National Investment in Urban Transport in India

Towards people's cities through land use and transport integration

Based on interviews with several stakeholders; a literature review on the first Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM); and consideration of the urban characteristics and transport needs of Indian cities, this report concludes that four key improvements are needed for the preparation of the 12th Five Year Plan and includes an assessment of and suggestions for national investment policies in urban transport.


Executive Summary

Between 2005 and 2012, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) has invested US$20billion in urban infrastructure (including transport) and basic services to the urban poor. JnNURM is a very important advance, as it helps the cities with policies and funding for moving people, not vehicles. Nevertheless, it has not sufficiently shifted investment in the urban transport sector from road widening and road expansion to sustainable transport.

Based on interviews with several stakeholders, a literature review on the first Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), and consideration of the urban characteristics and transport needs of Indian cities, this report concludes four key improvements are needed for the preparation of the 12th five year plan:

  1. Reinforce the link between land use and transport in the urban transport policy vision. This will allow the preservation of People’s Cities in the existing urban areas and development of new accessible, dense and mixed used developments.
  2. Advance the preparation and implementation of the Comprehensive Mobility Plans (CMPs) as a required part Master Plans and align with the JnNURM budget allocations, to transform the CMPs from simple lists of projects and good will, to effective planning and monitoring instruments.
  3. Introduce performance measurement of key transport indicators at the city wide level: people served, modal share, travel time, traffic fatalities and transport tailpipe emissions.
  4. Develop capacity building programs for project planning and delivery at the city level and for evaluation and monitoring at the state and national level.
  5. Improve program implementation by providing requiring clear rationale for projects, improving deliverability and ensuring local support for projects.

This document includes an assessment of 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 (more than 200 people per hectare inside the cities’ administrative boundaries) and mixed use in most areas. 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, all cities are experiencing sprawl, and individual motor vehicle trips are rapidly eroding the share of walking, biking and public transport trips. Indian cities need to preserve the existing mode shares 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 indicated that this mission has been very valuable in advancing the idea of moving people, not vehicles. But they also suggested areas of potential improvement, including making the CMPs effective planning tools, not just lists of projects. The need to improve capacity at the local, state and national levels was also highlighted. These ideas are also supported by published evaluations of JnNURM. Recommendations for improving the current policies are diverse, and a selection of them informing the suggestions in this report.

The third chapter details a vision for People’s Cities through integrated land use and transport planning. This vision is summarized with the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework, and articulates differentiated actions for the existing built environment and expected urban fringe developments. It is suggested that measuring citywide impacts becomes standard practice, to focus on results rather than infrastructure supply (i.e. kilometers of infrastructure, number of buses) or funding disbursement. Simple indicators (i.e. people served, mode share, travel time, traffic fatalities and tailpipe emissions) are recommended which can be monitored with data collected through low-cost surveys, police and health records, and simplified models.

The fourth chapter includes specific recommendations for improving the CMPs. Expert interviews and the literature review indicate 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 are typically a simple list of projects, rather than a holistic planning strategy. Improvements to the CMP structure are offered, including monitoring, reporting and verification of key indicators (defined above), risk assessment and clear financing sources.

A results-oriented approach will encourage adequate actions beyond the sanctioned projects under the national program by:

  • 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), such as a phased disbursement of national funding conditioned on achieving planned goals

In the final chapter, recommendations for program Implementation are formulated based on international best practices adapted to the Indian context. The authors drawn from experiences of 13 countries with national programs to support urban transport recommends for specific operational actions under three pillars:

  • Define project 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.
  • Ensure 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 public transport expertise.
  • Facilitate 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. Funded projects should also be consistent with – and ideally derived from – CMPs.

The assessment provided here coincides with several reviews and opinions. There seems to be a broad support in the technical community to the type of recommendations included in this report. Nevertheless, actions to solve the issues indicated here are only happening at a limited scale. Change in paradigms is needed and capacity building will play a big role, along stronger regulations. Improvements in the new national program are expected, and this report is intended to help in that process.

Stay Connected

Sign up for updates

Register to Receive Our News and Announcements Subscribe