While ‘bringing the city to the people’ is perhaps an ideal approach for new smart cities or existing cities with sufficient resources and optimal conditions for radical reshaping (such as Singapore or Seoul), many major urban hubs are too big, too complex and too crowded to make this viable in the short term.
For the world’s biggest cities, the existing infrastructure doesn’t always lend itself to being sculpted and partitioned into easily accessible neighbourhoods and urban living hubs. For these cities, getting smart usually means starting with smart transportation. If the city cannot be reshaped easily to bring everything within close proximity, then it must instead give residents the means to traverse the city quickly, safely, simply and cheaply, to access everything they need.
Citywide mass transportation systems, while generally huge in scale and expensive to deliver, are also prime targets for radical rethinks and ambitious innovations. India is a prime example of how new "mobility as a service" (MaaS) solutions can make a dent in wholly unsustainable urban congestion issues.
India’s massive urban population, which was approach half a billion in 2020, enjoys high levels of smartphone penetration, enabling the rise of MaaS solutions covering everything from last-mile connectivity to route planning, and transport integration for longer journeys. Taxi aggregators are a good example of this, as Uber faces off against the very popular Indian multinational ridesharing company, OlaCab. Similarly, we’re seeing FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) flood this growth market –auto-taxi company Rapido recently raised US$120 million; two-wheeler vehicle rental company Bounce managed to secure US$200 million. E-bike-sharer Yulu is now active in New Delhi, collaborating with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on first- and last-mile connectivity services.
The rise of MaaS solutions in India is a ‘hand-in-glove’ evolution of the public transport system, as MaaS services sit alongside the expansive growth of traditional public transport systems (public buses, metro rail links, etc) and together they are positively impacting journey times and general accessibility of Indian cities. Metro development is in a new renaissance, with 1,700km of metro rail due to cover Indian cities by 2025.
Again, the key is not to just think big, but to think smart. The proliferation of smartphones means that Indian city residents can provide more data than ever on exactly how and when they get about. This is leading to a hypercompetitive MaaS market, where ambitious providers are keen to jump in, fill mobility gaps and reap the rewards. The most impactive of these MaaS developments are those with an eye for collaboration with Indian Government and municipal organisations. Collaboration is still the name of the game, and it’s what will build the next generation of smart transportation networks in India.