A UN panel’s latest report on mitigation of climate change has Kolkata as a case study in shifting from private to public transport in Indian megacities. Urban mobility transitions in Kolkata show interconnected policy and institutional and socio-cultural drivers for socio-technical change, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its report titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.
“In densely-populated and fast-growing megacities, policymakers face the difficult challenge of preventing widespread adoption of petrol or diesel fueled private cars as a mode of transport. The megacity of Kolkata provides a useful case study. As many as 12 different modes of public transportation, each with its own system structure, actors and meanings co-exist and offer means of mobility to its 14 million citizens,” the IPCC report said.
Most of the public transport modes are shared mobility options, ranging from a few people in a rickshaw to hundreds in metro or suburban trains, according to the IPCC report.
An important policy consideration has been to make Kolkata’s mobility system more efficient and sustainable in terms of speed, reliability and avoidance of congestion, the report stated. A key role is played by the West Bengal government in collaboration with other stakeholders to improve the system as a whole and formalize certain semi-formal modes of transport.
It has initiated infrastructural change in public bus systems, coordinated with private and non-governmental actors like auto rickshaw operators and app-cab owners who hold crucial agency in offering public transport services in the city, it said.
Besides, new buses, including fuel-efficient, comfortable, and low-floor AC buses have been purchased by the public authorities in view of the city’s hot and humid climate. These have been promoted to middle-class workers in terms of modernity, improved efficiency and comfort with an objective of shifting perceptions of public transport. Rickshaws have been improved and cycling has been banned from busy roads. These measures have contributed positively in bringing down the trend of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross Domestic product to half in a decade within the Kolkata metropolitan area, with potential for further reduction, the IPCC report said.