Why are we looking at cities for the big change? Our cities are on a toxic spiral, urged on by growing wastefulness, energy use and car centric mobility. As India is poised for an urban explosion defining the parameters of this growth becomes crucial. Can we make our cities livable? Make public health, urban design quality, equity and community well being the basis of this growth?
Amongst all the challenges that our cities face today, transport and mobility are certainly the most daunting. Growing affluence, increased car ownership, car oriented infrastructure, urban sprawl, are increasing the share of motorized trips and travel distances in our cities. This is marginalizing walking, cycling, bus hopping and increasing harmful and warming emissions. How do we break this spiral? Solutions lie in the way our cities are organized, and travel choices are made. It is important to act now when cities are expanding their infrastructure funding and discussing transportation policies at the national and local levels to decide the future mobility roadmap. While there are many common challenges across all cities, there are also unique imperatives at different strata of cities mega cities, second rung cities, small towns that must guide local action. We cannot afford to get this wrong.
But the contours of the future roadmap for any city can emerge from a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of the India’s urbanization, its trend, pattern and structure. In India the mega cities, the biggest part of the problem, have already begun to draw a lot of attention. But the next rung of cities are also emerging as the fastest growing urban centres bringing in its wake the problems of pollution, congestion and energy guzzling exactly like the mega cities. The problem is growing faster than their capacity to mitigate. These cities will have to act at the early stages of motorisation.