Regulatory hurdles and urban transport

India's Transport System caters to the need of a large number of people. So, despite the increasing levels of urban mobility in Indian cities, access to places, activities and services is becoming increasingly difficult in terms of convenience, cost and time. In fact, present levels of urban mobility are already generating a crisis situation characterized by high levels of congestion, environmental pollution, traffic fatalities and inequity eventually leading to a situation of undesired accessibility crisis. The other big problem with urban transport system is the delay in the urban projects for which many reasons are there ranging from multiple body clearance, lack of availability of finances and clearance and other hurdles. Of these, regulatory hurdles pose a big problem and seem to be coming in the way of fast implementation of new mass public transport projects, including metro rail systems and mass transit system.

Urban Transport Issues: 

The various transport problems in case of India can be discussed as:

a) Road congestion 

b) Parking problems

c) Air pollution

d) Deteriorating road safety

e) Lack of regulatory clearances

f) Lack of finance

Challenges in urban transport:

a) Gaps in Laws and Regulations: Presently, there is no legislation at central, state or local level that comprehensively covers urban transport requirements of Indian cities. The current systems of laws,regulations and governance for urban transport are the legacy of British era. Fragmentation or overlap of legislations poses 2 challenges that constrain the ability to effectively manage the problems of urban transport. Firstly, it leads to incoherence in the policy framework given the many different goals for which laws are enacted. And, secondly, it reflects in the timing, coordination and treatment of how states and cities approach a particular problem.

b) Fragmented Institutional Frameworks: Urban transport systems require several functions to be performed in a well-coordinated manner. Unfortunately, these are performed by multiple agencies under the central, state and city governments which do not necessarily work together.  There is a lack of horizontal and vertical coordination among these agencies at central, state and local levels, making accountability very difficult. Apparently, there is an absence of any effective coordinating agency where urban transport and land use plans can be formulated and integrated keeping an overall goal in mind. Another weakness is the limited authority delegated at the local city level which needs to be looked into.

c) Distorted land markets affecting transport infrastructure development: Very high costs of land acquisition along with arduous and time-consuming processes are a major barrier for planning integrated urban transport infrastructure.

d) Lack of comprehensive design standards for transport infrastructure: Common standards for design, operation and maintenance of transport infrastructure and rolling stock are relatively absent in India. Even if there are existing standards for road construction or metro systems, they are not mandatorily applied during design and construction. Except for road and conventional rail infrastructure systems, the design, operation and maintenance standards for mass transit technologies such as metro, light rail, mono rail or Bus Rapid Transport Systems are non-existent.

e) Human Resource challenges: Most of the state and city level agencies dealing with urban transport planning and provision have typically suffered from overstaffing of untrained, unskilled manpower on the one hand and shortage of qualified technical staff and managerial supervisors on the other which also is a big challenge for urban transport sector. 

f) Finance: The low availability of funds with agencies is another challenge. Due to lack of funds the projects are delayed which further adds to the problem of congestion and poor maintainance of the roads.

g) Lack of coordination: Another key reason for the enormous delays in building public transport is the lack of coordination among the various agencies implementing the projects and those according approvals. There are multiple agencies in each city, which handle project-related work or award approvals which act as an obstacle in the projects. 

Proposed Policy Reforms:

The problem lies in identifying, implementing and monitoring policy measures that are effective in addressing specific issues in a synchronised and coordinated way by the various agencies involved in urban transport. So in the context of various problems faced by the transport sector, proposed policy reforms can be discussed as: 

a) Re-aligning legal and regulatory instruments:   A comprehensive urban transport act should be enacted by each state defining the roles and responsibilities of the multiple city and state level authorities with regard to public transport, land use and public transport integration, safety etc. For this purpose, a model law could be developed by the central government which could be adapted by state governments for their state.

b) Institutional Restructuring: Innovative ideas and integrated policies towards sustainable transport need strong supporting institutional and governance structures. Political will, sound leadership, transparency, adequate resources and accountability are essential in timely implementation of effective policy interventions that eventually ensure public trust. 

c) Coordination between various agencies: it is necessary to make the various processes simple and the regulatory mechanisms should be simplified so that the process becomes easy and transparent.

 If these measures are taken and effectively implemented then the various problems in urban transport could be solved. These steps are necessary to cater to the needs of large number of people and to make mobility in urban areas an easy and convenient process.