Geetam Tiwari, Kalaga Ramchandra Rao and Sudipto Mukherjee
The exploding urbanization in the world is putting up immense pressure on public services, especially in the public transport services. Most of this is happening in the so called third world or the developing nations where huge migration is taking place from rural to urban areas in search of opportunities and desire for a better quality of life. The city administrations in such developing countries are not able to cope up with these pressures on the public transport sector.
India which is also a developing country, has now become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Up till now, India was just over 30% urban (Census 2011) and in today’s world it can be still called as a slow pace of urbanization. Although the scenario is changing, and India’s current rate of urbanization is like never seen before. According to a survey by UN, by 2030 the country’s 40% population would be residing in urban areas. On the contrary the country’s public transportation systems aren’t making any news for matching this so called rapid urbanization, except a few cities. In India, there are more than 450 cities with population of 1 lakh or more including 53 million plus cities (Census 2011). A lot of efforts and recommendations have been made by the India government in form of policies and programmes to improve the urban transport systems. For example Indian government’s flagship programme in 2007 called Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission or JnNURM pushed Indian cities to set up proper public transport system in form of buses, metro rails, BRTs etc. Even after these efforts, there is huge gap in provisioning of public transport services in India. There were only 60-70 odd cities in the whole country with formal bus systems in place (Gadepalli, 2016). Indian cities have less than 1% share of buses in total number of vehicles (Road transport yearbook, 2011-2012). Moreover a mere number of cities (even less than 10) have a metro rail system. These figures clearly show the backlog in provisioning of transport service in Indian cities.
Thus this gap gives rise to privately run, unregulated and disorganized forms of transport which fall under the informal public transport (IPT) category. These are shared services run by private owners and associations but not regularized by governments. The IPT carries significant number of people in Indian cities irrespective of the city size, be it a metropolitan or any small town.
Informal public transport
This term is often replaced by the words like intermediate public transport or para transit [Cervero, 2000]. Since in most of the mega cities or metropolitans there are formal public transport systems in place like the metros, buses, rails etc. but these are restricted to their respective corridors beyond which there still arises a need for moving people, and thus this gap is filled by the informal public transport. However in cities other than these metropolitans like the medium sized cities or large towns where there is no public transit facility provided by the local authority, the informal sector often becomes the only mode of transport for the people. Hence they carry a huge responsibility of moving people daily from one place to another but it is done rather in an ‘informal way’. Mostly the informal public transport fights day and night for its existence because such is the image of this sector that it is often discouraged in many cities as it doesn’t represents a modern world, but it still continues operating as there is no denial in the fact that it has a major share in mobility of the people in urban areas.
The World Bank defines the informal public transport as the publicly available passenger transport service that is outside the traditional public transport regulatory system, which means a transport system which doesn’t falls under the purview of the government regulations. Since it doesn’t falls under the eye of government bodies there are various irregularities in the system with issues including those of permit, fitness, licence etc.
Who travels in IPT: As mentioned earlier the cities which have a well laid public transport network, require the mobility needs in the areas where public transport is not accessible. In these areas, there is a demand which is fulfilled by the IPT. For example the stretches between a metro station or bus stop to the nearby neighbourhoods, residential neighbourhoods to nearby markets, older parts of the city where buses cannot be plied etc. Moreover the nearby rural areas or the peri urban areas of a city are also connected by the IPT as providing a public transport is not feasible in those areas due to irregular demands. Whereas in the cities which lack a sound formal public transport or even don’t have it at all, IPT completely handles the movement of people throughout the city. These are mostly the medium sized cities or large towns.
Permits: However the IPT which is not a well-recognized form of public transport though some cities, mostly megacities and metropolitans, regulate them in order to bring some control. This regulation is in form of permits that are issued by the transport department of respective regions. According to ‘The Motor Vehicles Act 1988’ there can be two types of permits namely contract carriage and stage carriage. The contract carriage permit is the one in which the vehicle is taken for hire on contract basis from source to destination, without any stoppage in between to pick any other passenger. Whereas the stage carriage permit allows the operator to carry more than six passengers excluding himself, and each passenger pays fare individually for his respective journey.
Type of vehicles in informal public transport: The vehicles belong from small to medium sizes, with carrying capacity of 3 to 20 passengers per vehicle. The vehicles range from three seater
cycle rickshaws to seven seater vans and to 15-20 seater mini buses. Some cities which are completely dependent upon informal transport may have big buses with even more carrying capacities.
Owners & Associations: The IPT has vehicles which are privately owned by individuals. A single vehicle might be owned by an individual whereas a fleet of more than one could also belong to a single person, who gives the vehicles on rent. A category of vehicles in any IPT system have their associations or unions which are headed by a prominent leader. The union’s role can be different in different cities or even based type of vehicles. These unions often regulate the services up to some extent and also perform functions like managing the whole system, dealing with governmental issues, routing of vehicles, managing queues on local stands or stops.
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