The selection of the mode of travel by urban population is determined by purpose of the journey, its frequency, timing, length, characteristic participant and their economic status. Obviously model choice for popping round to the local store to get some vegetables for dinner is different in almost every way from the long distance journey to work.
The prevalent modes of transport, or in other words, modal choice in urban areas, are as follows:
Walking is the most important form of urban transport. Nearly everyone walks and children and women walk most. Some types of journeys are more likely to be made on foot; though more than one in three of all journeys, people make in urban and rural UK are made on foot; for education journeys the figure is 60 per cent. Car availability is also a strong influence on the frequency and length of walking trips, with car owners making fewer and shorter journeys. However, most trips are of necessity multimodal and walking is a component of almost all of them, whether it is to the parked car or to and from public transport stops and stations.
In developing countries walking dominates urban transport for the poor, who walk most often and furthest. In India, for example, the lower income groups depend upon walking for almost 60 per cent of all urban journeys. Many of these walkers do not have a moral choice as such, for their poverty denies them the opportunity to use anything else but their feet.
Even when buses are available they are frequently full, so that even many of the not-so-poor cannot actually use them. But reluctant walkers are still travellers in the urban system and planning must recognise that walking is, and will remain, a perfectly valid form of transport for most people. It is one that is entirely appropriate for many types of urban trips and it is often the most efficient, both for the walker and for the urban transport system as a whole.
2. Non-motorised Vehicles:
In industrialised countries the pedal cycle is the principal vehicle in the category, but it rarely accounts for more than 10 per cent of the modal split. However, there has been a resurgence of cycling in recent years and many countries, notably the Netherlands, demonstrate that the bicycle may make a very significant contribution to urban transport when proper facilities are provided and a pro-cycling ethos is established.
However, it is developing countries that non-motorised vehicles assume dominance as a means of mobility, though there is much variability between countries in the particular vehicle used. In China, the cycle predominates, with ownership levels as high as 460 per 1000 people in some cities, and 80 per cent of all trips being made by cycle. In Indian cities essential trips (work and education) are made primarily by non-motorised modes (Table 5.2). Bangladesh, for example has a fleet of 8,400 buses, but has 14,000 auto-rickshaws and 7, 00,000 cycle-rickshaws. It also uses 1, 60,000 bullock carts for personal transport.
3. Private cars:
In the industrial world the car is now the leading mode for all categories of journey. It is more popular because of its flexibility, personal convenience and the status that ownership confers. Though ownership levels are static in some inner urban areas, generally speaking the number of households with one, two or more vehicles continues to grow throughout industrial societies, with one car for every 1.7 people in the USA and every 2.9 in Europe (excluding Portugal and Greece).
There are evident transport advantages of car ownership and these are augmented by powerful social and economic pressures that have made the car a symbol of wealth, choice and success. The contrast with cities of the developing world is marked and is principally a function of income. Though ownership rates may be growing quickly this is from a low base, so that cities such as Calcutta and Nairobi still have fewer than 50 cars for every 1,000 inhabitants.
John Adams (1981) has calculated that the 59 poorest countries of the world, containing over 60 per cent of its population, together own less cars than the American city of Los Angeles. The potential for future growth in the number of cars is thus enormous, although there are strong environmental and social reasons why current growth rates cannot continue for much longer. For the time being, though, the headlong dash towards global mass car ownership continues unabated.
4. Public Transport:
Buses come in many shapes and sizes, including mini- and midi-buses, standard or articulated single-deckers, and variants on the double-decker, which can carry up to 150 people. Because they all benefit from the free use of existing roads they are cheap and flexible to operate as compared with rail-based public transport.
They are of particular importance in developing countries, where they are intensively used, with the largest Indian cities, for example, having up to 40 per cent of trips made by bus. However, many vehicles are old and unreliable and although fares are low, they are still too high for many people.
Buses are less efficient users of energy than urban rail systems and emit more pollution, though their record on these criteria is much superior to other forms of motorised road transport. The flexibility and low cost of bus operation and maintenance, together with the prior existence of the necessary roadways, mean that buses are likely to remain firm favourites in cities in both industrialised and developing societies. The problems lie in clearing the road space of cars of so that the advantages of the bus can be properly exploited.
These systems can run at average operating speeds of up to 60 km per hour, carrying from 15,000 to 60,000 passengers per hour, and are designed to serve high-density corridors in order to justify the high costs of construction. Rapid transit systems are self-contained urban railways, known as U-bahn in Germany and as ‘metros’ elsewhere, after the Paris system, begun in 1900.
Typically, such systems are underground in city centres and offer up to 30-40 trains per hour, to which people walk and on which they pay a flat or zonal fare. New rail development can only be justified if there is a high potential ridership, so metros are typical of cities of more than a million people, though by no means do all such cities have them.
Electric streetcars of ‘trams’ developed from horse-buses in the 1880s and spread to most North American and Europeans cities. They run in city streets, negotiating tight curves and accelerating quickly from the frequent stops. They are subject to car-caused congestion, so that some European cities are now upgrading them to LRTs by enclosing the tracks, granting priority at lights and running them through pedestrians areas and tunnels in city centres. In smaller cities streetcars are usually the only rail based public transport, but in larger ones they complement metro or S-bahn systems. About 250 systems exist world-wide, including over 150 in the former communist bloc.
There are variants and hybrids of all of these systems, such as the trolley buses of Seattle and Lyons, powering buses through overhead wires, and the double-decker trams of Hong Kong. Increasingly systems are becoming automated, rather like airport ‘people movers’. Automated light rail, with no drivers or station staff, was first tried in a traditional city centre in Lille, France. This system, known as ‘VAL’, opened in 1983, consists of driverless trains on rubber wheels, operating a 90-second service at peak hours and carrying over 3 million passengers annually. Its success has encouraged the introduction of other lines such as those in Vancouver and in London’s Docklands.
Taxis and Informal Modes:
Taxis are small vehicles that usually carry one passenger over short distances, often in city centres where parking shortages make the use of private cars difficult. They have high unit costs, especially of labour and fuel, and thus tend to be used principally by those on higher incomes and for business travel. Their contribution to the modal split in western cities is typically below 1 per cent, though they may have particular importance at certain times and for certain groups such as women and the disabled to whom they offer the advantages of security and door-to-door convenience.
There is also an ‘informal’ sector of a kind in developed countries in the form of ‘car-pools’ and ‘van-pools’, whereby existing drivers share their vehicles. This is the second most important means of commuting in American cities, where it achieves better use of existing private vehicle fleet in circumstances where public transport is often rudimentary in coverage.