National Investment in Urban Transport – Towards People’s Cities through Land Use & Transport Integration



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National Investment in Urban Transport – Towards People’s Cities through Land Use & Transport Integration

A Report for Shakti Foundation

Prepared by:

Dario Hidalgo

Madhav Pai

Aileen Carrigan

Amit Bhatt

Benjamin Owen

February, 2011



  1. Executive Summary

India’s current national program to support urban sustainable transportation constitutes a very important advance, as it helps the cities with policies and funding for moving people, not vehicles. Nevertheless, it has not been enough to shift investment in the urban transport sector from road widening and road expansion to sustainable transport projects.

Based on interviews with several stakeholders, a literature review on the first Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), and our understanding of the urban characteristics and needs of Indian cities, we suggest four key improvements for the preparation of the 12th five year plan:



  • Reinforce the urban transport policy vision around the link between land use and transport. This allows the preservation of People’s cities in the built up areas and development of accessible, dense and mixed used new developments.

  • Advance the preparation and implementation of the Comprehensive Mobility Plans (CMPs), in close connection with the Master Plan and JnNURM budget allocations, to transform them from simple lists of projects and good will, to effective planning and monitoring instruments.

  • Introduce performance measurement of key transport indicators at the city wide level: people served, modal share, travel time, traffic fatalities and transport tailpipe emissions.

  • Develop capacity building programs for project planning and delivery at the city level and for evaluation and monitoring at the state and national level.

This document includes our assessment and suggestions for national investment policies in urban transport. The first chapter provides a background on Indian urban transport characteristics and trends. Currently Indian cities have high density and mixed use in most areas - more than 200 people/ha inside the cities’ administrative boundaries. They also exhibit a reasonable distribution of travel across different transport modes – close to 1/3 walking and biking, 1/3 in public transport and 1/3 in individual motor vehicles. Nevertheless, sprawl is happening in all cities, and individual motor vehicle trips are rapidly eroding the share of walking, biking and public transport trips. The existing mode shares need to be preserved in Indian cities to avoid a future with increasing energy consumption, chronic congestion, longer travel times, increasing traffic fatalities and unaffordable transport choices for the poor.

The second chapter includes an assessment of the urban transport component of JnNURM. Stakeholders interviewed for the preparation of this report agree that this mission has been very valuable in advancing the idea of moving people, not vehicles. But they also pointed areas of potential improvement, particularly in making the CMPs effective planning tools, not just a list of projects, and in the need to improve capacity at the local, state and national levels. These ideas are also confirmed by published evaluations of JnNURM reviewed for the preparation of this report. Recommendations for improving the current policies are diverse, and we used a selection of them in informing our suggestions.

In the third chapter we develop a vision for People’s Cities through land use and transport integration. We summarize this vision with the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework, and articulate differentiated actions for the existing built environment and the expected developments in the fringe of existing cities:




Existing Built Environment

Green Field Development

Avoid long and unnecessary travel

  • Zone for good density and mixed use inclusive of low income housing

Prevent Shift from walking and biking to individual motor vehicles

  • Improve/create safe walking and biking environments

  • Provide good quality and affordable public transport

  • Enhance intermediate public transport

  • Price ownership/use of private motor vehicles

Improve the operations and technologies of transport systems

  • Encourage low emission technologies

We also suggest adopting measurement of citywide impacts as standard practice, to focus on results rather than the supply side (i.e. kilometers of infrastructure, number of buses) or the disbursement of budget allocations. We recommend using simple indicators: people served, mode share, travel time, traffic fatalities and tailpipe emissions which can be obtained with low cost surveys, police and health system data, and simplified models.

The fourth chapter includes specific recommendations for improving the CMPs. From interviews and reviews we observe that CMPs have been a positive concept for advancing the transport planning process, but have typically been prepared with insufficient time and resources. As a result CMPs end up being a simple list of projects, rather than a holistic planning approach. We suggest improving the CMP structure, including monitoring, reporting and verification of key indicators (defined above), risk assessment and clear financing sources.

We consider that a results-oriented approach will encourage adequate actions beyond the sanctioned projects under the national program. We suggest:


  • Developing detailed guidelines for data collection, modeling and analysis

  • Training for people involved in estimation, monitoring, reporting and verification

  • Upgrading the national standards and guidelines on procedures, parameters and reporting requirements

  • Creating incentives for overall city performance (key indicators), for instance a phased disbursement of national funding conditioned on achieving planned goals

In the final chapter, we formulate recommendations for program Implementation, based on international best practices adapted to the Indian context. We use the experience of 13 countries with national programs to support urban transport, to recommend specific operational actions under three pillars:

  • Rationale. A proposed project should result from a clear definition of need and comparison of alternative strategies. It should also be appropriately scaled to solve the problem at hand, with costs and benefits compared. The technical evaluation process should be transparent and free of political influence.

  • Deliverability. A proposed project should not have significant outstanding risks that could threaten its successful implementation. Also, the project sponsor should have adequate capacity to implement the project – which depends on access to technical support from the national government and other institutions with mass transit expertise.

  • Local buy-in. A proposed project should be a priority for the local agencies that will implement and operate it. Local governments should therefore lead project planning and development and help to fund project implementation. Projects should also be consistent with – and ideally derived from – CMPs.

The report is accompanied by the list of people we interviewed and a summary of the main responses and list of references. We also show the application of key performance indicators in the Latin American context, and a selection of tools used in other countries for project and program appraisal.

We hope that this report contributes to the important debate around the national urban transport policies and instruments. We thank Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and Mr. Jamshyd Godrej for their support. The contents of this report are the responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the position of the funders and supporters.



  1. Background on Indian Urban Transport Trends

India is rapidly urbanizing. Between 1991 and 2011 urban population doubled, increasing from 100 million to 200 million (IIHS, 2011). Another 75 million are expected to live in cities by 2031.

Indian cities are dense and mostly mixed use, with 200 - 900 people per hectare within the city administrative boundary (IIHS, 2011).



Source: IIHS, 2011



Indian cities’ densities are very high compared with urban areas in the rest of the world. There are 6 Indian cities in the top 25 cities by density (City Mayors, 2007). It is important to note that 19 of the top 25 cities by density are in Asia - 32% in India and 32% in China, with Mumbai 1st and Kolkata 2nd.

Top 25 Largest Cities in the World by Density (people/km2)

Source: City Mayors, 2007



Nevertheless, low density sprawl (less than 40 people/ha) is happening in all India cities (IIHS, 2011).

Source: IIHS, 2011



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