#Introducing: An exclusive column devoted to the city by eminent Future Designer Dr. Anupam Saraph, a global expert on complex systems.
Dr Saraph holds a PhD in designing sustainable systems from the faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands.
He is actively engaged in civil society and participates in several environmental, resource and nature conservation initiatives. Dr. Saraph has authored draft legislations for river and natural resource conservation, right to good governance and has contributed to election and democratic reforms.
Pune365 is honoured to welcome Dr. Anupam Saraph on board with his first column:
There’s no city I’ve been to that doesn’t complain of traffic. Let me correct that. There’s no city I’ve been to that’s ever stopped complaining of traffic. Government’s love traffic.
While local government makes the city into one big flyover jungle and concrete maze, the state and union government’s work harder to get more and more people travelling to the city. With 8 kilometres of additional national highway being added every day.
When slowed by daily traffic, at the top of everyone’s mind is the question of how they might get there faster. Pune is no exception.
Many dream of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop to carry everyone to Mumbai in 20 minutes. They believe it is the ultimate solution to Pune’s traffic problems. As do others who believe that Pune Metro is the blessing traffic in Pune has never had. Several continue to swear by the BRT. Mass rapid transport is sustainable mobility say others. Ask the voices who have championed public transport for almost half a century, that is the only solution they swear.
Pune also continues to have its share of by-pass specialists. They believe the woes of traffic will be resolved by building flyovers or by widening roads.
Pune is planning to turn “smart” by building more and more infrastructure even as I pen this piece. The crisis is now, the solution must be here and now.
I’m reminded of my friend. Every year he has a new specialist helping ease the discomfort of obesity. He just visited his tailor for a sartorial upgrade to new garments to fit his expanding frame. His tailor said he will accommodate a new hole in the belt to accommodate the bigger waistline with greater ease.
He also visited a by-pass specialist advising a diversion and fly-over. Yet another suggested demolishing the excess tissue in a barbaric-oops bariatric-surgery.
He’s been at it for at least three decades. As I write, he’s planning a more sedentary weekend than ever followed by a big party with food ordered online to unwind the stressful week as he has done for the last several years.
My friend Cesare Marchetti from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis studied mobility in cities from the nineteenth century onwards. He discovered that the diameter of a city expands to match the distance covered in one hour.
As walking was replaced by faster modes of travel, the cities across the world simply expanded uncontrollably to become increasingly obese.
Clearly, faster modes of travel, whether private or public, are a part of our short term fix to get there on time. Like my friend’s short term solutions of a new wardrobe and by-pass, the faster mode merely addresses the symptom, not the cause.
The addictive short-termism definitely makes things worse as the short-termer, like the drug addict, argues how they are getting better.
Pune has been busy “redeveloping” itself from a horizontal city to a vertical one, densifying itself by at least 10 or 12 times. The central government has been rewarding Pune, like other cities that are growing obese, with more funds to grow even more! That, say the specialists, is what smartness is all about.
Without an exercise and diet regime Pune’s traffic will be worse. Even with the Hyperloop and self driven cars – No – Because of the Hyperloop and self-driven cars.
Just like my friend doesn’t believe his problem is with his lifestyle, Pune doesn’t believe its problem is about its appetite for growth. So we may live from short-term to short-term designing parking policies, building buildings and metros and patting ourselves at growing the problem bigger and bigger.
When will the traffic change? Will it ever give up its short termisim?
#All views expressed in this article are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph