Any Mumbaikar would be proud of the flyovers and bridges built in recent times and use them as an indicator of urban development. It isn’t long before comparisons with Shanghai start taking root. Only after you scratch beneath the surface, you realize the hollowness of the argument and claims. The recent upswing in economic fortunes of the city and also rest of the country have opened the doors to the usual forms of materialistic pleasures, one of which is your own vehicle. In a city with standing room only, the desire to buy your own car as soon as the cash starts flowing in is not diminished in anyway. Realistically you wouldn’t need a car to get around in Mumbai but then when has practical reason and utility dictated the things we choose to buy.
You would assume that after buying a car, you in addition to having a road to drive your car would also have space to park it wherever you go, right? The statistics tell you otherwise:
There are over 15 lakh cars on Mumbai’s roads, but common parking space
for only — hold your breath — 8,000, thanks to the 100-odd pay-and-park
areas across the city. The city’s vehicular density is 591 vehicles per
square metre, compared to 163 in New Delhi and the international
average vehicular density of 300 [source].
Finding a parking spot in Mumbai, if you have driven there, can be an uphill battle and takes longer than it takes you to drive anywhere.
As environmental activists have pointed out, only 9 per cent of the 14
million people in the city use cars and two-wheelers, but over
Rs10,000 crore will be spent over the next few years on road projects [source: as above].
So if you have no space to park, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in mass transit systems instead of investing in infrastructure that only seeks to encourage private vehicle ownership. Being a democratic country, you cannot dictate what people ought not to buy but you can certainly influence public choice by emphasizing or deemphasizing certain sectors of urban development. Congestion Pricing [PDF link] would just one such tool.