30 October, 2014

Urban Transportation and Quality of Life

One might think that poor transportation infrastructure & services only have short term consequences like traffic jams, accidents (fatal and non-fatal) and in general waste of time and energy. However the impact is much more deeper and long term affecting our "quality of life".

What is quality of life? 

Without even going into formal definition and various indices that used in different parts of world to measure it, following is list of topics that most of us can agree upon as basic ingredients of quality of life (specifically in context of urban life in India).
  • Affordable access to basic needs (Food, water, clean air, shelter), in good quality and quantity 
  • Freedom/opportunities to pursue any education/career of choice
  • Ample time to share with family, to pursue hobbies, social activities/contribution and leisure/creative activities
  • Freedom from constant fear, worry, anxiety, physical hardship
  • Environment that promotes good physical and mental health
So if we agree on above definition of quality of life, does transportation services affect it for citizens living in an urban area like Pune? To what extent? If yes, then is society as a whole paying cost for it?

I present you a kind of testimonial of Pune citizens describing how urban transportation service affected their decisions and eventually their quality of life.

Ameya, Age 32
  Ameya was born and brought up in Pune. After completing masters from a university in USA, he came back to India to be able to live with his family/parents. He works in one of many IT/Software companies in Hinjewadi IT Park, located outskirts of Pune city.
  Ameya lives in Kothrud, residential area and daily commutes 50 KMs total to office. Thanks to notorious traffic jams at Hinjewadi during rush hours, commuting consumes at least 2 hrs daily using company provided bus service, which means he is unable to visit gym as much as he would like to do. He found that his health and fitness level slowly deteriorated over years, thanks to long hours in front of computer and in commuting and little time spend on exercise.
Health is Wealth

  Last month, Ameya took decision for the sake of his health that he must reduce commuting time by relocating to residential area very near to his company office. Which means he must rent a house, even though he already owns a house and must separate from his parents.

Clearly Ameya has less freedom and choice, but at least now he can spend more time on health ...

Shivraj, Age 35

Shivraj is a musician at heart, however like many other people who could not pursue their real interests, Shivraj now works in a company and plays music only on weekends. 

Music is my life
Shivraj daily commutes (total 2 hours) to work using car pooling, which mean he needs to obey time preferences of car owner. This results in very little time in the morning for music practice (Riyaaz).
Shivraj is unable to pursue his real interest in music, what a loss of talent for society ...

Mr. Godse, Age 38
Until last month, Mr. Godse was a happy family man, with good job that he enjoyed, home owned in very good part of Pune city, with office located very near from his home,  2 kids enrolled to good schools near home.
  Mr. Godse faced a tough decision when his company decided to shift office to outskirts (Industrial park with relatively cheaper office buildings) of the city. He loved his job, he was good at it, but new office was now located outskirts of the city and would need total commuting of 3 hrs, which means less time spent at home with wife and kids.
  After some serious thought Mr. Godse decided to sacrifice his career and decided to leave the company, he then joined a company that has office near to his home, although new job does not realize full potential of Mr. Godse.
  Mr. Godse sacrificed his career for family's sake ....

Avinash, Age 28
Avinash represents young Indians who do shy away from active politics. Deeply influenced by Gandhi, Phule and other 20th century idealistic Indian leaders and social workers, Avinash wants to contribute to society by participating in active politics.

Active Participation Of Good People in Politics
  He wish to join a new idealistic political party and attend meetings as regularly as possible. Unfortunately party office is in center of city and while Avinash works in Industrial area outside the city. There is no fast transportation system that will make it feasible for Avinash to attend the meetings after office hours and them return back to home at sensible time to have dinner with his 1 year daughter and wife.
Avinash may have to forget about active participation in politics and be contained with voting not so idealistic people ...

Payal, Age 14
Payal: My dream is to learn French
Payal has a special gift. She can learn a new language very quickly, she is already fluent in spoken English. Recently she saw French movie at a International film festival and now she is absolutely mad about everything French. She seriously want to learn French and be proficient in it. Luckily she lives in Pune where Alliance Francaise has a office and they offer programs to learn French. Payal informed her parents about it, hoping to get a go, however her parents would not let her travel by moped (too dangerous) or public transportation (unsafe, crowded and filthy). Parents told her that learning French was not worth the trouble and risk of travel.    
Young Payal had to give up her dreams of doing something extra-ordinary and continued with normal school subjects ...

Exercise for reader: How would you rate each of above person on Quality of life? Could better transportation services improve quality of life in each case?