Among the many daily woes Bengalureans face, nothing draws as much concern and attention as the city’s gridlocked traffic. But guess what Bengaluru’s young, educated and socially mobile aspire to own most once they can afford it? A personal car.
According to a study published in the beginning of August, 62% of about 700 respondents said they planned to buy a car as soon as they could afford one. The study by researchers from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Management and the Department of Civil Engineering, IISC was conducted last year, and was based on a sample comprising university-going students. The average age of respondents was 22 years, with an average of about six months of work experience.
According to the study, only 5% of respondents said that they did not intend to buy a car in the next ten years, and only 25% said they would not be buying a car in the next five years.
With 23% of the Bengaluru belonged to the age group of 20-29 years, the alarming trend shows that a significant number of people intend to own a car in the next 5-10 years. With the city’s burgeoning traffic woes showing no signs of abating, what does this mean?
Ashish Verma, President of the Transport Research Group India and one of the researchers involved in the study says that no matter how much people are troubled by traffic, eventually they have to move and go about their work. However, public transport options like buses take more time and are more tiresome and cumbersome than being stuck in traffic in a car. And given that bus routes and stops are not properly planned and buses do not run according to a predictably frequency, people prefer owning a car.
Ironically, nearly half of the respondents felt that the growth in car traffic indicated an unhealthy economy, and over 80% agreed that vehicular fumes were a major contributor to India’s environmental problems. And 79% of those surveyed knew that existing road networks in the country will not be able to cope with the increasing vehicular traffic. But the study found that none of these factors deter them from aspiring to own a car.
Owning a car has become a symbol of moving up the socio-economic ladder, with over 80% of respondents in the study feeling they would be happier if they owned a car, nearly 40% saying that people would give them more importance if they owned a car and 60% felt that driving a car to college was cool.
Vinay Srinivasa, a member of the Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike (a platform to discuss urban mobility issues in the city), said that infrastructure, policy and advertising are all geared towards making you aspire for your own vehicle.
“Apart from glamourisation by the media, you’re also encouraged to change cars every two years or so. The government builds more flyovers and widens the road instead of hiking parking rates. It is easier to get a car loan than it is for a farmer to buy a tractor for his survival,” says Vinay.
Ashish says policy and infrastructural change need to go hand in hand to induce a behavioural shift. For instance, the government would need to increase parking fees as well as introduce priority lanes for buses, so that people are discouraged from buying cars and opt for public transport instead.
While Ashish says that the Namma Metro is a good example of public transport done right, Vinay says that creating an extended metro network will not be enough. “It will cater to about 10% of the people,” says Vinay. Ashish too points out that the metro does not provide last mile connectivity.
The ultimate solution is only to improve bus transport in the city, says Vinay. “Proper bus stops, increased bus frequency and bike rental stops integrated with bus stops will help make public transport more reliable and the preferred mode of travel,” he says.
Here are some of the other findings of the study:
- The research also indicates that attitudes are governed by whether respondents came from a car-owning family or not; those who did showed greater aspiration for buying a personal car than others.
- 77% of the respondents owning a two-wheeler wanted a car in the next five years compared to 74% of those who did not own a vehicle.
- Educational qualification was found to significantly govern ownership decisions. About 71% subjects holding a post-graduation degree and above said they would buy a car as soon as they could afford one.
- 40% said that owning a car was a necessity in India
(Gopika Madhu also contributed to this story.)