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PERSPECTIVES

Can We Reduce the Rate


of Growth of Car Ownership?
Akshima T Ghate, S Sundar

The average level of ownership of


cars in India, currently 13 per
1,000 population, is expected to
grow exponentially. Estimating
the average level of ownership in
2025 at 35 per 1,000, this article
points out that the growing
number of cars has serious
implications for energy security,
air pollution, road safety, and
equitable allocation of road space,
and argues that there is an urgent
need for India to learn from the
experiences of cities that have
decoupled car ownership from
economic growth, and reduce
the rate of growth of car
ownership in India.

Akshima T Ghate (akshima@teri.res.in) is with


the Centre for Research on Sustainable Urban
Development and Transport Systems,
Sustainable Habitat Division, The Energy and
Resources Institute, New Delhi. S Sundar
(ssundar@teri.res.in) is with The Energy and
Resources Institute, and is HUDCO Chair
Professor, TERI University.

32

an we reduce the rate of growth


of car ownership in India? The
likely answer will be an emphatic
no from those whose incomes are rising
and who aspire to own a car. Owning a
car is aspirational and also a status symbol. A study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has shown that
when per capita income grows by 1%,
the level of car ownership grows by
1.7% (TERI 2006a). Also, as incomes
rise, those in the upper middle class
who already own a car are likely to buy
a second or a third. This is what happened in the developed countries of the
world and is happening in the other
emerging countries. There is no reason
why this will not happen in India.
Besides, we are allowing our cities to
become urban sprawls and doing little
to integrate land use with transport
planning, thereby encouraging our cities
to become car dependent.
India has also emerged as a major
market for cars. Almost all the major automakers from across the world are manufacturing cars in India; from about 0.2
million cars manufactured in India in
1991, about three million cars are being
manufactured today (SIAM various years).
The government envisages India to
become the global hub for the manufacture and export of small cars; this necessarily requires strong support from the
domestic market. In fact, the Automotive Mission Plan 2006-16 of the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises expects the domestic market for
small cars to grow even as the National
Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) discourages the use of personal vehicles and encourages a shift to public transport. Public policies are skewed in favour of personal cars as opposed to public transport
and non-motorised transport (NMT);
they encourage easy ownership of cars
June 8, 2013

and do not require car owners to pay for


the externalities of car use.
Level of Car Ownership, 2025
Today in India, the average level of car
ownership is 13 per 1,000 population
and of two-wheelers, 84 per 1,000 (GOI
2011; MORTH 2012). The average level of
car ownership of 13 per 1,000 by itself
may not seem high. However, it has to be
recognised that this average is a result of
some cities like Delhi, Chennai, and
Coimbatore owning more than 100 cars
per 1,000. While it is widely accepted
that increase in car ownership will be inevitable with economic growth and
some might even argue that growth in
car ownership is desirable, it is important to come to grips with the rate at
which car ownership will grow and the
number of cars that will ply on Indias
roads in 2025.
The authors took a random sample of
countries with different levels of per
capita gross domestic product (GDP) in
2009 and plotted the pattern of car
ownership in those countries (Figure 1,
p 33).1 The exercise reveals that in countries with per capita GDP between $600
and $2,500, the average car ownership
was about 18 cars per 1,000 persons.
India belonged to this group of countries
in 2009 with a per capita GDP level of
$1,127 and an ownership level of 12 cars
per 1,000 population. It also reveals
that the average level of ownership of
cars increases to around 85 per 1,000 in
countries in the next higher income
bracket, i e, countries with per capita
GDP ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, an
increase of almost five times. India will
enter this bracket of countries in the next
10-15 years with a likely increase of
about four to five times in the level of
car ownership.
With an average annual growth of
7.5%,3 Indias per capita GDP will be
around $3,500 in 2025, which is the
level at which China was in 2009.4 If by
2025 we reach the Chinese car ownership level in 2009, we would have 34
cars per 1,000 population, i e, about
47 million cars on Indias roads by 2025
as compared to 15 million cars in 2011.5
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Figure 1: Car Ownership in Countries at Different Levels of Economic Growth

Passenger car ownership per 1,000 population

600
503

500
400

400
286

300
187

200

153
85

100
18

0
0

5000

10,000

15,000

20,000
25,000
30,000
GDP per capita in current $

35,000

40,000

45,000

Source: Authors2

This would imply an addition of about


32 million new cars between 2011 and
2025 or an increase of about 2.3 million
cars per year between 2011 and 2025.
The number may seem way too high
to be added just in a matter of the
next 12 years, but this increase is not
unrealistic if past trends are to be a
guide. We have added more cars in
the last decade (2001-11) than we did
over the first five decades since Independence (1951-2000); 8.5 million cars
were added between 2001 and 2011 as
compared to seven million cars from
1951 to 2000 (MORTH various years).
The first year of this decade (2010-11)
alone has seen an addition of nearly
two million new cars.
The current trends in car sales and
projections into the future on the basis
of these trends also indicate that it
would not be unrealistic to project the
number of cars on Indias roads at
around 47 million by 2025. In fact, this
may be a conservative estimate if we
consider the sales trends. About 2.5 million cars were sold in the country in
2010-11,6 and even if this sales volume
was to grow at an average growth rate of
about 5% annually till 2025, which is
low, it would lead to an addition of about
51 million new cars by 2025.
Most countries have a policy for phasing out old cars, usually 15 years old, and
scrapping them. India has no such policy.
However, the Motor Vehicles Act requires
passenger cars to undergo fitness tests
after 15 years and then be re-registered.
As most cars after 15 years are not
re-registered, there are no reliable
Economic & Political Weekly

EPW

June 8, 2013

statistics as to how many of them have


been taken off the roads. Assuming that
about 50% (7.5 million) of the cars that
were registered till 2011 (15 million) and
would be completing 15 years by 2025
are taken off the roads, and the remaining 50% are re-registered, then we
would have nearly 59 million cars plying
on our roads, i e, an ownership level of
about 42 cars per 1,000 population.
Another way to estimate the likely
growth in the number of cars is to
project the increase in the number of
middle-class households who have the
capacity to buy a car, and on that basis,
estimate the likely growth in car
ownership. McKinsey Global Institute
(2007) projects that by 2025, we will
have about 128 million middle-class7
households as compared to 13 million in
2005, and that 25% or 33.1 million of
these 128 million middle income households will have an annual income between Rs 5 lakh and 10 lakh8 as compared to 2.4 million households in this
category in 2005. And, if the newly
emerging 31 million households in this
income bracket were to own at least one
car per household then around 31 million new cars would be added between
2005 and 2025.
Car ownership will also go up on
account of increase in the number of
richer households, i e, households with
an annual income more than Rs 10 lakh.
8.3 million new households are expected
to be added to this category between
2005 and 2025, and if each of these
households was to buy a second car, the
number of additional cars would be

vol xlviII no 23

about eight million, taking the total


number of cars added to Indias roads to
39 million by 2025.
Thus, whatever the methodology used
to project the number of cars in India by
2025, an addition of at least 30 million
new cars or 35 cars/1,000 population
seems inevitable. These estimates are
also close to the estimates made by others. For instance, ADB (2006) estimates
car ownership level for India as 30 cars
per 1,000 persons in 2025.9
These numbers can be expected to increase dramatically if Indias per capita
income reaches levels higher than those
used in these estimates. As per Chamon
et al (2008: 243), car ownership is low
up to per capita incomes of about USD
5,00010 and then takes off very rapidly.
This exponential growth in the number
of cars on Indias roads would have major
implications for Indias energy security,
contribution to global carbon dioxide
(CO2), air and noise pollution in Indian
cities, traffic-related morbidity and mortality, increased travel time, etc.
These implications are almost palpable in some of our cities where the current level of car ownership is higher
than the projected level of 35 cars per
1,000 population in 2025. Delhi has an
ownership level of 157 cars per 1,000
population, followed by Chennai (127)
and Coimbatore (125), while cities like
Pune (92 cars per 1,000 population),
Thane (98), Bangalore (85), and Hyderabad (72) are fast approaching the 100
cars per 1,000 population mark (GoI
2011; MoRTH 2012). Figure 2 (p 34) shows
car ownership levels in 39 out of the 53
million-plus cities in 2011 for which data
is available. It would be seen that already 30 cities have an ownership level
above 35 cars per 1,000.
Implications of Unfettered Growth
Implications for Energy Security: The
transport sector in India consumes
about 18% of Indias commercial energy,
second only to industry, which consumes about 42% (TERI 2012). The sector
is the largest consumer of petroleum
products at 55%,12 with 98% of transport
fuel being petroleum products and electricity accounting for the remaining 2%
33

PERSPECTIVES

are low, leading to higher fuel consumption. In Delhi alone, it has been estimated
that the fuel loss due to idling of vehicles
is more than Rs 1,000 crore per annum.14
Slow speeds also lead to increase in travel time, resulting in loss of productivity.

Figure 2: Car Ownership Levels in 39 Out of 53 Million-Plus Cities in 2011 for Which Data Is Available
Delhi
Chennai
Coimbatore
Thane
Pune
Bangalore
Hyderabad
Jaipur
Navi Mumbai
Indore
Vadodra
Lucknow
Pimpri Chinchwad
Allahabad
Ghaziabad
Patna
Jodhpur
Bhopal
Srinagar
Greater Mumbai
Kolkata
Ahmedabad
Madurai
Nagpur
Visakhapatnam
Vijaywada
Raipur
Meerut
Kanpur
Jabalpur
Varanasi
Kota
Agra
Gwalior
Nashik
Surat
Kalyan/Dombivali
Solapur
Aurangabad

Expected average car ownership level in India in 2025

35

70
Cars per 1,000 population

105

140

175

Source: Authors.11

Figure 3: Average Journey Speeds on Major Corridors during Peak Hours in Select Cities in 2007
Minimum 16 Kmph
Average 22 Kmph
Maximum 30 Kmph

Cities with car ownership levels above 35 cars/1,000 population


typically have slow speeds

Average journey speed on major


corridors (KMPH)

30

25

20

15

Mumbai

Delhi

Kolkata

Chennai

Bangalore

Hyderabad

Pune

Ahmedabad

Surat

Jaipur

Kanpur

Nagpur

Varanasi

Kochi

Patna

Agra

Bhopal

Madurai

Amritsar

Thiruvananthapuram

Guwahati

Chandigarh

Hubli-Dharward

Rajpur

Bhubaneswar

Bikaner

Puducherry

Panaji

Shimla

Gangtok

10

Source: MoUD and WSA (2008).

(TERI 2012). Of the 204 million tonnes


crude oil processed in the country in
2011-12, about 85% (172 million tonnes)
was imported at a cost of Rs 6,72,220
crore.13 This dependence on imports is
expected to increase to 90% of the 757
million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe)
by 2030 (TERI 2006b). This increased
dependence on imports, driven largely
by the transport sector would pose a
serious threat to Indias energy security.
This threat would be further aggravated
by the geopolitical instability in the
34

countries from where we import crude


oil and petroleum products.
The increasing number of cars in cities further accentuates the demand for
fuel due to congestion, idling and low
speeds. When fuel efficiency standards
are eventually introduced, they would
only help to improve the fuel economy of
new cars as they come into the market,
but will do little to avoid loss of fuel due
to idling, congestion and low speeds.
Figure 3 shows that the average journey
speeds in cities with high car ownership
June 8, 2013

Implications for Air Pollution and CO2


Emissions: Growth in the number of
personal vehicles also leads to increasing levels of vehicular pollution in cities. It is interesting to note that all cities
with high car ownership levels have
PM10 concentrations, above the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) (Figure 4, p 35). PM2.5, a
more dangerous pollutant, which is
directly correlated with serious health
impacts like childhood asthma, respiratory diseases, etc, is not being monitored
in our cities. However, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) measured
PM2.5 emissions in six cities where
source apportionment studies were carried out. Data published for these six cities, which have high car ownership levels, indicates that the concentration levels of PM2.5 are beyond the permissible
limits prescribed by the WHO (Figure 5,
p 35). Diesel cars are also a major contributor to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which cause or worsen respiratory
diseases, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and may also aggravate existing
heart diseases. The distortion in pricing
of diesel has resulted in an increase in
the sale of diesel cars. Rapid growth in
the number of personal vehicles in larger cities of the country also contributes
to increasing CO2 emission levels (Ghate
and Sundar 2010). The impacts of vehicular emissions of both criteria pollutants
and CO2 on human health and global
warming are significant. Indian polity
and economy pay a huge price for the
use of cars by a minority. Even if these
externalities cannot be altogether eliminated, it is time that their costs are
measured and recovered from car users.
Implications for Road Safety: As can be
seen in Figure 6 (p 35), cities with a larger number of cars also have more road
accidents. Speed is the main culprit on
roads where high speeds are possible,
and modern cars are designed for high
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PERSPECTIVES
Figure 4: PM10 Concentration Levels (in 2008) in Cities with High
Car Ownership Levels
Annual mean PM10 (ug/m3)
Kanpur
Delhi
Lucknow
Indore
Kolkata
Greater Mumbai
Allahabad
Patna

speeds. India holds the dubious distinction of having


the highest traffic-related
morbidity and mortality
rates in the world. There
were more than 1,42,000
deaths from road accidents
in 2011; about 37% of these
deaths were in urban India
(MoRTH 2012).

Meerut

Issues of Equity: Most importantly, the exponential


increase in the number of
Nagpur
cars, together with policies
Bhopal
that are skewed in favour
Vijaywada
of increasing motorisation,
Bangalore
WHO standard 20ug/m3
have squeezed out the peHyderabad
destrians and users of nonVisakhapatnam
Ahmedabad
motorised transport (NMT)
Vadodra
from urban roads. This inCoimbatore
equity in the usage of road
Chennai
space, or the denial by a
0
20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 small number of car users
Source: Authors.15
of the mobility rights of a
Figure 5: PM2.5 Concentration Levels in Select Cities with High Car
large number of others, is a
Ownership Levels
major challenge that has not
Kerbside PM2.5 levels (24-hour mean) in select cities
All these cities have car ownership level above
even been recognised, let
35 cars/1,000 population
Pune
alone addressed. Interestingly, the share of this comMumbai
muter category pedestrians,
Summer
Post-monsoon
cyclists, and public transit
Kanpur
Winter
users ranges from about
Delhi
40% in cities with population less than 0.5 million to
Chennai
about 75% in cities with
WHO standard for 24-hour mean value 20ug/m3
population above eight milBangalore
lion (Figure 7, p 36).
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
PM 2.5 24-hour mean concentration level (ug/m3)
Yet, if one were to examSource: Authors.16
ine the annual budgets of
Jaipur
Pune

Figure 6: Road Accidents in Select Cities in 2005


10,000

Cities with car ownership levels above 35 cars/1,000 population


typically have more number of road accidents

9,000

Number of road accidents

8,000
7,000
6,000
5,000
4,000
3,000
2,000

Source: Authors.17
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Shimla

Varanasi

Patna

Gangtok

Agra

Amritsar

Bikaner

Puducherry

Chandigarh

Madurai

Guwahati

Panaji

Kanpur

Hubli-Dharwad

Pune

Surat

Nagpur

Raipur

Bhubaneswar

Jaipur

Ahmedabad

Kochi

Bhopal

Kolkata

Thiruvananthapuram

Chennai

Hyderabad

Delhi

Bangalore

1,000

city governments like Delhi or large


metropolitan/municipal corporations,
one would find that a major chunk of investment in transport infrastructure is
for creating more road space, flyovers,
parking lots, urban expressways, etc,
leading to the vicious cycle of more cars,
more road space and even more cars. As
Hau (1997) explains,
Downss law a transportation example of a
more general principle commonly known as
the tragedy of the commons says that an
increase in traffic capacity on commuter
expressways in urban areas results in a rise
in travel demand that erodes much of the
capacity-enhanced traffic improvement.
(Expressed in colloquial terms, Downss law
says that if you build them, they will come.)

According to Tiwari (2007), between


2002-03 and 2006-07, the total funds
allocated in Delhi for the transport sector
doubled, but 80% of the funds allocated
were for road-widening schemes benefiting primarily the car and two-wheeler
users. A review of the Comprehensive
Mobility Plans (CMPs) of five18 cities carried out by the authors also revealed
that while the CMPs recognised the need
for encouraging pedestrians and NMT,
they contained no investment proposals
or projects to achieve this objective
(Ghate and Sundar 2012).
In fact, in India, we have done very little to provide facilities for walking and
cycling, such as shelters, water kiosks,
cycle tracks, cycle parking, etc. On the
contrary, we have allowed our pavements
and cycle tracks to become parking spaces
for cars. China, on the other hand, provides shelter, water kiosks and halting
places for pedestrians and users of NMT.
They have also introduced bike sharing
schemes in their larger cities to encourage NMT. Today, some 30-50% of trips in
our mega cities19 and 40-60% of trips in
second order cities20 are carried out by
walking or cycling (MoUD and WSA 2008).
It would be in our interest to retain this
percentage and make them modes of
choice rather than of compulsion.
All this is not to belittle the contribution
of the automobile industry to Indias
growth story. The industry contributed 6%
to Indias GDP in 2010-11 and has provided
direct and indirect employment to 13.1
million workers (MoHIPE 2012). It is becoming the global hub for small cars and
35

PERSPECTIVES
Figure 7: Modal Share in Indian Cities in 2007
Cycle

Public transport

100

Modal share (%) Indian cities (2007)


Two-wheelers
IPT
Car

Percentage share

80

60

40
Walk

20

<0.5 million
(hilly terrain)

<0.5 million
(plain terrain)

0.5-1 million

1.2 million

2-4 million

4.8 million

>8 million

City population size

Source: MoUD and WSA (2008).

Policy Interventions Elsewhere


It would be useful at this stage to look at
the experience of some cities and countries that have had the wisdom to arrest
the rapid growth in car ownership in
order to make their cities liveable. The
larger cities in China, namely Shanghai,
36

Guangzhou and Beijing, have introduced quotas for the number of cars that
can be registered per month. Beijing, for
instance, allowed only 20,000 cars to be
registered per month in 2011, which was
70% less than the number registered in
2010.21 Shanghai adopts a car quota
system, which allows only 7,000-8,000
cars to be registered per month (Roychowdhury 2010). Guangzhou allows only
10,000 car registrations per month.22
Even as these cities have restricted
the registration of cars, they have made
massive investments in public transit
systems and NMT in order to provide car
users with an acceptable alternative. In
India, on the other hand, cities like Delhi
and Bangalore register more than 30,000
cars per month or 1,000-1,200 car registrations per day. Many other cities are
fast approaching this level of new car
registrations. Urban road space will
never be able to match the growth in the
number of cars and inevitably many of
our cities will see a traf- Figure 8: Low Car Ownership in Hong Kong and Singapore as Compared
Many Other Countries with Similar Economic Growth Levels
fic gridlock at the end of to 600
this decade.
Japan requires a
480
Parking Space Certificate before a car is reg360
istered. Parking spaces,
if not available at the
240
applicants residence,
can be rented, but usuSingapore
ally at exorbitant costs.
120
It would be interesting to
Hong Kong
point out here that the
0
0
5000
10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 35000 40000 45000 50000
Ministry of Urban DeveGDP per capita
lopment had sought a Source: Authors.25
Cars per 1,000 population

is emerging as a major export earner. More


than all this, the automobile industry has
generated pride and a sense of modernism in the minds of most Indians. These
indeed are positives and should be recognised. At the same time, these positives
need to be weighed against the externalities and the costs of these externalities. It is true that owning a car is fulfilling an aspiration. It is also true that our
failure to provide adequate and appropriate public transport has compelled
commuters to use personal vehicles. But,
these clearly are no reasons as to why we
should accept an unabated growth in the
number of cars as inevitable and orient
all our planning to meet this growth.
Many cities in the world have shown
that this rapid increase in the rate of
growth of car ownership can be arrested
through appropriate policy interventions
without denying the mobility rights of
car users. There is no reason why India
should not benefit from the experience of
others and attempt to contain the growth
in the number of cars. The need for these
interventions is urgent because the infrastructure we build now will influence
our transport policies and practices for
the next 50-100 years. Retrofitting at a
later stage will never be easy.

similar provision in the Motor Vehicles


Act, and the Expert Committee set up
under the chairmanship of the second
author (S Sundar) has recommended
that the Motor Vehicles Act be amended
to provide for this.23
One can only hope that the Government of India would have the wisdom to
accept this recommendation and enable
cities to link the registration of a new car
with the availability of a parking space.
Japan, in addition, has made the purchase of a car prohibitive through taxes,
such as a car acquisition tax, car weight
tax and annual tax, together with high
on-street parking charges. These various
measures have affected the rate of increase
in car ownership in Japan. Annual rate
of growth of cars in use in Japan was
1% between 2001 and 2009 as compared
to about 5% between 1991 and 2000.
New car registration in Japan has declined
at a rate of about 1.1% per annum between 1991 and 2009.24
London has attempted to restrain the
use of personal cars, if not their ownership, through the levy of congestion
charges in central London and the simultaneous provision of increased and better
public transport. London is encouraging
large employers to draw up mobility
plans for their staff that are not car
dependent. The city is also using parking regulation, pricing and controls for
transport demand management.
Singapore and Hong Kong are two other
striking examples of city states that have
been very successful in decoupling economic growth from car ownership as compared to other countries/city-states with
similar levels of prosperity (Figure 8).

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Interestingly, some of our larger cities,


although nowhere near Hong Kong and
Singapore in terms of per capita GDP,
have overtaken these two cities in terms
of car ownership without any thought as
to the consequences. Figure 9 charts
this, while Figure 10 establishes that car
registrations in these cities have witnessed an annual average growth rate of
10-20% as compared to 5.5% in Singapore
and 3.3% in Hong Kong between 2005
and 2011. Delhi presently has 2.1 million
cars, and if this level is to grow at a rate of
12% per annum, which is the rate at which
it is currently growing, then it would
have approximately 10 million cars by
2025, i e, 380 cars per 1,000.26 This is a
number that Delhi can in no way handle.
Singapore and Hong Kong feature
among the top 50 wealthiest cities in the

GDP per capita in 2008 ($1,000 at PPP)

50

200

160
Car ownership in 2011

40

120

30
80

20

Hyderabad

Chennai

Bangalore

Delhi

Mumbai

40

Hong Kong

10

Car ownership in 2011 (per 1,000 population)

60

Singapore

GDP per capita in 2008 ($1,000 at PPP)

Figure 9: Comparison of Car Ownership Level in


Indian Cities with Hong Kong and Singapore27

mobility for all rather than plan for


mobility for automobiles.
One of the important goals behind
these city states initiatives to control car
ownership was to ensure that the growth
in the number of cars did not exceed the
growth in road infrastructure and that
there was economic and equitable use of
available road space. A study in 1976 in
Hong Kong had indicated that threequarters of the road space were being
used by only a quarter of the travelling
population, namely motorists and taxi
occupants (Hau 1997). This had forced the
government to think of a sound strategy
that ensured optimal utilisation of road
space. Hong Kong has since undertaken
several initiatives to control car ownership and usage, while also providing competing, reliable and more environmentfriendly alternatives for mobility. Singapore has also followed a similar path:
Building more roads and maximising road
capacity alone will not be able to ensure
smooth flowing roads. We need to adopt a
vehicle ownership policy which could keep
the car population at levels supportable by
road infrastructure development as well as
planned developments in public transport
and traffic management system (Ministry of
Transport, Singapore).31

Source: Authors.28

Figure 10: Comparison of Growth in Car Registrations in Indian Cities


with Hong Kong and Singapore
Total Car Registrations (2005 to 2011)
22,00,000

11.6%

19,95,000

Delhi

17,90,000
15,85,000

A Plan for India


It would be useful to discuss some of the key policy
initiatives taken by Singapore and Hong Kong to
restrain the growth in
the number of cars and
see whether these can be
replicated in India.

13,80,000

(i) Integrated Land Use


and Transport Planning:
Over the years, Singapore
9,70,000
Chennai
and Hong Kong have inBangalore
7,65,000
15.4%
tegrated land use and
Singapore
Hong Kong
8.5%
transport planning to en5,60,000
6.6%
5.5%
courage dense and mixed
3.3%
3,55,000
uses, and NMT. In SingaGr Mumbai
Hyderabad
20.2%
pore, nearly 40% of busi1,50,000
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
nesses and industrial arSource: Authors.29
eas are located near staworld today.30 The residents of these tions and 30% of the population lives
cities can easily own cars, but the car within walking distance of mass rapid
ownership level in these cities is low transit (MRT) stations. Almost 50% of
because they wisely chose to plan for the population in Hong Kong lives
11,75,000

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vol xlviII no 23

within a catchment area of 500 metres


around transit stations, leading to high
usage of mass transit modes.32
In India, unfortunately, land use and
transport planning are not integrated;
transport planning follows land use
planning and transport demand. While
the NUTP has recognised this need and
urged cities to integrate land use and
transport planning, the regulatory framework does not yet make this necessary.
The legislations like Development Acts
or Town and Country Planning Acts that
provide the basis for land use planning in
cities should mandate the integration of
land use planning with transport planning.
(ii) Conservative Approach to Creating More Road Space: Both Singapore
and Hong Kong have recognised that
more road space for cars would only lead
to more cars, congestion and suboptimal
and inequitable utilisation of road space.
The two city states have therefore avoided expansion of road space in a big way.
Between 1995 and 2011, the annual
growth rate in road length and road
lane kilometres in Singapore was merely
1%.33 The city aims to further reduce the
growth in road length to 0.5% per annum in the next 10 to 15 years.34 Hong
Kong has also carried out a limited
amount of new road construction over
the past decade. The road length increased at an annual growth rate of
0.9% between 2000 and 2010.35
We, on the other hand, strongly believe that the immediate solution for
dealing with a growth in car ownership
is to provide for more road space. We
also have an obsession with large civil
contracts and works leading to building
more roads, flyovers and parking spaces.
As pointed out earlier, substantial portions of public investment on transport
infrastructure are not for increasing the
availability of public transport or for
making NMT a mode of choice. The emphasis of public investment is on creating more road space for more cars.
(iii) Planning for NMT: Singapore and
Hong Kong have built adequate and
quality infrastructure for pedestrians
and users of NMT. Hong Kong has pedestrianised several streets and employs
37

PERSPECTIVES

traffic restrictions on several others to


ensure safety of pedestrians and NMT users. Singapore has also taken a lead towards developing dedicated cycle tracks
and bicycle parking facilities as part of
its National Cycling Plan that was
launched in 2010.36
We have, as discussed earlier, some
30-60% of total trips being met by NMT
in our first and second order cities.
Although this is an optimum level, this is
not by choice. The challenge is to take
measures to make NMT safe and comfortable so that it becomes a transport mode
of choice. The development of facilities
for NMT should receive priority for funding under the Jawaharlal Nehru National
Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
(iv) Public Transit: Singapore and Hong
Kong have made significant investments
in rail- and bus-based transit systems so
as to create a dense rail network that is
integrated with the bus system. Rail network density (2008) in Singapore and
Hong Kong is about 30.8 km per million
persons and 30 km per million persons,
respectively.37 In Delhi, the urban rail
network density at 11 km per million
persons is only a third of the densities in
Singapore and Hong Kong.38 The number
of buses per 1,000 persons is also high in
Singapore and Hong Kong at 3.2 and 2.8
buses per 1,000 persons, respectively.39
Delhi, on the other hand, has merely 0.3
buses per 1,000 persons.40
In order to improve the efficiency of
public transit and to make it attractive to
the commuters, Singapore and Hong
Kong also employ several measures like
exclusive right of way to public transit
and priority to buses in traffic restriction
zones. Thus, Singapore and Hong Kong,
while restricting the ownership and use
of personal vehicles, have taken steps to
provide adequate public transport as an
alternative. It is the lack of this alternative that compels people in Indian cities to own their own mode of transport.
The NUTP and JNNURM recognised for
the first time the importance of public
transport and provided incentives and
funding for augmenting public transport. Even so, the availability of public
transport in Indian cities is low. According to data available, only 20 cities had
38

formal city bus services a few years ago.


Although this number has gone up due
to JNNURM support, the city bus services
are still highly inadequate. Mass rapid
transport through buses is being introduced in a small number of cities. Although, mass rapid transport through
rail is a very expensive proposition and
not within the reach of Indian cities,
MRT systems have been successfully established in Delhi and are being introduced in a few other cities. However,
reliable data is not available on the
number of commuters who have shifted
from the use of their personal vehicles to
using the metro rail.
(v) Restricting Car Ownership: Singapore controls new car registrations through
its vehicle quota system. Those wanting
to purchase a new car need to bid for a
Certificate of Entitlement (CoE) to own
and use a car for 10 years. CoEs reflect
the market price people are willing to
pay, which is high due to the restriction
on the number of cars that can be registered annually. The vehicle quota system
has helped Singapore maintain its average annual growth rate in new car registrations below 5% during 2001-11.41
Singapore also discourages car ownership by increasing the upfront costs of
owning cars. An Additional Registration
Fee (ARF), which is 100-130% of the
Open Market Value (OMV) of the car, is
charged along with high excise duty
(20% of the OMV) and special taxes on
diesel vehicles.42
While Hong Kong does not have a vehicle quota system like Singapore, it also
discourages car ownership by increasing
the upfront cost of cars. A high First Registration Tax (FRT) up to 40-115% of taxable value of private cars is charged
along with annual licence fees.43 Hong
Kong has been able to restrict its average
annual growth rate in car registration
below 3% between 2001 and 2011.44
(vi) Influencing Travellers Behaviour:
Both Singapore and Hong Kong employ
measures to influence the behaviour of
car users so as to discourage car use and
promote a shift to public transport and
NMT. High petrol taxes and duties are
used in both these city states to increase
June 8, 2013

the cost of car usage. As of November


2008, the retail price of petrol in Hong
Kong ($1.95 per litre) was second highest
among 174 countries of the world.45
In addition to increasing fuel prices, a
slew of other measures like charging
road usage fees, incentivising car users
towards reduced usage of their cars, etc,
are implemented in Singapore. Both citystates also use the availability of parking
space and parking fees to restrain car
use. Building standards in these two cities
require provision of limited car parking
space per 100 m2 of gross floor area in
commercial areas, 0.2 in Singapore and
0.4 in Hong Kong (Barter 2011). Delhi on
the other hand has a very high car parking space requirement of three Equivalent Car Spaces (ECS) per 100 m2 of floor
area in commercial areas.46
(vii) Traffic Management: As stated
earlier, congestion leads to avoidable
losses of energy and travel time. It is
hence important to ensure that the traffic movement on roads is efficient and
average speeds are at least above 25
kmph. Hong Kong lays a significant emphasis on traffic management so as to
optimise the existing road system and
avoid the need to create more road space.
A state of the art Intelligent Transport
System is operational in Hong Kong to
manage traffic. It has helped the city
achieve average speeds in the range of
20-40 kmph on the main corridors.
The consequences of an unabated
growth in the number of personal vehicles have to be ultimately borne by the
cities in India. And yet, Indian cities are
not empowered to shape their future.
Urban transport is not an activity that is
contained in Schedule 12 of the 74th constitutional amendment, and in any event
cities are not empowered to take measures such as restricting the ownership of
cars, demanding a parking space before
registering a car, making fuel expensive,
etc. It is imperative to include urban
transport in Schedule 12 and transfer
responsibility for managing urban transport to the cities so that they can shape
their destinies. Even as cities are empowered, the Government of India must
provide technical assistance to the cities
to plan and manage urban transport and
vol xlviII no 23

EPW

Economic & Political Weekly

PERSPECTIVES

fund transport projects that are consistent with the NUTP.


Unfortunately, both Indian states and
cities also lack the institutional arrangements and capacity to plan, develop and
manage urban transport with an appropriate inter-modal mix. Responsibility
for urban transport is still fragmented
between and within the national, state
and city governments, and there is no
unified agency to deal with all aspects of
urban transport. Also, different aspects
of urban transport are governed by different laws and regulations and there
is no single or unified law to govern
urban transport.
It is time that we have a law to govern
urban transport, and also establish in
the large cities a Unified Metropolitan
Transport Authority (UMTA) to deal with
all aspects of urban transport. In Singapore for instance the Land Transport
Authority functions as the unified transport decision-making body. In Hong
Kong, it is the transport department of
the government of the Hong Kong special administrative region. London was
successful in introducing congestion
charges to reduce the use of cars in central London and in providing acceptable
public transport as an alternative because Mayor Ken Livingstone recognised
the need for an integrated approach and
established Transport for London.
The measures undertaken by cities in
China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and
the UK indicate that an appropriate mix
of supply- and demand-side measures is
required to restrain the ownership and
use of cars. These measures do not involve any rocket science and are well
within the reach of Indian cities and
states. What is lacking in India is the political will to put together and implement these interventions. This continuing unwillingness to recognise the problem and take remedial measures would
have very serious consequences by 2025,
and beyond.
As the country urbanises rapidly, its
cities will witness an exponential
growth in the number of private vehicles.
Whether it is going to be 30 million more
cars in the next 15 years, or 40 million, is
not relevant. The message is clear, that
the number would be humongous and
Economic & Political Weekly

EPW

June 8, 2013

that unless we wake up now, neither


cars, nor people would be able to move
in our cities. If one may adapt and use an
old English adage, wisdom lies in closing the garage doors before the cars
speed away.
Notes
1 Per capita GDP is in current $. Uniform data
after 2009 was not available and therefore
analysis was done for 2009.
2 Data on per capita GDP and car ownership levels was taken from World Development Indicators of the World Bank. See, GDP Per Capita
(Current US$), viewed on 26 March 2013,
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.
PCAP.CD and Passenger Cars (Per 1,000 People), viewed on 26 March 2013, http://data.
worldbank.org/indicator/IS.VEH.PCAR.P3/
countries
3 As per the estimates of the International Monetary Fund, the average annual growth rate of
Indias per capita GDP will be about 7.5% between 2010 and 2017. See, Report for Selected
Countries and Subjects, viewed on 20 March
2013, http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/
weo/2012/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.
x=44&pr.y=9&sy=2009&ey=2017&scsm=1&s
sd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=534&s=N
GDPDPC&grp=0&a
We have used the same average annual growth
rate of 7.5% to estimate Indias per capita GDP
in 2025.
4 Per capita GDP data for China is from World
Development Indicators of the World Bank.
See, GDP Per Capita (Current US$), viewed
on 26 March 2013, http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD
5 Population projection for India in 2025 is 1,389
million. See, GoI (2006).
6 According to the Society of Indian Automobile
Manufacturers (SIAM), about 2 million cars
were sold in 2009-10. See, Automobile Domestic Sales Trends, viewed on 12 March 2013,
http://www.siamindia.com/scripts/domesticsales-trend.aspx
7 Middle class Rs 2-10 lakh, at 2000 prices.
8 2000 prices.
9 ADB (2006); projects the total number of cars
in 2025 as 41.6 million. With a population projection of 1,389 million in 2025 (GoI 2006), this
translates into an ownership level of about 30
cars per 1,000 persons.
10 2000 prices, Purchasing power parity (PPP)
not adjusted.
11 Data from GoI (2011), and MoRTH (2012).
12 See, Oil Data for India, International Energy
Agency, viewed on 24 February 2013, http://
www.iea.org/stats/oildata.asp?COUNTRY_
CODE=IN
13 Data for Petroleum Import/Export from Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC), Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Data on
quantity of Crude imported from http://ppac.
org.in/writereaddata/PT_import_H.xls
(viewed on 26 April 2013). Data on value of
crude imported from http://ppac.org.in/writereaddata/PT_import_valRS_H.xls (viewed
on 26 April 2013). Data on total crude processed in the country from http://ppac.org.in/
writereaddata/PT_crude_H.xls (viewed on 26
April 2013).
14 See, Losses of Petroleum Products: A Study at
Traffic Intersections in Delhi, The Urja Watch,
April 2009, 2(10): 6-11, viewed on 25 February
2012, http://iaemp.in/wp-content/uploads/
2011/01/The-Urja-Watch-April-2009.pdf

vol xlviII no 23

15 Data from the World Health Organisation. See,


Database: Outdoor Air Pollution in Cities,
viewed on 15 March 2013, http://www.who.int/
phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/en/
16 Data from CPCB (2010).
17 Data from MoUD and WSA (2008).
18 The five cities were Kolkata, Pune, Surat, Jaipur and Kochi.
19 Cities with population more than 1 million in
2001.
20 Cities with population between 0.1 and 1 million in 2001.
21 See Controlling Millions of Vehicles: Beijing,
Chinas Traffic Policy Package, viewed on 4
February 2013, http://www.unescap.org/esd/
environment/lcgg/documents/roadmap/
case_study_fact_sheets/Case%20Studies/CSBeijing-China-traffic-policy-package.pdf
22 See, Guangzhou Adopts Car Quota to Counter
Gridlock, viewed on 4 February 2013, http://
www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-07/01/
content_15540462.htm
23 See Report of the Expert Committee on Review
of Motor Vehicles Act 1988 submitted to the
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
(MoRT&H), January 2011, viewed on 23 March
2013, http://morth.nic.in/showfile.asp?lid=377
24 See Motor Vehicle Statistics of Japan 2010,
http://www.jama-english.jp/publications/
MVS2010.pdf
25 See Note 3.
26 Population projection for Delhi in 2025 is 27.26
million. See GoI (2006).
27 Consistent data on the per capita GDP for Hong
Kong, Singapore, and the five Indian cities for
the year 2011 was not available. Also, consistent data on population in these cities in 2008
was not available to enable calculation of the
level of car ownership in 2008.
28 Data from GoI (2011); MoRTH (2012); PricewaterhouseCoopers (2009); Annual Vehicle Statistics 2012, Singapore, viewed on 10 March
2013,
http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/
ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/
FactsandFigures/MVP01-1_MVP_by_type.pdf;
Monthly Traffic and Transport Digest, Hong
Kong, viewed on 10 March 2013, http://www.
td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/transport_figures/monthly_traffic_and_transport_
digest/index.html
29 Data from MoRTH (2012); Annual Vehicle
Statistics 2012, Singapore, viewed on
10 March 2013, http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/
files/FactsandFigures/MVP01-1_MVP_by type.
pdf; Monthly Traffic and Transport Digest,
Hong Kong, viewed on 10 March 2013, http://
www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/
transport_figures/monthly_traffic_and_transport_digest/index.html
30 See The Most Expensive and Richest Cities in
the World, viewed on 8 February 2013, http://
www.citymayors.com/economics/richest_cities.html
31 Vehicle Ownership, viewed on 26 April 2013,
http://app.mot.gov.sg/page_land.aspx?p=/
Land_Transport/Managing_Road_Use/Vehicle_Ownership.aspx&AspxAutoDetectCookieS
upport=1
32 The figures are for 1993; latest data was not
available. These numbers are expected to be
higher now, keeping in view growing population and densities. See, Model Cities: Asia,
viewed on 8 February 2013, http://www.istp.
murdoch.edu.au/ISTP/casestudies/Case_
Studies_Asia/modasia/modasia.html
33 Data for road length from http://www.lta.gov.
sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/Road-Lengthkm-2011.pdf (viewed on 26 April 2013). Data
for road lane kilometres from http://www.lta.

39

PERSPECTIVES

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/Road-Lengthlane-km-2011.pdf (viewed on 26 April 2013).


See Expanding the Road Network, viewed on
23 February 2013, http://app.mot.gov.sg/
Land_Transport/Managing_Road_Use/Expanding_the_Road_Network.aspx
Data for road length in 2000 from http://www.
td.gov.hk/filemanager/en/content_1285/table11.pdf (viewed on 26 April 2013). Data for
road length in 2010 from http:// www.td.gov.
hk/filemanager/en/content_4434/table11.pdf
(viewed on 26 April 2013).
See Land Transport: Cycling, viewed on 23
February 2013, http://www.ifaq.gov.sg/mot/
apps/fcd_faqmain.aspx#TOPIC_243
See Land Transport Masterplan, viewed on
23 February 2013, http://talk2lta.lta.gov.sg/
ltmp/LTMP%202008.pdf
Data on metro rail length for Delhi from Project
Update, viewed on 26 April 2013, http://www.
delhimetrorail.com/project_updates.aspx
Bus data for Singapore from http:// www.lta.
gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/MVP01-1_
MVP_by_type.pdf (viewed on 29 April
2013). Population data for Singapore from
http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/latest_
data.html#12 (viewed on 29 April 2013). Bus
data for Hong Kong from http://www.td.gov.
hk/filemanager/en/content_4542/table41s.pdf
(viewed on 29 April 2013). Population data for
Hong Kong from http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/
hkstat/sub/bbs.jsp (viewed on 29 April 2013).
See For 1,000 People, Just Half a Bus in Delhi,
viewed on 23 February 2013, http://articles.
timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-26/delhi/32868445_1_low-floor-dtc-urban-transport
See Annual Vehicle Statistics 2012, Singapore, viewed on 10 March 2013, http://www.
lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltaweb/corp/PublicationsResearch/files/FactsandFigures/MVP011_MVP_by_type.pdf
See Tax Structure for Cars, viewed on 29
April 2013, http://www.lta.gov.sg/content/
ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/owning-a-vehicle/costs-of-owning-a-vehicle/tax-structurefor-cars.html
See Motor Vehicle First Registration Tax,
viewed on 25 February 2013, http://www.gov.
hk/en/residents/taxes/motortax/
See Monthly Traffic and Transport Digest,
Hong Kong, viewed on 10 March 2013, http://
www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/
transport_figures/monthly_traffic_and_transport_digest/index.html
See International Fuel Prices 2009, viewed on
29 April 2013, http://www.giz.de/Themen/en/
dokumente/gtz2009-en-ifp-full-version.pdf
Master Plan of Delhi 2021, Delhi Development
Authority. See Development Code, viewed on
29 April 2013, http://dda.org.in/planning/
docs/17.DEVELOPMENT_CODE.pdf

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