Saturday, March 19, 2016

Global Gridlock - National Pain

In a recent speech, Bill Ford (great grandson of Henry Ford) questions what happens to the world if our cars and trucks double, triple and quadruple? With cars becoming more and more affordable, with focus on elimination of CO2 emission almost looking straight into our eyes with electric cars and improvements in technology working together, we can see a day when environment and vehicles coming closer to one another, and probably coexist in harmony.

But we are left with a greater challenge that is not getting adequate attention: the freedom of mobility! Bill Ford estimates that by 2044, when the world is expected to reach its peak population of about 9 billion, we would be having about 2 - 4 billion cars and other vehicles on earth, from today's 800 million. And most of this growth is expected to take place in the developing world!

We are heading towards a national gridlock, whereby we might be spending time in our vehicles more than at home or work. This is already visible in several major cities of the world - where adults have begun to carry mobile toilets in their cars or wear adult diapers, and carry food as one expects to remain stuck on road due to traffic jams. Remember the 100 mile long traffic jam of Beijing that took 11 days to clear? Aren't Indians spending about a week per year, just stuck in traffic jams alone, already? What a waste of our life and resources. Rapid urbanization with more and more people choosing to live in urban environment will add up to this huge maze. Will we end up with a global gridlock? 

India's motor vehicle sale per 1,000 persons is growing at a rapid rate of 18 persons adding up a car or a three or four wheeler each year. India is the sixth largest motor vehicles manufacturer in the world today. Increase in road space can never catch up with this demand and supply chain. After all, as Bill Ford says, "four billion clean cars are still four billion cars! A traffic jam with no emissions is still a traffic jam!" So, finding alternate technological and people friendly solutions are a must.

a) Integration of ticketing system, as done in several cities of the world must be implemented right from now with use of smart cards that can be punched at buses, train stations, metro rails and even rental cars.
b) Smart solutions by way of car pooling has to improve with focus on shared services.
c) Smarter cars that can talk to one another, predict a grid lock and allow one to take alternate routes for improving mobility
d) Smarter roads and parking lots that can speak to cars whereby one can book a parking lot even before you arrive to ensure that one doesn't keep travelling around to find a place.
e) Stronger laws to ensure that every housing complex comes with adequate amount of space to park as many cars as there are apartments. (A walk across places like the South Extension in New Delhi would make sense of what I am saying where vehicles are parked for days and weeks at times on the road, as most houses do not have adequate parking spaces in their own house.)
f) Mandatory following of lanes, with segregated and safe lanes for different types of vehicles
g) Work stations to come up with expected number of employees, and housing complexes within the work station area. For example, if a company comes up with a plan to engage 2,000 employees, the complex also should have place for at least 1,000 employees to live close by, within walking distance. This would greatly reduce commuting time and vehicles on the road. Companies can easily reap the benefits of it as they need not organize transport and can also charge nominal amount as rent while the staff will be available to the company even during emergencies, or say, even if there is a national gridlock of traffic jam!


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