App based cab services like Uber and Ola, combined with regional players like Didi Chuxing in China and Easy Taxi in Middle East, are actually increasing congestion in cities rather than solving the transportation problem. The main reason for this is that people are using cabs “in place” of public transport rather than using cabs as a means to get to a train or subway station or a bus stop.
Most cities already have a public transport infrastructure in place. The main objective of public transport was to provide a means of conveyance to the local people. The problem with public transport now is that they are not enough to cater to a growing population. Unless we are talking about a small town with a population of a few thousand, most large cities have just too many people which can be catered to by the public transport system.
It does not make sense to wait 20 minutes for a bus to take a 10 minute ride on it. Most people do not have the will or the luxury to wait for transport , so its just easier to call a cab. So the general pattern is that for fixed daily routes like going to work in the morning or going to school , people would use public transport , but for other purposes or for emergencies, they would prefer a cab.
Congestion is of two kinds:
- Vehicles going somewhere
- Vehicles which are parked or are looking for parking
At first glance it would look as if cab services prevent the second kind of congestion since if you are driving your own vehicle then you would need a place to park once you get to your destination. A cab service would not have this problem generally.
However, this need not necessarily be the case. A cab may not always be picking and dropping of passengers unless its peak hours. Other times, either the cab would be just going around on the streets aimlessly or find a parking place till it gets its next customer.
The fact remains that cab services are filling in a gap which public transport has created. If people were satisfied with public transport then they would not feel the need to use cab services. A few cities have the best public transportation systems in the world like New York and Amsterdam, but most other cities are far behind. Cultural habits also play a part in congestion or usage of transportation. In New York even a CEO will take the subway because its the most convenient way of getting anywhere in the city. In Mumbai, even an office clerk will have a bike or a car because for them having a personal conveyance is a social status symbol.
There are too many cab services coming up in each city and the supply is fast crossing the demand for their services so this is not going to be good for anybody in the long run.
(Featured photo by Mark Asthoff)