THE URBAN COMMUTE

August 24, 2018

AND HOW IT CONTRIBUTES TO POLLUTION AND ENERGY CONSUMPTION

A CSE analysis and ranking of 14 cities in India

This is a compelling question today as travel demand grows in cities, and motorization explodes on them with growing automobile dependence. Cities are facing the daunting challenge of meeting clean air standards, climate mitigation targets and the Sustainable Development Goals. The urban commute—a city dweller’s use of vehicles and transportation modes for daily travel—has become one of the most energy- and pollution-intensive activities; arresting and reversing the trends in emissions and energy consumption now pose a difficult challenge. Yet, without addressing this, no city can meet its sustainability targets.

While some cities have begun taking mitigation action, there is no clear policy yet about the level of stringency and the cuts in emissions that are needed. Are cities on the right track to achieve reduction in emissions and energy guzzling? Even the extent of cuts needed across cities varies, as this depends on the level of lock-in of energy intensity and the toxic pollution that have already happened in a city due to motorization, nature of daily commuting practices and transportation infrastructure. Any review of mitigation action on urban commuting in cities shows very small and cosmetic efforts that are incapable of effecting any major shift towards sustainable modes of travel—use of public transport, walking and cycling and restraint on personal vehicle usage—or even the retention of these modes. Are cities even prepared to at least first protect the current ridership of these sustainable modes, and then to double their modal share?