July 05, 2005

Flyovers and cars

My every-second-Monday MidDay column, from yesterday. Comments welcome.


Sriram said...

Interesting, but hardly scientific. Your article assumes many things and ignores many others.

Using public transport can be terribly inconvenient if your source and/or destination is far away from a public transport stop (like a train station or bus stop).

PT can also be inconvenient if, to reach from point A to B, you have to switch transport mechanisms many times.

PT is also inconvenient if your timings don't necessarily align themselves well with that of the PT services.

I can go on...

The fundamental flaw in your argument is that somehow individuals are just slaves and they should just sacrifice their convenience at the alter of some collective, soviet-style "efficiency". (We all saw how that turned out!)

Growing up in the suburbs of Chennai without a car, I was forced to use public transport exclusively growing up and it was just horrible! Typically, it is only privileged kids of rich/upper middle class parents who romanticise public transport. Typically, such people also own cars.

Some of my fondest memories are about me bicycling to and from school and feeling finally free and independent - a feeling leftists/statists hate! Not being controlled by the whims of the drivers/conductors of Pallavan transport was awesome. So was not being forced to travel, packed like sardines, along with scores of other sweat-soaked irritable commuters.

I do agree that it is unfair that "public" roads/flyovers are being built to favor one set of citizens (car owners) instead of the rest. This is where the failure of "public and common" concept is starkly apparent, at least to me.

My solution: Allow private roads. Let an entrepreuner construct private flyovers and charge carowners a toll to use them. This way, everyone is happy!

eV said...

The paradox is a classic one: after a point we probably passed years ago, each additional car only makes travel harder for everyone.

I dont see the paradox. It makes sense for one to buy a car coz he is more comfy with the car rather than without. So while the additional car may bring down the utility level of the overall system, the individual's utility is increased.

As for the main point you were trying to make: For public transportation systems like metro rail to become a grand success, last-mile connectivity becomes a crucial point. If I need to walk for some 5-10mins beyond the rail station, I would rather avoid the train coz of the poor state of our roads wrt pedestrians. So not only should the reach of the metro trains be good, but also the roads should be amenable to pedestrians.

If I could bring in a cultural angle to this, dont we Indians still believe in social hierarchy based on status? Would people be willing to give up the pride in commuting in one's own car and instead mingle with the crowd? Here's one way to check that hypothesis: Does it happen in Mumbai's local trains? Or is it just those who cant afford cars that use the locals on a daily basis?

eV said...

I seem to disagree with sriram on a few points. The reasons he lists to explain why PT would be inconvenient would not exist in a PT system with sufficient reach(connectivity) and frequency.

Also, the solution Sriram proposes is not consistent with the fact that roads are public goods.

His crib about commies reminded me of this tamil movie Anbe Sivam. Dilip, you should watch it - if you havent already.

Tanuj said...

I have a car because I find it comfortable and convenient, even though it takes me much longer to get around in Bombay. And yes, I have tried public transport in Bombay, but I am not ecstatic about the experience.

Dilip, you have a car too. Why did you buy one? Obviously, there is some utility you derive from the car that you don't from public transport. If you have reasons, so do others. And if this is a common phenomenon, I think we need more roads, flyover, and everything else.

As for clearing roads, have you ever tried driving from Chembur to Bandra? I did that everyday and it took me 1.15 hours each day. And it was probably not because of badly parked cars. There are stretches (Sion-Dharavi) of roads exclusively occupied by hawkers (and some slum housing extensions) where traffic comes to a grinding halt. But I guess we are not supposed to talk about that.

Neela said...


I agree. Clear out the parking violators. Clear out the slums that encroach on the roads. Clear out the hawkers so that pedestrians can walk on the side so that they don't need to walk in the middle of traffic and slow it.

Maybe then we won't even need flyovers and we can use all that money for public transport.


Vikrum said...


I thought your article was excellent. I agree with you that the vast majority of Mumbaikers use public transportation (and cannot even dream of purchasing a car), so it makes sense (since this is a democracy) to work on ways to help the train-using majority.

Sriram, me fascinan tus comentarios y espero que sigas escribiendo! (una burlita)

Neela said...
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