Solutions to India’s transportation problems (2014)

My original blog article in 2011 about Solutions to India’s transportation problems was a huge success. We got thousands of readers and it was fun to write as well. So, I am writing a different version of the same article in 2014 with some new and exciting ideas to help India win the battle of congestion.

My original article had practical ideas like removing the seats from buses so that more people could squeeze in them and have vinal compartments in the buses so that each person would have a private standing area! I hope that idea gets a standing ovation! I wrote about having moving walkways in long indoor corridors like they do at many international airports which would be a fast way to get around downtown areas. Mini-buses were on the list as they could arrive more frequently at designated stops. Luxury buses were my attempted to get the upper class out of their cars and into a more space-efficient mode of transportation that would reduce traffic. My final zany idea was a snake train and you really must read about that.

Here are some more innovative ideas to save India. We’ll start with the more obvious approaches.

A new bus system

Indoor raised platforms at bus stops.
It is a pain in the neck to jump in a bus that wants to start moving before you are in it. Going up those stairs with other human bodies blocking you. The system is designed to make you hate it. But, this is India, at lease these days. I’m looking for a kinder, friendlier India (sorry to sound like George Bush.) What if bus stops were enclosed by glass and were raised up a few feet? That way it would be clearly designated WHICH bus you were waiting for (which is always ambiguous in India,) and you would be able to get in the bus as easily as you would get in a subway train with no stairs. This would be great for children, the elderly, and those who like to take the chaos out of life.

Double decker buses
Since road space is so limited in urban parts of India, double decker buses would save a lot of space on the road. Imagine having elevated docks so that you could exit from the top floor? Additionally, if buses were longer, they would function a bit like a surface train, and on busy streets you could keep those buses coming — one after the next. If you allocated some of the seats (or a closed off section of the bus) to have luxury larger seats, you could command a nice price from upper class customers as well which would help fund the entire system.

Transfer stations for buses
It is a pain in India getting off the bus onto a smelly road with trash everywhere and having to walk anywhere, especially if it means crossing a road which is a complete nightmare and a risk of life and limb. What if you could get off a bus, climb up some clean stairs, and then come down into another glass enclosed waiting area for the bus that you were going to transfer to. India’s population density causes problems, but it could be used as an asset, since it makes it possible to have efficient transportation systems involving trains and buses (which don’t work as well in most parts of America due to the sparse population.)

Standing only buses
Buses in India are notoriously packed full. Having seats bolted in prevents you from squeezing more sardines (human sardines) into the vehicle. Removing seats on some buses will allow more people into the bus. Having vinal separators would allow for individualized standing locations which would make the entire trip a whole lot more comfortable for you (and harder for the pick-pockets.)

Segway & Bike highways
This has always been my dream, but not enough urban planners think outside of the box, or the rick in the case of India. The reason why traffic is such an issue is that cars, rick-shaws, and buses are so large and clunky. If you have a safe way to ride a Segway or bicycle, traffic would flow so much more easily. A Segway is a small device that you stand on. It has two wheels on one axle and balances itself. It is sort of magical, but it’s real. Segways are popular in the United States for giving walking tours of cities since you can have a lot of people follow each other around in congested areas without any danger.

But, imagine an indoor enclosed highway for Segway traffic and bicycles. It could be elevated, so it could pass over roads. Since the highway wouldn’t carry a single heavy vehicle, the weight load on the infrastructure would be light which would mean that it would be a lot less expensive to build than a regular overpass — perhaps only 10% of the cost. There could be refreshment shops, news stands, bicycle repair shops, and internet cafes along the highway for the convenience of the people using it.

Since it is expensive to own a Segway, it might make more sense to have Segways be shared. If you enter the Segway highway, you could see a long line of Segways waiting to be used. You would just jump on one, and take it to the station where you want to get off, and then someone else could use that very same Segway. Theft would not be possible, because the Segways would not be able to exit the indoor passage without setting off an alarm.

The indoor nature of this highway would be convenient if it was hot, or raining. It could be temperature controlled as well if the budget permits. Additionally, it would be a safe way to get around at night!

Bullet Trains for the wealthy
When you think of India, you probably think of poverty, and people who are just skin and bones begging for food by the side of the road. India also has millions of very wealthy people, and those people need transportation. There are many wealthy types in Mumbai who simply need to save time getting around which is why they take the train. But, what if there were a better solution? Imagine a spotlessly clean bullet train system for the wealthy in big metros of India. It would cost a mint, but you would get great meals and refreshments at the stations, have a very fast ride wherever you are going and enjoy the company of other opulent folks at the meticulously maintained stations that all have ample paid parking! What a concept. Typically in India, if there is a rail station there is no parking, and if there is parking, there is no station, and if there are both, then something else is wrong. But, what if you could have it all, and with a clean and comfortable fast ride? I think the rich would pay for that. Bullet trains could be mag-lev trains for short urban commutes as well as from city to city. The security for getting on planes is a real hassle — taking a fast train from Delhi to Mumbai would be a lot nicer if you ask me!

Longer trains (perhaps double deckers)
India’s local rail system (they say rail, not train by the way) is overburdened in many areas. People have to squeeze in and it just isn’t funny. The only way to fix this problem is to either have more trains, longer trains, or double decker trains. Unfortunately, platforms at existing stations are not long enough to allow for longer trains. Should they all be rebuilt? The answer is unclear. But, India needs to adapt to its huge and ever-growing population and adapt its existing train infrastructure.

Tolls for cars to use the main roads.
Although I believe that having separate roads for buses is a sensible idea to help allow those buses to move freely, that is not always easy or possible. It would make sense in areas where buses and cars share the road to have fees for using the road. After all, if you drive on the road, you are taking up space that someone else could be using. There could be yearly fees for being able to use congested roads during certain hours of the day, or daily fees to use those roads. Singapore has yearly fees, and the result is that the locals complain, but there is never congestion in the entire island! Maybe India needs to think more like Singaporeans and permanently solve its transportation problem! If there were fees for using the roads, more people would use buses, and those buses would be able to move quickly since there would be a lot less traffic. I would honestly say, that for Indian urban roads to function well, there needs to be an 80% reduction in the quantity of cars on the road. Reducing the number of cars by half would still be a nightmare.

A web of indoor golf cart routes
This idea is similar to the Segway or Bicycle highway idea and would also function in indoor highways. If you visit many airports, the staff drive around in golf carts. But, what if larger electronic indoor vehicles could be built that would accommodate about eight people that you could just jump on and jump off of. The seats might even be on the outside of the vehicle, so you don’t actually get in. How these vehicles are shaped is a secondary issue, but imagine this reality! There could be stations throughout the line of these indoor highways. Or there could be a web of interconnecting highways. At each station, there could be eight possible directions that you could go, and eight carts waiting for you. Each cart would wait until it was completely filled, or until a certain amount of minutes had passed. This would be a very clean, fast, and convenient way to get around a city. Why can’t someone in Dubai put this idea to use — it is a really cool idea!

If you liked this article you might enjoy reading about my SNAKE TRAIN idea too.

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