An average Mumbaite spends anywhere between 2 to 3 hours on road everyday - stuck in slow moving traffic. I am sure so is the case with most other large cities nationally and internationally.
But given that I am a “solution idea person” – I always end up thinking of root cause of the problem. The fact that I am not an engineer adds further imagination to my solutions!!! So here goes…
Firstly – is this problem important enough to merit a discussion?
Given that petroleum, auto and road industry put together are easily more than 10% of our GDP – even a small improvement in this field can lead to massive public benefits. It’s obvious - At micro level just think as to what %ge of your monthly expense can be attributed to travel costs. Add to that cost of time of so many people stuck together and you are staring at a large national problem, opportunity and priority.
First of all I think the system of wheel based vehicles driving on firmed up “roads” is little dumb. The idea basically has lived its lifetime. The system itself is pre historic, Stone Age idea and has changed little over the years but for the quality of vehicles and roads.
- Frankly I think that its time the roads gets smarter to navigate and drive us all the way… after all the challenge is not very different from independent data packets moving intelligently via data super highways without colliding even once.
- The car in itself is also not very efficient. On any average weekday morning in Mumbai, there are about 20 Lac cars drivers who spend countless man-hours together doing basically the same thing – navigating from each other to safely reach the destination. And an average car drives 1.5 persons in peak hour…What a waste! We don’t need so many drivers doing the same thing – we can somehow get all these cars to bundle up and one or two drivers can pull the vehicles on the main streets which would be 80% of journey distance. Your driving skills will come into use for only the last mile!
- We live in communication age – but average car owner like me struggles to find peer group of travelers with similar start - end destinations and time of travel. Such information can easily help in commuters organize themselves in logical units and achieve more efficient travel
Is it sounding like I am basically suggesting that all carwallahs take a local train instead?
The answer is NO.
I am not underestimating the comfort and flexibility offered by a car.
What I am really saying is this – how would you have designed the city transport system had there been no legacy structure? If you were given the task of building it bottoms up?
I think this is a 3 part solution
- The start mile and last mile – these is the journey from your home till one grand assembly point and then from destination deport point to the workplace (and vice versa on return). This stage should include small vehicles like cabs or private cars which can be parked near the pick-up and drop point.
- The problem of bunching – we need a intelligent wireless mobile phone based system which will track commuters and manage the workload
- High bandwidth fast travel connectivity – this is journey constitutes 80% of travel distance. Wherein masses of commuters are bunched together and ferried at faster pace via highways that will totally free of individual drivers.
Sounds too dreamy? Think again. Let’s try and make this happen from current available means.
We already have King Long AC buses in Mumbai and we have A/C Cabs and we have mobile networks.
All we need is a service wherein a service provider offers integrated solution at one single price point – say Rs 2000/- per month for Andheri to CST.
The service provider uses my cell phone to track me (via Google Latitude kind of service).
There is A/C cab pick-up and drop for the last mile and King Long AC bus service for the highways. The frequency of the buses and cab can be managed depending on workload on real-time basis so that nobody has to wait for the bus. In fact once registered I don’t have to make a single call for the cab or wait for the bus. It’s all taken care via my cell phone!
The technology is available, the customers are ready – waiting for next Mr Ambani to wake up and smell the opportunity.
At a conservative million customers a month – you are staring at a business opportunity that’s worth Rs 200 Crores a month in Mumbai alone. Extrapolated for all india annually, its worth over Rs 20000 Crores a year!!!