Is Public Transport a second-class commodity?

Agra, India

The mark of a developed country is not cars for the poor, rather the rich using public transport

With regards to economic theory, public transport is termed an inferior good, something which sees it usage diminish as incomes rise. Mobility In general and private transport, on the other hand, can be seen as normal good, consumption increases in line with disposable income. In other words, the private car is Moët and Chandonand  public transport is little more than fizzy plonk.

The private car is Moët and Chandon and  public transport is little more than fizzy plonk.

This is bad news for those who are not aware of this, but a truth to be taken into account nonetheless. This is how I explain it in the multitude of countries where I work: your growth will lead to the collapse of your road network and increase pollution, which is already high enough.

From this purely economic viewpoint, the solution to the problem would seem evident: we turn Public transport into a normal good. The desire of those wishing to prosper. And if we analyse what the latter group wants, we will find the way:

  • Their first desire is to save time, with prosperity, the value of time rises disproportionately with GDP. Therefore we have create rapid transport systems with reserved platforms separating them from the general traffic flow, post 2.2
  • Safety, the cost of living in developed countries is more highly valued. Any action geared towards this will be well received.
  • An excellent complement to time-saving is “making good use of one’s time”: an example of this, in the comfortable trains now commonplace in Spain we can work or read, travelling time is no longer lost time. Therefore, we have to add the comfort factor into the design equation.

Growth will lead to the collapse of your road network and increase pollution

Let’s work together on this. Below I have listed a few possible solutions to be worked on:

  • Lanes exclusively reserved for buses, allowing for a faster commercial speed, making it better than taking the car.
  • Policies regarding parking facilities is a good way of restricting but without limiting the use of the private vehicle in certain areas, making it at the same time more costly if compared with Public Transport. Regulations on public highways, the reduction of parking spaces offered in order to restore land space for citizens, underground residents’ parking and other measures relating to parking issues are of major interest.
  • Ease traffic congestion, reduce travelling speeds makes the roads less dangerous and cities more habitable.

These are some of the proposals I have drawn up after a lifetime in the consultancy industry, researcher and public transport user.

But now over to you. What would your measures be? Do you think the future of mobility is necessarily linked to the improvement of the public transport infrastructure? Is it feasible? Is it sustainable?

If you liked this post, share it with your colleagues and acquaintances. I await your comments and look forward to discussing them. Meanwhile, I will continue my musings on the train from Agra to Delhi.

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