Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. SDG target 11.2 is to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons, by 2030. There is a need to develop an intelligent transportation system(s) that can meet the target SDG 11.2 as well as manage all the necessary transportation management components effectively, write Dr. Srinivasa Rajamani, Programme Director, Sustainability and Resilience Unit (SRU) (UNDP-GoI Project), Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC).
Asustainable transport system is a system that allows the basic access and development needs of society to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and promotes equity within and between successive generations (EU Transport Council in 2001). Sustainable mobility is a key enabler of economic growth and shared prosperity in cities. Comprehensive integration of urban transport with various sectors and systems is needed to harness the synergies. The city administration’s efforts in association with the transportation departments and police are essential to balance social, economic and environmental objectives in order to improve sustainable transportation for the citizens.
As per Todd Litman (2021), an independent researcher at Victoria Transport Policy Institute, sustainable transportation indicators can include:
Planning process– the quality of analysis used in planning decisions.
Options and incentives– whether consumers have adequate travel options and incentives to use the most efficient option for each trip.
Travel behaviour– vehicle ownership, vehicle travel, mode share, etc.
Physical impacts– pollution emission and crash rates, land consumption, etc.
Human and environmental impacts– illnesses and deaths, environmental degradation, etc.
Economic effects– monetised estimates of economic costs, reduced productivity, etc.
Performance targets– a degree to which stated targets are achieved.
India’s Smart Cities Mission is an innovative initiation that provides an exciting, new, comprehensive method of improving the lives of people, through citizen-centric approaches. Integration of the latest technological advances in a systematic, cost-effective manner is a must for cities desiring to be regionally and globally competitive. The Smart Cities Mission has a component on Sustainable Transport System (STS) which deals with urban transportation to allow a path for sustainable growth to support the desired economic growth, protect the environment and improve the quality of life. While planning urban transportation, integration of technology and citizen participation, with environmental and socioeconomic aspects may deliver better outcomes to meet the SGD target 11.2.
Visakhapatnam (Vizag) city
Visakhapatnam is an industrial city on the southeast coast of the Bay of Bengal and the second largest urban agglomeration in Andhra Pradesh, with a population of approximately two million. The city is well connected with neighbouring districts and states through railway and roads. Visakhapatnam is also home to a Seaport and an International Airport. The city has taken some initiatives like LED street lightings, solar lights, electric vehicles, sidewalks, cycling tracks, smart bus shelters, smart signalling, traffic surveillance, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) roads, Integrated Bus Transit System (IBTS) etc., as well as regular road widening and transportation planning to make the city sustainable.
As Visakhapatnam is the largest city in the state of Andhra Pradesh, this city has become a centre for employment, education, business, health, tourism, etc. The needs of the diversified and growing population along with local topographical factors and anthropogenic activities creating transportation challenges in the city.
The main challenges in Visakhapatnam city with respect to urban mobility are:
1. Urban sprawl is necessitating the expansion and up-gradation of the roads and transportation facilities.
2. Road accidents and traffic congestions became common due to overcrowding.
3. The widening of roads is a tough task in old towns and hilly areas.
4. Frequent accidents in industries and cyclones cause havoc.
5. Water stagnation in low lying areas due to blockage in the drainage system, hence, heavy rains causes interruption to public mobility.
6. Potholes and road diggings are being a reason for accidents and traffic congestions.
7. Encroachments and unauthorised occupancy of roadsides lead to parking issues at commercial and recreational areas.
8. Sub-urban and satellite townships have poor public transportation facilities.
9. Increased vehicular pollution in the city.
10.Overcrowding in public and private transportation
Visakhapatnam city has a clear demarcation of industries, residential areas, commercial centres, educational and recreation facilities. This city has a scope to expand and modernise its transportation infrastructure and facilities to meet the needs of its citizens.
Suggestions for Sustainable and Smart Transport System for Visakhapatnam city:
1. Urban Planning
– Transportation planning should be integrated with land use so that facilities can be developed at sub-urban and satellite towns to meet future needs.
– The focus should be on people needs, rather than only improving modern transportation facilities.
– Transportation planners should consider the specific needs of vulnerable people, women, children, elderly persons, people with disabilities, etc.
– Reduce personal vehicles by encouraging public transport and pooling of vehicles.
– Consideration of social indicators in transportation planning according to the commuter’s requirements, improved connectivity to suburban, satellite towns, bus/train stations.
– Low carbon comprehensive mobility plan development and its implementation are required.
– An intelligent transport system as a part of the smart city project can be developed.
– Identification of specific roads for evacuation and escape purpose during disaster times.
– Alternate work schedules can be suggested for schools, colleges, offices etc., to minimise traffic.
2. Urban Greening
– Reduce air pollution by utilising clean energy, energy-efficient fuels, diversion of traffic, road widening, etc.
– Protect and improve urban green spaces, which may act as lung spaces as these absorb air pollution and release fresh air.
– Increase share of walking and cycling in the city by constructing sidewalks and cycling tracks, with green materials and avenue plantation.
3. Institutional Strengthening
– Institutional coordination should be improved between line departments – city administration, police, roads and buildings, transportation authorities, etc.
– Proper rules should be framed to collect user charges.
– Promotion of e-vehicles for personal use by encouraging subsidies. Government and private organisations can replace most of their vehicles with e-vehicles.
– Shift to updated road designs for new roads, traffic management, and road safety measures required based on standard guidelines.
– The city administration can undertake a safety audit for hazardous locations to reduce accidents, fatalities and injuries in association with line departments and stakeholders.
– Increase public safety through the provision of safety alarms, surveillance systems, public announcement systems, traffic awareness programs through Road Transport Authority (RTA),mandating safety rules, etc.
– Viability of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) for improving transportation amenities.
– Making separate budgetary allocation for different components in the budget especially pedestrian and cycling tracks.
– Fuel and vehicle technology improvements should be supported by tax concessions.
Through the proper planning and implementation of action plans based on targets fixed according to SDGs, the city administration – Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) may easily reach the targets of SDG 11.2 by providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems to its citizens in terms of improving road safety, expanding public transport with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons, by 2030. The adoption of SDGs may develop Visakhapatnam city as inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and fulfil its famous saying that Visakhpatnam is the ‘City of Destiny’.