Can Car Sharing Make Indian Cities More Mobile?
Today, we have buses, light rail and trains as the most commonly used means of mass transport. But what if car sharing was common as a form of mass transport? It could have its own set of advantages.
As the public transport system in India is not robust, car sharing is fast catching up in big Indian cities, especially in the National Capital Region. Private companies like Genpact have hundreds of private vehicles; employees make travel reservations and wait for their cars. The parking lots of Genpact have the list of cars and passengers assigned to travel in those.
It may seem improbable that car sharing would replace commuting by buses or the Metro. But this does not mean car sharing does not have its benefits. The major reason why Delhi Metro is not profitable on many routes is that people have to use rickshaws or private vehicles for the first-leg and the last-leg commuting. For example, people are forced to use some other vehicles to reach the Metro station. From the Metro station to their workplace, they need to travel in some vehicle or the other. If available, car sharing is also helpful in commuting to Metro stations, and from Metro stations to the workplace. Not surprisingly, this is already common in some areas of the NCR.
Modern technology, such as applications that link car drivers with passengers, may slowly usher in welcome change.
On the flip side, however, there are two reasons that may come in the way for car sharing becoming a popular mode of public transport in low-income countries like India and developed ones like the United States of America (USA). First, cars and fuel expenses in India are related to personal income. And, the cost of labour involved in carrying people from one place to another is high in the USA, where labour is more expensive. Second, cars may require more parking space. This is especially true of dense Indian cities which are choc-a-bloc.
Car sharing also raises the waiting time. Most people are not willing to wait for cars to find passengers on a specific route. Buses do this, but they have specific routes, and carry a large number of passengers. Another reason is that cars carry only a limited number of passengers, so the cost-to-benefit ratio is very high, making it an expensive option.