Building the Transit Metropolis

By Madhav Pai

, by India together

As the most significant region yet to be urbanised, India presents a unique opportunity for capturing impacts of urbanisation on the spatial dimension, writes Madhav Pai.

India will be the one of the last major countries in the world to experience the urbanization of its population. In 2001, 28 per cent of India’s people lived in its cities. By 2040, this is expected to rise to 40 per cent. This means that an additional 300 million people - approximately equal to the current population of the United States - will call urban India home.

The immense scale of this urban demographic shift also means that Indian cities will expand physically - by 200 to 400 per cent in area over the next two decades. This spatial expansion is inevitable. The question is: can we limit it to 200 per cent, or will we repeat the urbanization process seen in the majority of world cities, and expand by 400 per cent? And what is the role of urban transport in deciding the answer to this question?

The city of Ahmedabad is projected to grow from 5.4 million people in 2001 to 13.2 million in 2041. The illustration shown below presents results from an analysis measuring the impact of the eventual area of the city on externalities from urban transport. Two different scenarios are presented. The first one, called "automobility", envisioned a future of low density sprawl where private motor vehicles are the chief means of transport. In the second scenario, called "sustainable transport", a denser cityscape made possible by high quality public transport was assumed.

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