The 2011 Census data rounds Maharashtra’s urban population at 50.8 million. Comparatively, the combined population of the Nordic nations and Australia is pegged at around 51 million (2016 estimates). Safe to assume that Maharashtra’s urban population has far surpassed the latter. Considered to be the most densely urbanised Indian state, it’s 15% contribution to the GDP powers the country’s economy.
With high levels of population density comes equally skewed inequality ratios. This prejudice is most noticeable in the state’s urban transport systems. Maharashtra recorded 35,000 accidents cases and 13,000 road fatalities in 2017; these and past figures have ensured the state features in the top-end of the national list. Though Maharashtra government has made attempts to develop transport systems, urban mobility is a tough beast to tame.
Now, it’s uncertain which straw broke the camel’s back, but the state government showed its willingness to change and has channeled funds towards walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure.
In its effort to help develop sustainable transport policies and designs, the government engaged with the ITDP India Programme. One of its earliest flagship project was the Rainbow Bus Rapid Transit. A first of its kind in the state, the bus rapid transit was launched in Pune, which also services its twin city Pimpri-Chinchwad, in 2015. Now covering a network of 50 km, the project thrust sustainable mobility into the limelight and opened doors to similar projects to be part of the state’s design culture.
Eager to maintain this rhythm, the Pune Corporation begun work on revamping its streets, to make it more people-friendly. Hence, next in line was the Complete Streets Programme. After the phenomenal success of the first phase—on JM Road and DP Road—the project has seen a steady interest and expansion to other sections such as Satara Road, Solapur Road, Karve Road, and many others.
Impressed by the execution, even other Maharashtrian cities have adopted the programme. These include: Pimpri-Chinchwad’s Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) Master Plan, Nashik’s Complete Streets Pilot and Mumbai Metropolitan Area NMT Master Plan.
Eager to further its sustainable transport practices, Maharashtra synthesized the guidelines of the National Urban Transport Policy with its Maharashtra Urban Mobility Policy. It was reviewed by the ITDP India Programme, in consultation with its stakeholders. Touted to be a game changer, the policy will improve urban transit systems to reduce burden on resources and most importantly, offer an equal space to every commuter. Hence, facilitating walking, cycling, and usage of public transport.
Maharashtra is definitely a state which woke up in time to ride the tide of change. The state’s work on sustainability in urban mobility has already paved the way for other Indian states to take heed to.
True to its tagline, Maharashtra is a land of ‘unlimited opportunities’ and its work in sustainable urban transport cements its appeal.