Buses, mobility transition and climate change

This is a story broadcast in the Konkani News Bulletin of Doordarshan Kendra, Panaji, on 28th February, 2013.

Transport sector accounts for about 25% of world energy use and contributes around 30% to GHG emissions. Road transport accounts for almost 90% of all emissions of the transport sector.  The private car is the largest contributor to a household’s carbon footprint.  Using public transport is one of the most effective ways an individual can fight against climate change.  Goa however is on a totally different trajectory from the climate change perspective – with around 8.6 lakh vehicles for a population of around 14.6 lakh, there is a vehicle for every second person in Goa!.:


Translation of the text:

A poorly serviced, unreliable and time-exhausting public transport system is one of the main reasons for the ubiquitous use of private transport in Goa.  In 2011-2012 alone  around 75000 vehicles were registered with the State Transport Department, out of which around 80% were non-transport vehicles, of which over 70% were two-wheelers.  Research has shown that energy consumption in motorised individual passenger traffic is upto 10 times as high as in a well-organised demand-oriented public transport system.

Buses play a critical role in the mobility transition, specially in urban areas.   While occupying twice the road space taken by a car, buses can ferry 40 times the number of passengers, and can displace anywhere between 5 and 50 vehicles with enormous savings in pollution and carbon emissions.  The Union Finance  Ministry  has set a benchmark of 60 buses per lakh population for 4 million-plus cities to make the public transport system reliable and efficient.  A good public transport system also promotes equity as the poor are most dependent on affordable and cheap public transport to access jobs and services.  However most state transport corporations suffer from enormous backlog of losses and inefficiency resulting in plunging passenger volumes and deplorable service quality.

Setting up a reliable and credible public transport system requires massive investment in renewal and modernisation of fleet, including setting up Rapid Transit Systems which can haul large numbers of passengers. The JNNURM has already catalysed Central Govt investment in bus rolling stock, specially low-floor buses required for level boarding.  Besides investment, a host of operational changes like setting up of a control room to function as a time-table controlling tool, improving fare-collection, improved passenger services like electronic display of bus-timings, routes,electronic issue of tickets, etc.are badly needed.

Recognising the potential of a well-organised  public transport system for efficient mobility as well as for reducing pollution and carbon emissions, Goa state-owned Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC) is revamping its services.  More than 100 new fuel-efficient buses are being purchased to replace the older fleet, while other measures like adoption of new routes, seasonal bus passes for daily commuters and students at discounted rates, introduction of hand-held electronic ticket-issuing machines for on-the-spot issue of tickets, etc. have been introduced.

Says Derrick Pereira, Managing Director of KTC  “Tax burden on public transport vehicles is excessive.  In most Indian cities the tax burden is almost 2.6 times higher for public transport buses than private cars,  which amounts to a perverse incentive against public transport” .  Obviously this trend has to be reversed to stimulate investment in buses and discourage usage of private cars.  Government have to work on a combination of strategies to lure the public away from individualised transport and make public transport a viable mobility mode.

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