Promoting Safe, Sustainable and Inclusive Transportation

What is SPTM?

Save Pune Traffic Movement (SPTM) is a Non-Government Organization registered under the erstwhile Section 25 (now Section 8) of the Companies Act.

We urge Government agencies and citizens to promote and demand projects that make it safe, convenient and attractive to use sustainable modes of transportation, viz., walking, public transportation and cycling.

We also work to make urban transportation safe, and its planning and impementation chaos-free.

Vision

A safe, chaos free and sustainable traffic system for Pune, which will be a model for the rest of India.

Mission

To drive the transformation of Pune's transportation system through a united force of responsible citizens. To achieve this, work with Government, media and any such organizations and stakeholders.

General philosophy that governs SPTM’s views

The priority accorded to road users should generally follow this theme: Pedestrians, public transport, cycles and rickshaws, personal vehicles. (There may be additional road users too. Therefore it is important to understand the theme instead of the exact order.)


Anything that makes mobility simpler for any user group, without them paying at least the due cost (of road space, pollution etc), should be discouraged. (This happens generally only with personal vehicles, who don’t pay the due cost of mobility).


We need improvements on all fronts and they may not happen simultaneously. In the interim, some improvements may hurt a bit (e.g. removing parking on a given road should lead to a bus lane. But the parking will be removed immediately and the bus lane may take a year or even more!) Even in such cases, SPTM would support the improvement because it is a step in the right direction, and not taking that step is wrong.

1. People

As said already, the traffic system must be people-centric, i.e., what must be kept in mind, while designing or enhancing the traffic system, is ‘people’ and NOT vehicles. The traffic system should take care of the weaker sections like children, physically challenged, senior citizens and must give priority to the needs of pedestrians and ensure their safety. 

2. Footpaths, Wide footpaths

Safe pedestrian movement is essential in itself, and also for promoting public transport. A commuter of a bus, BRT, monorail metro is a pedestrian at either ends of the trip. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable component of traffic. It must also be noted that every motorist is a pedestrian at some time, but not every pedestrian is a motorist. Being able to safely walk along and cross a road is a pedestrian’s fundamental right. Their right is highlighted and must be appreciated by the fact that the pedestrians do not need a license, whereas drivers need a license to exercise a privilege they are granted.

SPTM is in favour of doing everything to ensure pedestrians’ right to safely walk along and cross roads, even at the cost of sacrificing drivers’ privileges if need be. In fact, drivers’ privileges need to presuppose that convenience and safety of pedestrians is ensured!

3. Buses, Bus Lanes

A bus system that is accessible to a large no of citizens (a stop within ~500 m, a bus in ~5 minutes) is an essential ingredient for any large city’s traffic system, whether the city has a BRT and/or a Metro. SPTM thinks that such a system must be put in place first, for BRT and/or Metro to succeed. A good bus system that reaches nooks and corners of the city is required for people to reach BRT stops/ Metro stations from their homes and offices.

SPTM also thinks that when required, mechanisms like bus lanes, roads reserved for buses, bus priority lanes to enable buses get past traffic at signals will be needed to make the bus system more useful and attractive.

4. Cycle Tracks

A cycle is perhaps the fastest mode of commute for short distances. Its other benefits, e.g. towards environment and health, are also well known. SPTM is in favour of doing everything possible to promote cycling.

An objection raised by motorists is that cycle tracks take away precious space from already congested roads. SPTM thinks that if a safe carriageway is provided to cyclists, more people will use cycles and “get out of the way” of motorists!

SPTM also stresses that even today many citizens use cycles (according to census of 2011, 9% people in Pune use a cycle to go to work) and they must be granted their share of road space, which must be well planned and maintained. With more cycle tracks, this figure can rise much higher.

5. Pedestrians-only roads

As mentioned above, studies and experience worldwide has shown that just like more vehicles come if you build more roads, they also seem to disappear if you close some roads for vehicles and reserve them for pedestrians. Many cities have converted downtown streets for pedestrians. These streets are now busy shopping areas, places where people simply love to stroll, sit, eat, shop and enjoy. They are also tourist attractions and boost local economy. SPTM is in favour of permanently reserving some streets for pedestrians.

6. Foot over-bridges and subways

As stated in the section on footpaths, road space is pedestrians’ right. Climbing one metre is equivalent to walking about 5 metres. It is not fair to expect pedestrians to climb stairs to make way for vehicles. Especially, children, senior citizens, expecting ladies and physically challenged people face a lot of hardships while using overbridges and subways. SPTM thinks that it is wrong to force them to climb stairs just because others can. Only a handful places in the city might warrant pedestrian bridges or subways, which need to be determined in a scientific manner. This is not a solution to be employed just to provide a few more seconds in a signal cycle for vehicles.

SPTM thinks that, the road area should be used for sustainable transport modes than for parking personal motor vehicles, and supports reducing and eventually eliminating parking on arterial roads.  We would also like to add that such reduction should not simply move the parked vehicles in inner lanes, and steps may have to be taken to ensure that.

Please also see point #2 in the section “General philosophy that governs SPTM’s views” in this regard.

7. Flyovers, road widening

Flyovers are often thought of as a remedy for intersections jammed with traffic. In most cases, they merely transport the vehicles to the next intersection and jam it instead.

Road widening: Studies have shown that widening a road attracts more vehicles to that road, filling up the space in no time.

SPTM thinks that employing measures like flyovers and road widening to fight traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to fight obesity. Traffic jams will not go away unless the growth in number of the private vehicles is stopped by providing alternatives by way of a highly attractive public transport system, cycling and walking.

8. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

A BRT system is based on two fundamentals: Since a BRT system can transport many more people for the same road space, 1) Reserve lanes for buses to ensure that they don’t get stuck in traffic, and 2) Make the system attractive to lure people who commute by personal vehicles to use other modes of commute. In addition, a typical BRT corridor provides cycle tracks and wide footpaths, because the objective is to provide alternatives to commute by personal vehicles. A good BRT corridor can have a capacity of carrying 12-15,000 people per hour per direction, up from about 8,000 without a BRT. Such a system has proved beneficial for cities worldwide. SPTM is in favour of BRT, when properly planned and implemented.

9. Helmets

Whether helmets benefit riders of 2-wheelers in cities has been a hotly debated topic. Yet, as a matter of principle, SPTM believes in following all traffic rules and wearing helmets is not an exeption. Evidence shows that wearing helmets improves safety, and SPTM supports evidence based practices.

Please also read this detailed writeup on why SPTM believes that 2-wheeler riders must wear helmets.

10. Parking

It is observed in studies that reducing availability of parking spaces increases use of public transportation. SPTM thinks that parking lots should be provided only sparingly. In any case, SPTM thinks that parking spaces should not be free/ subsidized by the local government. The owners of personal vehicles must bear the real cost of parking their vehicles. A calculation has indicated that if the real estate rental cost as well as the cost of delaying traffic (since parking takes away road space, it slows traffic) is factored in, parking charges would become much higher than what they are today!

SPTM thinks that, the road area should be used for sustainable transport modes than for parking personal motor vehicles, and supports reducing and eventually eliminating parking on arterial roads.  We would also like to add that such reduction should not simply move the parked vehicles in inner lanes, and steps may have to be taken to ensure that.

Please also see point #2 in the section “General philosophy that governs SPTM’s views” in this regard.

11. Trams

Trams have been successful in cities in India as well as abroad. However, their pros and cons in today’s dynamically changing Indian cities are not very well understood. SPTM thinks that they need to be discussed and studied thoroughly, as and when this topic comes to the forefront.

12. Metro and Monorail

Monorail: Most of the things that apply to Metro are equally applicable to Monorail, therefore Metro and Monorail are collectively referred to as “Metro” in this discussion. However, it should also be noted that Monorails support much smaller ridership, and can’t really be called a mode of “mass” rapid transit.

Metros have been useful in very large cities as they can carry huge number of people, even more than 25,000 per hour per direction. Pune’s demand is expected to hit such numbers in the next 15 years, so it would seem logical to plan and build a Metro from today.

However, building a Metro is prohibitively expensive. Its cost ranges from Rs. 300-600 crores per km (depends on various factors, including whether it is build over/ underground). As against that, BRT corridor costs a mere Rs. 15-25 crores per km (estimated costs for 2018).

Hoiwever, Mass Rapid Transit systems have a limited reach compared to a basic bus system. Therefore a very good bus system that also works like their feeders, reaching nooks and corners of the city, is fundamental to success of Metro and BRT.

SPTM thinks that such a bus system must be built first, before going for BRT and Metro.

Even after that, the Metro must be planned in such a way that its corridors do not compete with other modes of rapid, mass transit. (The Metro as planned today has corridors running parallel with BRT as well as Mumbai-Pune railway track.)

Since a Metro can carry a large number of passengers, it is successful in areas of very high population density. Unfortunately, the present plans of Metro hinge upon raising funds by increasing population density of the Metro corridor, without imbibing the rest of the principles of Transit Oriented Development!

In addition to the points mentioned above, Elevated Metro as well as Monorail damage the city’s landscape. We will also have to think about how we want our city to look like.