although 70% of road space is occupied by private vehicles, they carry only 8% of travellers. Mumbai needs an efficient public transport system. But MMRDA officials do not seem to agree," Datar said. "Though MMRDA claims it does not collect taxes from common Mumbaikars, they cannot forget that all government land here belongs to the people. The money earned from the sale of FSI also belongs to the common people. The MMRDA is just thinking about motorists when planning new road projects."