Transport is one of the most important factors that define not only commuting but logistics, accessibility, ease of business, and much more for a country, state or city. The need for reliable and sustainable transportation has been on the international agenda for 50 years. It was first recognised in the 1972 Stockholm Plan of Action that drew light on the need for alternatives to meet the growing transportation demands. In the 1922 Earth Summit, the need for effective design and management of traffic and transportation system was felt and it was labelled so under Agenda 21. Further, ‘The Future We Want’, the 2012 outcome document from Rio+20, brought to light potential benefits of sustainable transport and expressed governments’ support for the development of sustainable transport systems, including public mass transportation, and clean fuels and vehicles. In the 2030 Agenda, five targets under the sustainable development goals (SDGs) have been enlisted that are related to transport, SDG 11.2 being the major one among them. Also, in the New Urban Agenda governments have committed to augmenting sustainable transport to encourage transit between urban and rural communities.
India, home to the world’s second-largest population, faces numerous challenges when it comes to transportation. However, recurring steps have been taken by the government to bring in improvement. Recently, in a bid to enhance EV adoption in India, the Centre had extended the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicle (FAME) scheme by two years. Also, now at least 18 states have their own EV policies. Another major step is the Smart Cities Mission wherein technology is being leveraged to build an inclusive, safe, accessible, and affordable transportation system for all. Also, India is working towards utilising renewable sources such as solar power to generate electricity to run metros. Delhi metro is one of the lighthouse examples. Besides metros, it is seen that many states are including a fleet of electric buses in their public transport system.
However, to achieve SDG 11.2 more needs to be done. Emphasis should also be given to women safety in public transport, making transport systems accessible for all including for differently-abled people, and finally inducing a behaviour change among people to opt for public transport as a preferred mode to commute.
Former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa, once said, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is where the rich commute in public transport.” Such a perspective is needed to make transportation accessible, reliable, safe and sustainable. However, the lessons learnt from the COVID pandemic cannot be overlooked and hygiene has to be included as an important aspect too.