Toward Sustainable Mobility in Urban India

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, policy - congestion, policy - sustainable, organisation - management, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - mass transit, mode - bus rapid transit


Urban areas, Transportation policy, Transportation control measures, Transit, Traffic congestion, Sustainable development, Sustainability, Smog control, Public transit, Mobility, Mass transit, Local transit, Infrastructure, India, Highways, Gridlock (Traffic), Emission control, Cities, Bus rapid transit, Air quality management, Air pollution control, Air pollution, Air pollutants


With rapid growth in the number of personal motor vehicles, Indian cities have been facing increasing congestion and worsening air quality. Yet until early 2005 little attention was paid to this problem, and remedial measures were focused largely on overpasses and new roadway capacity. Only Delhi, Calcutta, and Chennai had built functioning metro rail systems. However, by the second half of 2006, barely a year and a half later, the situation changed considerably, and public transport became the focus of attention in most large and medium-sized cities. This paper looks at the national initiatives that helped bring about those changes. The adoption of a national urban transport policy along with the launching of a national urban renewal mission with a sizable commitment of funds helped focus attention on improving public transportation. These were supplemented by a series of well-conceived and-planned initiatives, again led by the national government, to generate more widespread awareness of urban mobility problems and how they could be successfully addressed. The results were visible in a mere 18 months, by which time several cities had already formulated plans for significantly improved public transport and the first incremental phase of what will be India’s first bus rapid transit system had become operational.