About Commute time in Cities: The road to productivity

Source: The post is based on the article “The road to productivity” published in The Hindu on 11th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Relevance: Challenges associated with commute time in cities.

News: The pandemic-induced lockdowns in cities played an important role in realising national and macroeconomic growth targets. But India’s progress toward a $5 trillion economy could be strangled due to pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Note: The nominal labour market of the city refers to all jobs created in the metropolitan area. The effective labour market refers to the jobs accessible within a certain commute.

What is the significance of Commute time in Cities?

The larger a city’s effective labour market, the greater its agglomeration economies and knowledge spillovers.

The longer the commute time in a city, the smaller is its effective labour market and vice-versa. The labour force in the workplace plays a very important role in determining productivity in cities.

Travel time in Indian cities: The travel time to work was one of the slowest in Indian cities in 2016: Bengaluru being the slowest at 22 km per hour, Delhi at 25 km per hour, and Chennai the highest at 33 km per hour.

Benefits of short commute: a) From the micro perspective, it will benefit the commuter who otherwise wastes time, health and productivity with the delays in traffic, b) From the macro, city-level perspective, it will enable a large effective labour market.

Read more: A road safety quartet and the road ahead
How ULBs can reduce commute time in Indian cities and improve themselves?

Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) can directly impact the city’s economic output through their infrastructure. In recent research in Karnataka, researchers found that road length has a positive effect on the city’s tax base. The estimate also indicated that for every one km increase in the road length of a ULB, there is an increase in the ULB’s own revenues by roughly ₹430 per capita.

With an increased tax base, the ULB can create roads that lead to easy access to jobs and increased economic activity. Further, it also gives the public more confidence and motivation to pay taxes.

Investing in roads not only reduces travel time and enlarges effective labour markets of cities and their economic output, but also improves access to schooling for children as well as healthcare, thereby upgrading human development. This is indeed the road to the $5 trillion economy along with improvement in human well-being.

Read more: India State Support Program for Road Safety: World Bank approves $250 mn loan for road safety
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