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FEB 2020  
Special Feature
Challenges of Urban Mobility: Some Possible Solutions Vis-à-Vis DTC Buses

Public transport is an important lifeline for citizens. Cost-effectiveness, efficient infrastructure and smooth operation of public transport are of paramount importance.  Consider the example of a metropolitan city like Delhi, where public transport options (though present) lose preference to private vehicular choices.

As per an analysis by the Delhi-based, non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in 2013–14, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) had a total fleet of 5223 that operated on 579 routes within the city and carried an average of 43.47 lakh passengers every day. By 2016–17, the fleet size had come down to 4027 (a reduction of 22 per cent), while the number of operated routes had come down to 474 (a reduction of 18 per cent). Most importantly, the number of passengers carried daily had dropped to 31.55 lakh - a reduction of 27 per cent (DTC’s operational statistics for March, 2016 and April, 2018). This is just an example pertaining to buses  (Source: https://www.downtoearth.org.in). While other modes of public transport, like the Delhi Metro, are well used, they come with their own set of limitations, as do options like local trains, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers. Rishabh Misra, a public policy scholar at the Indian School of Public Policy, says ‘Public transport is an integral part of transportation for any person to travel in a megacity like Delhi, especially for those, who have left their hometown to pursue education and/or seek employment. I am one of them too. Flooded metros during peak hours irrespective of the frequency, low and irregular connectivity of buses, and the harrowing bargaining experiences with three-wheelers are just some of the challenges a day-to-day public transport user faces.’ Rishabh has been a part of a project that worked on finding plausible solutions to enhance the flow of necessary information for DTC commuters.  Boijayanti Sarker has worked with Rishabh and others on the challenges that DTC bus ridership faces. What was her inspiration to be a part of a proposed solution? She says, ‘We wanted to work on a problem that affects us and everyone around us. Urban mobility is an important and relevant topic today. Looking at the DTC bus ridership data, there was a common understanding that this mode of public transport is in demand. The Delhi Metro is a highly efficient flagship project, but the problem of accessible last mile connectivity exists. The DTC faces some hefty challenges, such as shortage of buses, poor frequency and/or unreliable services, and poor fleet utilization. Within the problems, we focused on [providing] information access to the passenger, pertaining to schedules and routes, among others, as we felt that a solution for this could help minimize the impact of other challenges faced.’

The group then decided to address the above through a proposed Integrated Information System (IIS) that would include two basic components: a ‘Smart Bus Stop’ and a mobile-based application. Lakshmi Ravi, another member, explains: ‘Our group was very focused on inclusion. There are two kinds of people who cannot access visual information: the visually challenged and those who are not literate. For the former, our suggested design was of presenting tactile information (bus routes, timings, estimated timings of arrival, etc.) in the form of panels at the bus stops, and also portraying the concerned information in braille; while a ‘read-out-aloud’ button (graphically depicted by a pair of ears for intuitive listening) would also be placed strategically to read out information catering to the needs of those who are not literate.’ Lakshmi also stresses on the need to take into account a subsequent feedback mechanism in order to improve the proposed design further.

The cost estimate given by the group is based on the following calculation: there are a total of 2500 bus stops in Delhi and the estimated cost of installing one IIS would be around `30,000 (inclusive of GPS). The total estimated cost of the project would then lie between ₹80–85 crore. ‘During the process of ideation, we proposed different ideas like increasing the number and/or frequency of buses, special bus lanes, GIS Systems, installing of PAS and many others. We shortlisted this idea as it had a functionality scope. It will not only solve the imminent need of lack of information for the rider, but also serve the long-term benefit of generating large, real-time data that can be used for the efficient restructuring of the concerned public transport system,’ says Srajesh Gupta, another team member.

But what about vandalism? On this challenge, the group presented solutions to vandalism as part of civic misconduct for which potential weak points, improved lighting, select video surveillance, use of cost-effective and tougher protective films were suggested, albeit against increased costs. The assignment not only served as an opportunity to look at a basic challenge objectively and thoroughly, but also to work on a customized and practically plausible solution. For the students, this served as a platform to apply theoretical know-how in a real life scenario. Deepak Gautam, a core team member, when reflecting on his takeaways from the project, says ‘There was a lot we learnt, right from research to developing the solution, however, what impacted the most was the multidisciplinary approach, as team members hail from different academic backgrounds. It brought a whole set of innovative ideas and diverse skills to manifest the design process. In design thinking, the focus is to solve a part of the problem. The approach is to breakdown the problem into smaller ones. This helps to kickstart the action. The epicentre of the design process is the ‘user’, where design thinkers need to set aside their own assumptions or biases about the problem.’

Prateek Panda, another co-worker in the group, agrees with Deepak when he says that as a policymaker it is important for one to be creative and innovative in the designing of solutions. He feels that design thinking gives this power to policymakers and makes sure they do not overlook solutions in the overall scheme of things. He sums up: ‘Sometimes small-scale solutions can have a massive impact, and sometimes large-scale solutions can have a really low impact. The key lies in being more aware and sensitive about/to people’s challenges and needs.’

The crux of the ‘project’ remains on understanding what the end consumer wants. Adds Prateek: ‘Through the entire assignment, we discovered many aspects related to the public transport system and its varied nuances, however, the underlying fact remained: guaranteeing end consumer satisfaction, despite challenges. Delhi is a densely populated city, with a large percentage of the population reliant on public transport systems at some point or the other. The bottom-line remains safety, convenience, and cost effectiveness; and convenience is a mindset, it is a lifestyle – these also require a behavioural shift towards public transport. It is, hence, not only for the government to rectify and provide, but also the responsibility and respect, we, as citizens, bear towards our public transportation systems. At the end of the day, these are our joint property and not just a commodity or entity owned by the government.’

Ms Sarah Berry, Consultant - Public Diplomacy, Outreach and Training

   
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Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013


The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at
http://www.csptoday.com/india/awards-index.php or by e-mail to [email protected]

Contact:
Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]