The first edition of the Sustainable Urban Mobility (SUM) Congress will lead a global reflection on the future of mobility and ITDP India is excited be a part of it! Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia Programme Lead at ITDP, has been invited to participate in an expert panel discussion on the role of public policies and governance in shaping sustainable urban mobility systems. The Congress is being hosted in the city of Bilbao on 20 and 21 February.
Presently, Indian cities lack clarity on objective ‘decision-making’, based on data, that can fetch them the right results. In response to this, Shreya Gadepalli will draw light on a strategic approach—which emphasises on clarity and capital, capability and capacity, coordination and communication—to establish a system of rational decision-making that uses data combined with public consultations to arrive at appropriate decisions.
A key element of CLARITY is also the institution of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that can guide decision-making. The issue of CAPITAL is closely linked to clarity of vision. It is a bit of an enigma. When it comes to high-value projects like elevated roads and metro-rail projects, there’s never a dearth of capital. The drought of funds somehow arises when it comes to basics like Complete Streets, that pay as much attention to footpaths and cycling facilities as well as buses that ensure urban transport is affordable, accessible and most importantly, for the public.
In addition, money is more forthcoming for capital expenditure but very limited or almost missing when it comes to maintenance. Often, maintenance is done through serial asset replacement. But now, in a few places, things seem to be changing. Indian cities like Chennai and Pune, with technical assistance from the ITDP India Programme, have developed urban mobility policies that prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport.
Next in line are the twin issues of CAPABILITY and CAPACITY to plan, implement, manage, and monitor. Indian cities have a very thin layer of senior management sourced from a permanent cadre of civil servants. Capacity at the mid-management level to plan and implement is missing except for in the top few cities, and in these cities too, the capability, i.e., the necessary skills, is often marginal.
There is an urgent need to establish this capacity, not just in the sheer number of staff required at appropriate levels, but also augmenting their capacity to plan, implement, manage, and monitor the vision that has been established. ITDP has been at the forefront of this issue. It has developed easy to learn training programmes and has trained hundreds of municipal officers across India in planning and implementing sustainable mobility initiatives.
Further, it is now collaborating with the national Smart Cities Mission to guide the top 100 cities in developing Complete Streets, managing parking, and implementing a monitoring and evaluation system.
Last comes the vexing issues of inter-agency COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION. Authority is fragmented in more or less all cities of India. For example, metropolitan areas have multiple municipalities. Further, these municipalities have limited jurisdiction over issues of mobility. Often, key arterial streets are administered by provincial highways or public works departments. So are bus services. Heavy [sub]urban rail—where it exist—comes under the national railways.
Each one of these agencies has its own plans and budgets that do not communicate with the rest. Only now are some cities like Chennai—one of ITDP’s deep-dive cities—starting to institute unified metropolitan transport authorities.
Shreya Gadepalli will throw further light on these issues and speak about how progress is now being made across India.