Urban Mobility: Trends, Challenges, Opportunities

Growing urban population and rapidly growing cities in emerging countries has given rise to a lot of problems and hence opportunities in the urban mobility space. For entrepreneurs and policy makers, these growing trends present challenges that need immediate action and solution. The biggest problems in urban mobility today are affordable public transport, traffic management, enabling multi modal transport and ensuring a safe commute for everyone.

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Image: New Delhi, 2014

 

If we take a closer look at the urban transport landscape, we understand that it’s quite a complex and diverse system. The focus of urban planners or designers in such a system is always based on certain trends. For example, if we look at Bangalore, the key focus of urban planners twenty years back was to build bigger roads and fly overs so as to accommodate more cars on roads. Then about ten years back, the focus shifted to establishing mass transit systems like the metro and sub urban rail. Recent trends show us that the focus of today’s planners is towards pedestrians and cyclists. We’ve seen roads becoming smaller and pedestrian foot paths getting bigger. We’re seeing the growth in the number of pedestrian over bridges and separate lane for cyclists. Present day trends¬†especially the one’s from Europe suggest that the future might be car-free neighborhoods, more affordable and sustainable public transport and even massive bike sharing systems across the city.

It get’s even better when we talk of the massive businesses that can be based on these challenges of urban transport. Hailing a taxi today has become easier and more affordable and it’s also providing better livelihood options to many. It’s usually one idea that’s executed well in the west that is later copied, adapted or brought here to India. We’ve just begun exploring wide range of possibilities provided by such big operations. Today, using similar processes we’re achieving better logistics and delivery of food, groceries etc.

It’s not always easy to adapt an idea and bring it efficiently to India. Mass transit and bus services similar to Leaptransit or Bridj could work in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad etc. But the laws involved and the permissions required are quite complicated. Such opportunities are also not limited to private entrepreneurs, government corporations could also take an initiative, provide such services and add another strong revenue stream. For example, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation started a taxi aggregator service for airport service.

There are a few companies that try to do something in this space but are either ahead of their time or are not executing well. Bike sharing systems have been introduced a few years back and are yet to gain traction. May be the infrastructure, the mindset is not ready yet. Similarly, Bla Bla Car hasn’t been able to gain as much attention as Zoomcar, may be because people feel it’s not safe or just because they’re shy and do not want to share a car.

However, the future looks bright. More population in cities, more complex transport systems and more challenges for the Government and Entrepreneurs to solve.