Home/ Politics / Policy/  How Young India navigates the urban commute

Mumbai: In India’s biggest cities, a significant share of urban youth use public transport, but in smaller cities, most rely on private vehicles, the results of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey show. The reliance on cab services, such as Ola and Uber, is also higher in the six big cities—Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

Across cities, an overwhelming majority of youth, including those who use cab services, expressed a desire to own a personal vehicle. This seems to suggest that the auto industry is unlikely to be disrupted by the cab services industry anytime soon.

The YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey was conducted online—among 5,000 respondents from YouGov India’s panel of internet users spread across more than 180 cities.

A little less than a thousand belong to Gen X (aged 38-53 years) in this sample.

Older millennials (aged 29-37 years), younger millennials (aged 22-28), and post millennials (aged 18-21) have more than a thousand representatives in the sample. Those born before 1965 (pre-Gen X) have been excluded from the analysis.

In the six biggest cities, 40% of youth (millennials and post-millennials) said they prefer public transport. In Kolkata and Mumbai, a majority of youth prefer public transport over other means. Public transport includes local train, metro rail, bus, and mini-vans or autos.

In smaller cities (tier 2 and tier 3 cities), less than one-third preferred public transport. The higher reliance on public transport in bigger cities seems to be driven by relatively better public transport options.

Cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have relatively well-networked rail or metro systems.

In the six big cities, among those owning vehicles, 26% prefer public transport for urban commutes over their personal vehicles, while 7% prefer cab services. In smaller cities, the corresponding figures are markedly lower.

The survey also suggests a class difference in the use of public transport, with the relatively poorer urban youth using public transport much more than those from richer households.

Around 26% of youth from relatively richer households (with net monthly income of over 50,000) preferred public transport, whereas 39% from relatively poorer households (with net monthly income of less than 20,000) preferred public transport.

However, the survey does not suggest that those using public transport today would necessarily continue to do so in the future.

An overwhelming majority of India’s urban youth wants to buy a personal vehicle, either a two-wheeler or a car, irrespective of their preferred mode of city commute. This is true across all cities.

Even among the youth who said public transport was their most preferred choice for urban commutes, a fourth (25%) said that they planned to purchase a personal vehicle within a year, while 43% said they would purchase a vehicle in the coming years.

Similarly, among the youth whose ‘preferred’ mode of commute was private cab services, such as Uber or Ola, the overwhelming majority (70%) intends to purchase a vehicle. This is in line with the trend witnessed in recent years, which have seen rising vehicle ownership and rising congestion on city roads.

A 2015 research paper by Aparajita Chakrabartty and Sudakshina Gupta of the Centre for Urban Economic Studies, University of Calcutta, noted that increasing number of vehicles in Kolkata led to increased congestion on roads.

A Cornell University study found that the average speed of taxis in New Delhi reduced from 34.2km per hour (kmph) to 33.6kmph over the course of 2013, due to increased congestion

It does not come as a surprise, therefore, that India’s urban youth spends one to two hours daily on an average in commuting to and from work or college.

The time spent by Indians on daily commute appears to be more than what people spend in other countries, according to a 2017 survey by the Berlin-based consumer research firm Dalia Research. Indians spend one and a half hour (91 minutes) on average in commute on a weekday, higher than other countries such as China (57 minutes), Brazil (77 minutes) and Pakistan (86 minutes).

One of the solutions to ease city commute is levying ‘congestion tax’ for using certain busy roads.

Another solution may be to invest more in mass rapid transit systems or metro, which have eased congestion to some extent, as an earlier Plain Facts column had pointed out.

This is the concluding part of a four-part data journalism series on the habits and preferences of India’s digital natives.

To read the earlier parts, click here, here and here.

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Updated: 17 Sep 2018, 07:13 AM IST
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