K. Ramachandran

Activists say it will further congest road space

It is directly against National Transport Policy: K.P. Subramaniam It will increase personalised transport, says M. G. Devasahayam, Report says car consumes five times more energy than a 52-seater bus with 82 p.c. average load factor

CHENNAI: The Union Finance Minister's announcement of a cut in the price of small cars has met with opposition from urban activists of Chennai.

Any cut in the price of small cars will translate into more cars on the road. This personalised transport system will further congest the already crowded road space and consequently further reduce use of and access to public transport.

As former Professor of Traffic and Urban Systems in Anna University, K.P. Subramaniam, notes, the policy of cutting car prices goes directly against the National Transport policy that directly calls for measures to encourage more people to use public transport and reduce personalised transport.

M. G. Devasahayam, Managing Trustee of SUSTAIN, an organisation that works for sustainable solutions to Chennai's urban growth problems, says there is little scope today for increasing road space.

"There is no effort by the Union or the State Government to optimise the existing road space and public transport system. In such a situation, a cut in small car prices will translate immediately into an increase in personalised transport." The price cut announced is clearly `anti-people' and anti-public transport, he says.

High-level committee

He also quotes figures from the Auto Fuel policy that was evolved in 2002 by a high-level committee headed by the CSIR chief R.A. Mashelkar.

The report pointed that to meet a kilometre of passenger travel demand, a car consumes nearly five times more energy than a 52-seater bus with 82 per cent average load factor. A two-wheeler consumes 2.6 times more energy than the bus.

In terms of fuel cost, it noted that the fuel cost of a car and a two-wheeler is 11.8 times and 6.8 times more than that of a public transport bus.

Referring to the shrinking road size, Mr. Devasahayam points to another factor that is an advantage for public transport.

A car occupies 38 times more road space compared to a bus for one passenger kilometre.

A two-wheeler's requirement of road space is even higher, being 54 times that of a bus.

The fuel policy report went on to add that improving buses and bus systems would play a central role in increasing the bus share of passenger travel in cities, "but unless strong policies to dampen the growth in scooters, motorcycles and cars are applied, it may be a losing battle." Activists note the policy wanted governments to come out with aggressive vehicle and vehicle ownership policy, strong land use controls, and strict parking policy to ensure a sustainable urban transport in future. Promoting public bus transport should be viewed as a priority in any strategy to improve urban road traffic and in controlling air pollution from automobiles. The country can ill afford the luxury of unchecked growth of private vehicles. The costs to the economy in terms of higher fuel consumption and to society in terms of health were significant enough to warrant urgent action, the activists say.