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Cities, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 263–269, 2000 © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved Printed in Great Britain 0264-2751/00 $-see front matter

Link between population and number of vehicles
Evidence from Indian cities
R Ramanathan
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, General Vaidya Marg, Goregaon (East), Mumbai – 400 065, India

We show using data from Indian cities that the number of vehicles in cities could increase along an S-shaped pattern with population. Such a pattern of growth can lead to a number of problems as (1) India has several small but growing towns that will witness a rapid growth in the number of vehicles as they grow, and (2) the vehicular increase in India has so far been dominated by personalised modes that are not energy-efficient and environmentally benign. The implications of such growth and some strategies for overcoming the problems are briefly discussed in this paper. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved
Keywords: India, Population, Vehicular population, S-shaped pattern

Like the trend world-wide, India is undergoing rapid urbanisation. This means not only that more people than ever before will be living and working in cities, but also that more people and more goods will be making more trips in urban areas, often over longer distances. Transport is a crucial infrastructure for development and hence vehicular growth closely follows the trend of urbanisation. In this paper, we highlight a crucial link between population and the number of vehicles observed in Indian cities that is likely to have far-reaching consequences for urban planning. We discuss the main implications of our finding, and discuss briefly the strategies available for tackling them.

Patterns of growth of urban transport in India
Urban transport patterns in general, and the growth of private modes of transport in particular, closely follow urban population. In the affluent societies of the
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developed countries, increased urbanisation has increased the number of cars, while the cities of developing countries are witnessing a tremendous growth of two- and three-wheeler vehicles as the city size increases. India is no exception to this trend. We begin with an analysis of the growth of registered motor vehicles in various metropolitan cities (ie, cities with a population of more than one million) of India. Details are shown in Table 1. Metropolitan cities account for about one-third of total vehicles in India. The table shows that the growth rate of all registered vehicles was more than 10% per year in the big cities of Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, Nagpur and Pune in the eighties, dropping to about 8% per year or less for the period 1991–94. However, the growth rate has been quite high (about 13% or more per year during 1991–94) for the next level cities of Bhopal, Cochin, Coimbatore, Madurai, Surat and Vadodara (which are recognised as metropolitan cities according to the 1991 census). In fact, Coimbatore recorded a very high growth rate of 20.33% per year during the period 1991–94. The only important exception to this trend has been Mumbai, which recorded a negative growth rate of 1.13% per year during the period 1981–94. These trends indicate that the growth rate of vehicles could increase with city size.

etc.13 4. A similar pattern of growth is observed for individual cities also. Note that the graph for the year 1996 is slightly different from those of the previous years. it will form the basis for further research. as the number of vehicles in Delhi is much higher compared with the number in other cities and hence is considered as an outlier. The fitted S-curve. which approximately confirms to the S-shaped pattern. a Columns 2 and 5 in the last three rows pertain only to the 11 cities for which data are available for 1981.13 7. with R2 0. Data pertaining to Delhi have been excluded. one to identify such an S-shaped logistic relationship between the number of vehicles and the population of different cities.41 – 18.22 9.42 7. this study seems to be the first 1 Vehicular population represents the population as on 31st March. However. The general income levels of people in these cities also are not high enough to invest more on personalised transport.40 374 577 130 629 475 29 66 1813 443 214 266 169 216 202 544 38 167 180 280 197 162 112 142 7392 21 374 34. Note that the trend is more pronounced in the nineties than in the eighties. Economic growth is a main factor determining the demand for vehicles.32 – 14. also shown in the figure. Some statistical details regarding the fitted curves are given in Table 2. This happens when the existing transport network and transport vehicles are enough to meet the demands of the economic activities in these cities.34 7.02 7.65 8.47 3. the city enters a rapid phase and there is a 264 .38 9.10 – – – – 12. testing of this hypothesis is beyond the scope of the present paper.05 5. The Sshaped pattern can be argued using the following hypothesis involving income levels and availability of transport infrastructure.46 13.68 11. The growth pattern of the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is plotted in Fig. Once the critical size is reached.31 13.01 – 10.74 11.19 14.40 — Source: Ministry of Surface Transport (1995).77 — 1991–94 8.19 8. This observation is depicted graphically in Fig.47 3. the number of vehicles tends to grow slowly until the city reaches a certain critical size.14 20.58 478 716 188 608 544 42 115 2239 543 267 339 209 266 258 689 57 185 197 331 271 212 146 165 9070 27 227 33. 2. Calcutta.52 7. as the city size increases.06 8.Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan Table 1 Registered motor vehicles (in thousands) in metropolitan cities in India (year on 31st March) 1981 1991 1994 Change per year (%) 1981–91 Ahmedabad Bangalore Bhopal Bombay Calcutta Cochin Coimbatore Delhi Hyderabad Indore Jaipur Kanpur Lucknow Ludhiana Madras Madurai Nagpur Patna Pune Surat Vadodara Varanasi Visakhapatnam Total for the metropolitan citiesa Total for India Share of metropolitan cities (%) 103 175 – 307 – – – 536 89 – 48 56 53 – 120 – 45 – 107 – – – – 1639 5391 30.96 17.94 and F-value at 90.08 – 16.76 14. 1.44 – – – 12. But. The figure indicates that the number of vehicles in a city is likely to grow approximately along an S-shaped pattern as the city size increases.50 8.08 1.33 7.62 13. The F-test indicates a significant fit for the two time periods.29 7.24 5. The reason is the non-availability of data for some cities such as Hyderabad. To our knowledge. and will form part of future research. However. Some factors contributing the S-shaped growth pattern It is important to study the determinants of the Sshaped growth pattern. We hope that a similar pattern will be identified if similar plots for different cities in the world are analysed.68 15. Smaller cities obviously have smaller numbers of vehicles.1 where the trend of vehicular population is plotted with respect to city size (measured in terms of population) for different years. The figure also shows the fitted S-curves for two different time periods – the 1980s and the 1990s.67 – 7.76 12. shows a very significant fit.

Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan Figure 1 Variation of the number of vehicles with population in Indian cities (excluding Delhi data). published by the Government of India 265 . Sources: various issues of Motor Transport Statistics and census documents.

Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan Table 2 Period 1990s 1980s Statistical details of the fitted S-curves R-squared 0. b) has shown that prices have a very small (though significant) influence on transport performance and gasoline consumption in India. For example. Table 1 shows a negative growth in the number of vehicles in Mumbai in 1994. cannot expand on all sides.64 F-value* 242. Ramanathan (1999a. vehicular growth can be checked by using appropriate pricing policies. available evidence seems to indicate that price may not substantially influence vehicular growth. Also. However. increased economic activities demand a larger mobility of passengers and freight. the growth of vehicles tends to reduce beyond another critical level. Linear cities. sudden and rapid rise in the number of vehicles. With its main activities focused on the small island area. Mumbai has expanded linearly. Vehicular growth in these cities can get shifted to city fringes and regions adjacent to the city. The S-shaped pattern can also be altered by other policy formulations. and larger additions to transport infrastructure and equipment. if a city is developed to encourage walking and cycling by providing all facilities in a smaller geographical area. economic activities and hence vehicular growth will continue to increase at a higher rate. The increased economic activities raise the income level of people. such as Mumbai.70 48. as people can stay in all directions from the main city centre. and commute a long distance daily. People may also prefer to register their vehicles outside the city limits to avoid the high cost of vehicle registration.71 0. In contrast.25 *Indicates a highly significant fit for both of the time periods. In principle. which may reverse as several flyovers and elevated driveways are proposed to be completed by the end of the year 1999. There can be another reason for the saturation lev- els found in mega cities. allowing them to invest more in personalised travel. a circular city will have more efficient urban form. This can happen when infrastructural bottlenecks tend to limit the economic activities and insufficient road infrastructure discourages personalised travel in mega cities. Thus the urban form can be an important factor in determining the growth of vehicles. Many cities expand because people settle in the cheaper per- Figure 2 Variation of the number of vehicles with population in Mumbai 266 . However. Prices can also influence vehicular growth. People in these cities stay in the faraway suburban areas. the growth of motorised vehicles may be reduced. Urban form tends to affect the growth of vehicles in cities. when additional infrastructure for transport is provided in these large cities. This rapid growth may be attributed to the level of economic activity in the city. For example. For example. However. as people working in the city tend to reside on the cheaper city fringes.

The State Transport Undertakings operating bus transport systems have recorded losses for the past few years. Class V: 5000 to 9999. Source: Census of India (1991). and 73 cities with population above 0.6 13.3 Note: Class I towns (called cities) have a population of 1 000 000 and above.6 0.2 65. In Lucknow.5% in 1960– 62. This can happen so long as travel is relatively inexpensive compared with land.25 million (MoUD. personalised and intermediate passenger transport vehicles (taxis and autorickshaws) have increased considerably in these metropolises and other lower order towns. respectively.4 million in 1951 to 217. Thus. the horizontal growth of cities will be arrested and consequently there will be less travel. Urbanisation in India India has witnessed a tremendous growth in urbanisation since independence (Table 3). we observe that a number of towns in India are urbanising rapidly. Chennai and Bangalore were 63%.2 57. 267 . and Class VI: less than 5000.8 2.2 7. 1994.4 17. which had increased to 23 by 1991. Bhopal has registered the highest growth – its population in 1991 was Table 3 Growth of urbanisation in India 1951 2843 62.9 18. in the late eighties or early nineties.9 13.9 16. they form nearly 83% (two-wheelers 52% and cars 31%) of the total number of vehicles. cycling and walking accounted for 55% of the total trips (Habitat.7 36.0 26.2% of the total towns of all classes) accommodating 65.3 9.6 14. There were 296 Class I cities (forming just 8.0 3.4 11.4 1981 3378 159. If the Sshaped logistic growth shown by Fig.9 0. and their growth has been much higher than that of public transport vehicles (Ramanathan.5 3. A study by the Government of India has projected that there will be 83 cities in India by 2001 with a population of 0.9 38. 55% and 70%. Mumbai.4 51. The proportion of urban population living in metropolitan cities grew rapidly.5 times. Class II: 50 000 to 99 999. Most of the smaller metropolitan cities have been registering higher population growth (Fig. Class III: 20 000 to 49 999. Public buses formed only 30% of the total number of buses in 1991–92 (declining from about 46% in 1980–81).Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan iphery regions of the city. This pattern is not sustainable as personalised vehicles are Description Number of urban areas/towns Urban population (millions) % of Urban population Decennial growth rate of urban population (%) % Urban population in Class I Class II Class III Class IV Class V Class VI 1971 2590 109.1 60. 1991).4 44. Dominance of private modes of transport The composition of personalised vehicles in Indian cities is very high. 1987). Share of mass transport modes in total trips in Delhi.2 10.5 1991 3768 217.0 15.2 million in 1991.1 1961 2365 78.5 0. The urban population has increased from 62.4 11.2 16. from about 19% in 1951 to 33% in 1991.2 25. Implications This S-shaped logistic pattern of growth of vehicles in urban India has important implications for formulating proper policies for urban transport.3 46. India had only five metropolitan cities in 1951. In the four major metropolitan cities. However. a very high level of vehicle growth can be expected in the future.7 13. This will reduce the population density in cities. 1996). 1 occurs in these towns.9% in 1989–90 from 11. Many of them will enter rapid phase in the near future. 3). nearly 3. Urban population has approximately doubled in two decades (say 1961–1981 or 1971–1991).2 10. This indicates increasing urban population densities in the metropolitan areas.7% of total population.2% of the urban population in 1991.5 23. The share of public transport buses in the total number of vehicles reduced drastically to just 1.3 million in the year 1991 (Census of India. In contrast. These implications can be discussed in terms of two trends: the rapid urbanisation of India and the domination of private modes of transport in the growth of road transport vehicles. Just 23 metropolitan cities (having a population of one million and above) had more than 50% of the population of Class I cities.8 more than 10 times its population in 1951. CSE. 54%. Calcutta. if travel is made more expensive.3 41.9 12.0 10.8 6.9 4. 67%.6 10. Class IV: 10 000 to 19 999. and prefer travel to work. These trends indicate that the rapid growth in vehicle population expected as a result of urbanisation will be dominated by personalised vehicles. The number nearly doubled during 1981–91.1 19. 1997). Table 4 shows the trends in the evolution of metropolitan cities in India.2 million.6 0. In 1991. India had 93 cities with population above 0. 1996. urban population accounted for 25.

Further discussion The disproportionate growth of personalised vehicles in Indian cities has many implications: severe road congestion.37 Urban population 18. most of which will ply on the urban roads. 1998). in general.07 3. and that there is a general decrease in the ratio of road length to area as the city size increases.16 8.54 Source: Census of India (1991).59 3. The congestion problem in many cities is compounded by the fact that there is no separate lane for slow-moving vehicles and animals. The share of automobiles in total pollutant emissions is quite high. The average speed of vehicles has reduced in Indian cities (eg. per capita road length decreases as the size of the city increases.51 26. Source: Census of India (1991) inefficient users of energy.09 3.Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan Table 4 Trends in the growth of metropolitan cities in India Number of metropolitan cities Average population in millions Share (%) of population of metropolitan cities in Total population 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 5 7 9 12 23 2. The rapid growth of personalised vehicles is very unsustainable and results in avoidable energy consumption and pollution. Growth of the road network in Indian cities has not kept pace with the growth of urban population and vehicles.41 32. This inadequacy of the urban road network will be compounded by the expected rapid increase in the number of vehicles in India in future.81 22. Further details on the 268 mobility and congestion levels in Indian cities are discussed by Ramanathan (1999c). Energy consumption due to transport in Indian cities has been growing rapidly (CSE.93 25. Figure 3 Population growth of the top and bottom five metropolitan cities in India. for Mumbai. increase in accidents. it reduced from 38 km h−1 in 1962 to 26 km h−1 in 1979 and to 15–20 km h−1 in 1993– 94). increased energy consumption. The situation was much worse in the nineties than in the eighties. 1996).08 6. A look at data on mobility and congestion indicators for selected Indian cities reveals that.12 5. and emission of local and global pollutants (CSE. and inflict a number of externalities such as pollution and congestion.51 3. reduction in speed. due to delicensing of the industry and the consequent increase in production capacities.25 4.35 2. According to the World .

New Delhi. Ministry of Surface Transport (1995) Motor Transport Statistics of India. This unsustainable urban transport trend has already led to excessive energy consumption and environmental pollution in Indian cities. and this will lead to a rapid increase in the number of vehicles in these towns. Ramanathan. and reach a saturation phase as the population reaches larger levels. Transport Policy 6(1). New Delhi. Ramanathan. and is likely to worsen further. Parikh. Several strategies are available to overcome urban transport problems. Also. Oxford University Press. Ramanathan and Parikh. Nairobi. 791–805. New Delhi. Ramanathan. ed K S Parikh. R (1999b) Short and long-run elasticities of gasoline demand in India: an empirical analysis using cointegration techniques. Ramanathan. Centre for Science and Environment. leading to congestion and a reduction of average speeds. In India Development Report – 1997. pp 219–238. New York. endly. Oxford University Press. it has been established in this paper that the number of vehicles in towns could follow an S-shaped pattern as the town population increases. 85% of hydrocarbon emissions. R (1996) Indian transport sector: energy and environmental implications. R and Parikh. R (1997) Recent reforms in infrastructure with special reference to Indian railways: an analysis. It has been pointed out that such a pattern of growth has serious implications for India because several small towns in India are growing fast. R (1999a) The long-run behaviour of transport performance in India: a cointegration approach. Government of India. Energy Sources 18(7). References Census of India (1991) Census Data. 1997. 321–330. K S and Ramanathan.Link between population and number of vehicles: R Ramanathan Resources Report (1996–97). Down To Earth 7(13) 29–36 (30 November). 1999c. Asian Institute of Transport Development. United Nations Centre for Human Settlements. Automobiles are also responsible for significant number of accidents and loss of human life. New Delhi. Summary and conclusions The crucial link between growth in the number of vehicles in cities and population has been studied in this paper. ed H Bhaya. New Delhi. In Indian Planning: Search for Change. J K (1999) Transport sector in India: an analysis in the context of sustainable development. Ramanathan. R (1999c) Urban transport. In India Development Report – 1999. pp 98–112. A more detailed discussion of these strategies is available elsewhere (Parikh and Ramanathan. New Delhi. the growth of road infrastructure has not been in tune with the growth of vehicles in Indian cities. and using appropriate technologies. Some strategies to overcome these problems have been identified in the paper. 59% of NOx emissions. Government of India. Using data from Indian cities. Ministry of Urban Development. Transportation Research – Part A: Policy and Practice (in press). but will grow rapidly as population increases. promoting environmentally friendly modes of transport. motor vehicles were responsible for 90% of the carbon monoxide emissions. pp 165– 192. MoUD (1987) Report of the Study Group on Alternative Systems of Urban Transport. CSE (1996) Slow Murder: The Deadly Story of Vehicular Pollution in India. New Delhi. 35–45. including integrated planning of land use and transport. Habitat (1994) Improvement of Urban Public Transport in Developing Countries. ed K S Parikh. the number of vehicles will rise slowly when population is small. Ramanathan. 1991–94. Government of India. The growth in the number of vehicles is mainly dominated by personalised modes of travel that are not energy-efficient and environment-fri- 269 . 1999). Oxford University Press. full cost pricing. 13% of SO2 emissions and 37% of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) emissions in Delhi during 1987. Energy Economics 21. R (1997) Transport: a crucial infrastructure. World Resources Report (1996–97) World Resources: A Guide to the Global Environment – The Urban Environment. Ramanathan. CSE (1998) Small towns – big mess. privatisation.

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