Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent

How Urban India Moves

Sustainable Mobility and Citizen Preferences

Abhinav Soman, Harsimran Kaur, Karthik Ganesan
October 2019 | Sustainable Mobility

Suggested citation: Soman, Abhinav, Harsimran Kaur, and Karthik Ganesan. 2019. How Urban India Moves: Sustainable Mobility and Citizen Preferences. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


This report, supported by Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, gauges the opinion of India’s urban population on various clean transportation and sustainable mobility interventions. It captures the characteristics of Indian urban travel to fill existing data gaps and facilitate better-informed governance of urban transport. The conclusions are based on a survey among 3,682 urban dwellers across India.

A range of externalities, including air and noise pollution, congestion, road accidents, and climate change can be traced back to increased motorisation. A sustainable mobility transition that addresses these externalities is, therefore, imperative and requires urgent action to materialise. Further, this transition in also critical from an energy security perspective given that 95 per cent of the Indian transport sector’s demand for fuel is met by petroleum-based derivatives.

‘Frequency of service’ and ‘quality of infrastructure’ are the top barriers to public transport among both men and women

Source: Authors’ analysis

Key findings

  • About 70 per cent of Indian urban dwellers travel distances below 10 km for work and education. The average time spent travelling (one-way) is 27 minutes.
  • Over half of urban India walks (more than 500 metres) for their weekly needs, followed by the use of personal motorbike and public transport.
  • Gender, occupation, and age are significant determinants of use of non-motorised transport (NMT). Women and individuals in the 18–34 years age group are more likely to use public transport and NMT options than men and individuals in the age group of 45 years or above.
  • Men, working individuals, and individuals older than 45 years are significantly more likely to use private modes of transport.
  • Personal cars are the most frequently used modes of transport among people living in Northern India.
  • Tier 2 and Tier 1 cities have a significantly higher two-wheeler use as compared to metros.
  • Nearly 37 per cent respondents use buses, trains (suburban or metro), or other forms of public transport. The average distance travelled to access public transport is 1.4 km and the majority of them walk the first-mile distance.
  • The main barriers to the wider adoption of public transport relate to infrastructure, reliability, and speed. Availability of motorised last mile connectivity is preferred over non-motorised for making the mode-switch to public transport.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of the population is in support of introducing congestion pricing. Individuals in the age group 25 to 44 years, women and employed individuals were also more likely to support this measure.
  • About 87 per cent of the population stated that they are familiar with electric vehicles (EVs). One of the top cited advantages of an EV is that it ‘reduces air pollution’. Lack of adequate charging infrastructure is the top disadvantage.
  • Only a quarter of the respondents had considered ride sharing for their commute. About 45 per cent of the respondents had considered carpooling to work.

Key recommendations

  • Create awareness to enable informed public opinion and drive demand for clean and affordable mobility solutions.
  • Assess and reorient investments towards non-motorised transport and public transport services.
  • Mitigate the governance deficit arising from the limited devolution of powers and finances towards urban local bodies and local agencies engaged in transport planning.
Quality of public transport infrastructure, frequency of services and lack of seamless travel are the top barriers to adoption of public transport among urban population in India.

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