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UITP is internationally recognized for its work in advancing sustainable urban mobility as a critical policy agenda. It is, perhaps, the only worldwide network to bring together all public transport stakeholders and sustainable transport modes, with an agenda of enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of the masses by promoting sustainable public transport. Urban Transport News interacted with Ms. Rupa Nandy, who is Head of the UITP India office and taking part in various initiatives of Govt. of India towards advancing the sustainable urban transport system in India. Here are the excerpts:
How long have you been in the public transport industry? Tell us about your journey in this industry and your role in UITP in brief.
Ms. Rupa Nandy: In the industry, it has been about 19 years now which includes about 7 years of studies. My first rendezvous with Urban Transport was in my first year of college when I was studying a Bachelor of Planning in the School of Planning and Architecture. Every semester had a component of Urban Transportation. After my Bachelors I went into specializing in Urban Planning which again followed the same pattern. My first work in public transportation was when I was working in an infrastructure consultancy firm on JNNURM projects.
The next stint was in DIMTS for 5 years, which has its core in Public Transportation from planning to operations – the full lifecycle of public transportation. I left DIMTS to do my full-time MBA at the Indian School of Business and even there I was actively involved with the infrastructure club. I have worked with Ola for about a year and learned how the new mobility players operate in this ecosystem. I joined UITP at the beginning of this year and it been a fascinating ride since then.
Please brief our readers about the role of UITP in India. How does UITP help policymakers in the planning of urban mobility projects in the country?
Ms. Rupa: UITP is the only worldwide network to bring together all public transport stakeholders and all sustainable transport modes. UITP has three main functions as its core -Advocacy and Outreach, Network, Knowledge Sharing. In India also UITP follows the same core. We help various public transport players to come together by providing various platforms for them to interact. We have a huge knowledge base that is readily available and all our members can access them to learn not only from developed countries on the efficient public transportation they have but also how developing countries are moving forward and growing themselves to provide adequate systems to their residents. We have various working bodies and groups within UITP that keep producing cutting edge research on the latest transportation issues. We help authorities in India to
connect with their counterparts within India as well as abroad to learn from their experiences. We have year-round training across the world in which many of our Indian members participate and learn. Recently UITP was also part of the screening committee for the selection of cities under the FAME Scheme.
We also have a few research projects within India on electric buses and through them, we are trying to help the Indian authorities to make informed choices in transitioning to cleaner transportation systems.
Women’s safety in public transport is a major challenge in India. What measures you would like to suggest policymakers to make Public Transport safe and comfortable for women?
Ms. Rupa: The foremost requirement is to have gender-sensitive planning while planning for public transportation and infrastructure around it should have suggestions from women and have a gender expert in the policymakers group planning it. Better lighting from transit stops till to surrounding streets so that women feel safe walking back and going to, having transit personnel inside the public transport mode can enhance the safety. More frequent services to reduce overcrowding, information on the arrival of public transport to allow reduced waiting time and increase certainty will increase safety. Help point kiosks, police presence, 24 hours hotline can also address the issue. Public Transit drivers should also be trained on how to address such issues on-board. Technological solutions such as CCTV cameras, the panic button may also enhance safety.
How do you perceive things can change? What according to you is the role of various stakeholders in developing ‘New Mobility’ solutions for India?
Ms. Rupa: Indian public transportations systems face many issues such as lack of adequate public transport, accessibility, last-mile connectivity, reliability, frequency, absence of seamless intermodal travel, absence of integrated ticketing to name a few. The new mobility players have cropped up in the last 10 years to plugin that gap. Having said that these solutions are not a replacement for public transport nor do they compete with public transport.
Unfortunately, all these solutions are the new age start-ups with substantial funding and non-profitable. It would be interesting to see how these start-ups convert to a full-fledged profitable business and still maintain the level of service that they are providing right now and maintain low fares.
How do you view the Indian government’s ambition to create a metro, RRTS and high-speed rail networks in the country?
Ms. Rupa: I believe all decisions of implementing transportation projects should be backed by studies and justification. The ambition of RRTS, Metro, High-speed Rail is great, having said that there are other modes of public transport such as light rail transit, buses and a few more and they should not be ignored. Any new project should be an informed choice based on the various, geographic, economic, social, population, the institutional fabric of the city today. Every public transport project should consider the situation today and future growth and be proactive and not just reactive.
The transport, as well as manufacturing sectors, have both been male-dominated. However, women are now making inroads in both sectors. What do you think the industry should do to get more women into the transport sector?
Ms. Rupa: The workforce participation rates (WFPR) of women in India is quite low and beyond that much lower in sectors such as Public Transport. I think more than focusing on how to bring more women to this sector we should ask a question why women do not join this sector, it could be access to education, the disparity in pay with men, workplace biases, non-inclusive workplace, additional family responsibilities, limited growth opportunities, harassment.
We need to cater to each issue to provide a wholesome and inclusive environment for women to work. e.g. if the sector is non-inclusive we should make it more inclusive may be by providing facilities for taking care of children or providing flexible timings. We need to ensure that there is a well-defined career path as well as no pay difference in the same work between men and women. Many women take a break due to many reasons from their career, provisions should be made so that they have an option and an environment of joining back the workforce as and when they can.
UITP has a campaign called PT4ME. The PT4ME campaign is meant to spread awareness and advocate for an inclusive public transport to better serve our women passengers, as well as to promote the benefits of a diverse workforce comprised of women as well as men, in efforts to advance public transport
What are your views on the contents we covered in Urban Transport News publications i.e. online news portal and bi-monthly magazine?
Ms. Rupa: I follow Urban Transport News portal and the magazine and I think it is doing a fantastic job of being a one-stop information centre to learn about all that’s happening across the world in this sector. I wish you the best to achieve greater heights.
Anything else you want to tell our readers about UITP’s future plans in India?
Ms. Rupa: UITP plans to increase its engagement in the sector by organising more training and providing knowledge exchange platforms as India is going through a change in this sector, UITP is in a perfect position to handhold the authorities and the operators in this transition. We also understand the change has to be driven from the top and hence we plan to increase our engagements with various ministries involved in public transportation.
This interview first appears in January 2020, special edition of Urban Transport Infrastructure Magazine (Vol. II, Issue 7, Page 48-50). Views are personal and do not reflect the views of the editorial team or editorial board of Urban Transport News/Urban Transport Infrastructure Magazine.
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