Urban Density

Defining Density

The term urban density is multifaceted and covers a broad range of urban characteristics. The relationshi
p between Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and urban density is critical. TOD concentrates most growth and development within a short walk of frequent transit stops and stations giving rise to concept of an active node with mixed economic and commercial activities. The form of development varies from community to community based on local goals, character, and needs and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to achieving an appropriate level of density to support transit. Different studies have highlighted different types and appropriate levels of densities and their relation with various factors including the transit system and travel pattern.


Density, precisely mean the mass or number per unit area, focusing on utilising the available land resource efficiently. Traditionally density has been measured/mapped using built density, residential density and population density.

Measuring Density

To understand the impact Transit Oriented Development has on an urban area, it is critical to measure its impact on urban density over a period of time. To achieve the same there are multiple methods actively followed to calculate it efficiently and effectively, based on the urban context, activities generated as a result, and other concerned factors.

Vancouver Transit oriented community design guideline 2012 suggests concentrating and intensifying activities near frequent transit; focus density in urban centres and around frequent transit corridors and nodes to support a strong demand for transit service; and plan for density that supports community character and promotes quality of life. The strategy for development involves using the valuable land near high-demand transit facilities as efficiently as possible.

Measuring Built-up Area: Floor Space Index (FSI) or Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the ratio of built-up area of all floors on a plot to the total area of the plot. Built density defines the urban fabric or the form of development; higher this value taller is the built form of the city, other things remaining constant. Builtup area is measured as FSI in Indian cities. FSI values are traditionally capped within Indian cities by using the development control regulations, resulting in a low rise urban form within the cities. To capitalise on the development opportunities in TOD, it is recommended to concentrate the built-up area density (through use of higher FSI) within a walking distance (500 to 800 metres or roughly a 10 minute walk) or a bikable distance (1 km to 1.5 km, roughly about 10 minute bike ride) from the transit stations.

Measuring Households (Residential Density): The number of households (HHs) or dwelling units (DUs) per unit area defines the residential density. It helps to estimate the land area required to accommodate a given population. This measure generally forms a part of the housing strategy with the city planning process. Increasing residential density gives an opportunity to improve affordability of land by distributing the cost of development among a greater number of households and lead to an efficient use of the associated resource and services. London uses the concept of measuring and increasing the residential densities in areas well served by transportation infrastructure. The housing strategy for London recommends densities varying from 30 DUs per hectare in suburban areas to 435 DUs per hectare in central London (Greater London Authority, 2003).
This estimate guides the provision of infrastructure and services for present and future population and indicates where densities may need to be regulated to achieve an optimum level.

Measuring Population: By measuring the number of persons per unit area, population densities estimate the space available or consumed per person. Population density is often further classified into day-time and night-time densities to distinguish between the number of visitors, workers and residents within the area. Higher the difference between day-time and night-time densities, higher is the imbalance in mix of land-uses. Moreover a high number of households and a high value of night time density indicates higher number of people per household. This helps define the capacity of the existing infrastructure and guides the provision of infrastructure and services for future population.

Measuring employment/ jobs: For any TOD, jobs available per household near the transit station is an important parameter to guide the level of density and manage the travel demand. Jobs/HH is a measure of non-residential area needed to support the economic productivity of a space. Mixed-use developments with significant jobs per households ratio will improve diversity. State of Florida, Department of transportation density guideline matrix suggests a range of 15 jobs/HH in urban core (predominantly non-residential) areas having commuter rail or LRT and 4 jobs per household in areas having equal mix of residential and non-residential uses, served by bus. In this standard jobs/ sq. km varies from 40,000 to 2,00,000 jobs based on mode of public transport. Similarly, Ottawa’s comprehensive plan suggests 20,000 to 25,000 jobs/ sq. km for any mixed use development.

Employment density / job density also refers to average floor space available per employee. It is often used as a measure of intensity of use and an indicator of space available per person within a workplace. Employment densities are significant as they have a direct influence on the utilisation of the commercial spaces, thus defining the economic productivity of the space. The City of London has around 97,000 employees/ sq. km, and Canary Wharf, has around 2,32,000 employees/ sq. km (Buchanan, 2008). The employment density depends on the nature of activity. For example, in an industrial space it will be different from that in a space with service sector. Employment density measures can be used to estimate the level of gross employment that can be accommodated within an area.

Cities are complex systems and thereby require multiple views of urban densities at different scales of urban fabric. Indian cities have relied entirely on FSI to regulate densities thereby ignoring the other important parameters. This has therefore deterioriated both the housing and the infrastructure (including public spaces) within the cities. Density regulations for TOD has to be based on high builtup density, high household density and high population density provided that other mitigating elements such as open space provision, pedestrian circulation networks and public transportation corridors are available.

Built Density and Population Density

Dharavi has low FAR: 2, high du/ha: 630 and high population density – 3148 ppH.
Kwong Ming Court, Hong Kong has high FAR – 12.5, high du/ha – 1507, high population density – 4910 ppH.
The Esplanade has high FAR – 9.6, low du/ha – 361, low population
density – 591 ppH.


Kwong Ming Court,
housing estate Hong

Cambridge, MA, The,


Densities, FSI and Crowding

In Mumbai a family averages about 5 people, living typically in an apartment of 25 sq m. That is 5 sq m per person. In Manhattan the apartment size is typically 1,000 sq ft (about 90 sq.m) and occupancy averages 1.7 persons. The average floor space there works out to 55 sq.m per person. Each Manhattan resident occupies 11 times as much floor space as a Mumbai resident. So for the same plot area, FSI 11 will have 11 times the built-up floor area as FSI 1. But because of the space each family takes up, FSI 11 in Manhattan will have the same number of people at FSI 1 in Mumbai. Similarly, in terms of head count, FSI 15 in Manhattan corresponds to FSI 1.33 in Mumbai. These apparently very different FSI values of 15 in one place and 1.33 in another, will give us identical levels of street crowding in both cities. So when you compare FSI in different cities you need to also remember how much floor space each resident occupies in each of those cities (Praja, 2014)

Sirish B. Patel, proposes using crowding as an alternative measure. Indoor crowding, park crowding and amenity crowding. He advocated that FSI alone cannot be a tool for density mapping. He defines Indoor Crowding (IC) as occupants per hectare of built-up area and Street Crowding (SC) as occupants per hectare of street area.

So, instead of saying that in Mumbai people live in 5 sq.m per capita, and in Manhattan occupy 55 sq.m per capita, we can say that in Mumbai Residential Crowding is 2,000 persons per hectare (a hectare is 10,000 sq.m), and in Manhattan Residential Crowding is 182 persons per hectare of built-up residential area. It is an inversion of the residential space taken up per capita (Praja, 2014).

Successful TODs such as Canary Wharf and King’s Cross consider all views of urban densities discussed above. Even Indian cities, such as Delhi have recently recognised these relationships for housing, transportation and infrastructure provision. This can be seen in the Draft TOD policy of Delhi Development Authority from 2012, which mandates that 50% units of size ranging between 32 to 40 sq.m and the balance 50% comprising of homes ≤ 65 sq.m.

These discussed measures alone are not the only ways to measure and regulate density but depends on multiple other factors such as social construct of the urban area, proposed or existing urban policies and projects for the city, existing economic growth magnets and possible target areas for development. Thus, apart from these there are other measures that can be used to map density. These includes street crowding, an indicator of footfall on street and in public places; and availability of open spaces per person, addressing quality of life.

Density in Indian Cities
Over 377 million people live in about 8000 urban centres in India. As per Census of India 2011, there are 3 cities with population greater than 10 million and 53 cities with population greater than 1 million. Top 10 cities having 8% of the total urban population live in just 0.1% of the total land and 53 million plus cities have 13.3% of urban population in 0.2% of the land area in India. Pushkarev and Zupan in 1977 prescribed minimum residential densities ranging between 5400 persons/sq.km to 9000 persons/sq.km (Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2016) depending on the mode of transit for a TOD. Similarly, State of Florida transport prescribes gross population densities ranging from 10000 persons/sq.km to 20000 persons/sq.km in TOD zones based on mode of transit. In the 33 smart cities announced in the first year of Indian Smart Cities Mission, average city densities varies from values as low as 980 person/ sq. km (Dharamshala) to values as high as 26,555 person/ sq. km (Chennai). Analysis of densities in these 33 cities reveal that even the 75th percentile is only 8719 persons/ sq. km (Bhagalpur) and the average density in is 5916 persons/sq.km. Therefore, in case of tier 3 cities like Dharamshala, Panaji, and most of the tier 2 cities such as Raipur, Ranchi etc., there is a definite need to increase densities to support transit investments, provided that other parameters such as housing, public transportation, pedestrian and NMT infrastructure, and urban design are improved. In tier 1 cities of India such as Mumbai and Chennai, densities are high and sufficient for transit, therefore requiring interventions in other aspects of TOD so as to improve the quality of the urban space. The second highest density in the smart cities of first year amounts to only 13,304 persons/ sq. km (Surat), which is considerable lower than the highest density (Chennai).
Even though average densities are low in most of the Indian cities, their core areas have sufficient densities which can generate a demand for public transit system, which may vary from bus based systems to heavy rail depending on the density. In areas in the cities where the densities are low, re-densification together with improvements in urban space (NMT and pedestrian infrastructure, housing and urban design) becomes an important tool. TOD therefore is a tool to optimise densities to improve quality of life.

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Valet EZ: Transforming the parking landscape one revolution at a time

ValetEZ is a mobile based application that helps to find secure parking spots in your city and provide valets on-demand who will assist in parking and attending to your vehicle.


  • Typically, car owners spend an average of 10-15 min
    looking for parking spot
  • While parking is free or cheap in most places (at
    least in India), there is a cost in terms of lost time
    and uncertainty of finding a suitable parking space
  • As in most informal fragmented markets, ‘jugaad’
    (workaround) solutions exist at the local level
    – e.g. many offices lease space from empty or
    unused properties OR buildings with offices and
    commercial spaces use the available parking at
    complementary timings etc.


“So, why is parking seen as a fundamental challenge in the urban landscape?

Scourge of free parking – The perception that parking should be mandatorily provided and for free is regarded by most experts as the biggest challenge to reforming the parking sector. Ironically, free or highly subsidised parking is free only for the immediate user of the service. There are significant social costs to the neighbourhood, to commercial establishments in the vicinity – both direct (having to pay for their own private parking) and indirect (lost business from customers who never visited due to lack of parking), the city (congestion, lost productivity and loss of economic activity) and of the general chaos that impacts all commuters on their way to an office meeting, to the store, or to a restaurant.

Alternatives that could address this issue

The most obvious solution is public transport. However, public transport is unlikely to fully curb the aspirations of an emerging middle class to own their own vehicle. Auto sales projections for the coming decade bear this out. Owning a vehicle is not just about aspiration; it has utility in providing greater control over one’s mobility and privacy. Another rapidly emerging alternative in recent years has been organised cab aggregators. The emergence of alternative forms of mobility will change the usage of a personal vehicle but is unlikely to stop the growth of private vehicle ownership for the foreseeable future. With a private owned car remaining stationary for 90% of the time and space a major constraint, parking remains a growing challenge across the urban landscape.

What will it take to organise the parking sector?

In a scenario of increased vehicle ownership and inability of cities to cope with increased supply of vehicles, addressing the parking challenge will move up the priority list. At the same time, the rise of ‘not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) from local communities (both residential and commercial) shows the growing barriers to the indiscriminate use of on-street parking. While the potential opportunity appears straightforward, there are high barriers to overcome in building an effective infrastructure solution. Any presumption that a centralised solution by government fiat – especially in terms of providing infrastructure – will address the problem fails to fully comprehend the diffused nature of the problem. Valet EZ sees the path to addressing the parking challenge through tackling three key factors that influence the sector:
Parking inventory supply:
Lack of quality and timely inventory
The most significant challenge faced by parking users is the non-availability of adequate appropriately priced inventory. Bridging information asymmetry on parking availability would bring about market driven pricing and allow the introduction of features such as advance booking. The opportunity to make money from parking on underutilised real estate for short periods provides incentives to bring on board additional supply, creating a dynamic market and brings in greater efficiency in the management of urban spaces.

Making the economic case
with users: Competing with free
The clearest way to competing against ‘free’ parking is through superior customer experience, high quality products, and a compelling range of product/service offerings. The greater opportunity in the long term is to transform parking from a capital asset to a pay-per-use model. This lowers lease rental costs for businesses while for home owners this could mean that they no longer need to incur the huge upfront cost of purchasing car parks and instead rent for as long as they need it. This model also helps in better revenue realisation for the inventory holder.

Addressing the dual challenge:
Localised density and scalable network
In densely packed and parking space constrained cities, there is a need to innovate on creating additional parking inventory. Valet EZ envisions a decentralised network model of parking lots, bringing new (and dynamic) inventory onto the market and management through the effective use of technology. This model will address the core concerns of security and reliability to develop a scalable network. With the right economics, property owners with spare spaces and inventory can participate on a platform similar to a managed marketplace.
Use of technology to manage parking spaces has largely focused on smart parking solutions in private parking spaces or aggregating existing parking inventory. However, countries with major space constraints and growing automobile markets pose a different parking challenge and require a solution more suited to their unique needs.
A parking solution that is scalable and replicable can be built on the base of a Parking Technology Stack – a series of technology driven tools and processes that help in the creating an ecosystem for both inventory holders and customers. Such

a tech stack would comprise of several layers of solutions and toolkits for inventory development, space management, security, pricing and billing systems, add-on services all integrated on a open platform. This parking technology stack would help provide an ecosystem with common standards and tools to manage a dynamic decentralised network and provide a high degree of standardisation for parking users.

The views expressed in this paper are solely those of ValetEZ and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Urban Affairs or the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab.

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Curitiba- Transforming City with Bus Transit

Curitiba’s urban planners recognised early on that, even if growth in population cannot be controlled, the development of infrastructure in the city can guide the city’s development. Using bus transit supported by Master Plan, the city changed its radial configuration of growth to a linear model of urban expansion along mixed land use transport corridors. Curitiba approached public transportation not as a solution to advancing problems of congestion and pollution, but as a tool to develop a compact, sustainable and inclusive environment.



Curitiba is the capital city of the State of Parana in Southern Brazil. Currently, the city has a population of more than 1.8 million (2015) distributed within city limits of about 430 square kilometres and a total metropolitan area population of over 3.2 million (IBGE estimate, 2010).
Integrated transportation and land-use planning was adopted in Curitiba to address rapid population growth and to keep it from becoming an uncontrollable, sprawling metropolis (Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., 1996). In 1964, Curitiba prepared, the “Preliminary Urban Curitiba”, a plan which evolved over the next 2 years to become the “Curitiba Master Plan”. Parallel with the evolution of the plan, in 1966, Curitiba created a planning institute, the “Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba (IPPUC)”, to develop, supervise, monitor, and continually update the Master Plan. (Karas, 1985). The Master Plan directed Curitiba’s growth along proposed bus lanes called “Structural Axes”, by creating articulated densities along the corridors.
Curitiba’s integrated transportation system plays an important role in the realisation of this Master Plan. It is a system of median bus ways along the five “structural axes” complemented by “direct” express service on parallel arterial roads, and by an extensive feeder bus network.

Transforming City with Bus Transit

The BRT in Curitiba was key in the transition of the city from radial to a linear model of urban growth. The transport system is based on the major radial corridors of the city or the “structural axes”. Each of the structural axes was developed as a “trinary system” comprising three roads. The central road of the three contains a two-way bus-way that feeds into transfer points called “terminals,” and also provides a limited number of traffic lanes. Approximately at the distance of one block from each side of the central bus-way/service road, a one-way traffic road of three or four lanes is developed for use by private vehicles. Intensive high density land use development has been permitted and encouraged on the block between the bus-way and the main traffic roads on either side. This land use form creates a concentrated, high demand for transport services along a narrow corridor that can be met efficiently by a track-based public transport service – the bus-way. The bus-way system along the five structural axes is only part of the Curitiba city-wide bus mass transit system. The system, termed the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system. Curitiba achieved its intended compact development, independent of private vehicles, using policies and practices in majorly four arenas- land use planning, public transportation, parking policies and

institutional mechanisms.

Land use planning

The Master Plan prepared in 1964 directed urban development in Curitiba to the “structural axes”. Several land use policies emerged in the city which helped to bring out the best of the “trinary road system”. These included –
• The master plan allows only high-rise (10 to 20 story buildings) and mixed development along the BRT corridors. Also, large-scale shopping centres are only allowed in transit corridors.
• Land within two blocks of the bus-way has been zoned for mixed commercial- residential uses. Beyond these two blocks, zoned residential densities taper with distance from the bus-ways. It brings together various land uses in walkable areas within short distances from the transit station.
• The zoning prescribed by the structural axes has a combination of control and incentives. This includes various bonuses to develop as planned; incentives to transfer development rights; firm control over location of large scale development (such as large shopping centers); provision of incentives to developers to increase residential density close to the transit corridors; and development of transit terminals with a wide range of facilities.
As one move further away from the corridor, buildings become shorter, less dense and lastly it turns into predominantly residential areas. This land use planning has led to greater number of people staying within the first zone and the density gradually decreasing towards the feeder corridors.

Public Transportation

The public transportation system (RIT – Integrated Transport Network), provides a hierarchy of types of bus service, which include city bus-ways, inter-district express service and feeder network, all operated under an integrated tariff system.
• The bus-way system has been instrumental in driving land use development and has been used to stimulate development along the structural axes. The buses run frequently and reliably, and the stations are convenient, well designed, comfortable, and attractive.
• Travel demand for the bus-way system is generated as the bus-ways enter and cross the central business district (CBD) while traffic access is limited by traffic management methods (bus-only access, pedestrianisation, parking controls, etc.).
• The BRTS offers many of the features of a subway system at the low cost of a bus system. This includes vehicle movements unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to/ boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading.
• The inter-district express
• The bus feeder services integrated into the bus-way attract commuters through interchange terminals and stops.

Parking Policies

Parking policies have assisted in shaping travel demand, particularly to/from the central area in Curitiba. Some policies are-
• On-street parking is limited in location and duration
• City’s central area is partially closed to vehicular traffic
• Off-street parking is expensive
• Within structural corridors, development must provide off-street parking

Institutional mechanism

The organisations involved in implementation of the BRTS are the city government (Curitiba Mu
nicipality); research and urban planning institute (IPPUC); public transportation corporation (URBS)and private bus operation firms. The inherent structure of the organisations and institutional policies help the system function efficiently.

• An auxiliary to the city’s executive branch of government, the Curitiba Institute of Urban Planning and Research – IPPUC (Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba) was responsible to plan and test solutions. Due to the dual responsibility, new plans were generated, tested, accepted by the community, and put into practice quickly. The population began to trust the ideas of the Institute, and this trust has largely been responsible for changes in the mentality of the city’s inhabitants.
• Work based on the Master Plan in 1965 was financed by the Development Company of Parana and by the Curitiba municipal government’s Department of Urban Development. Operation of the bus system is financed completely by bus fares, without any public subsidies. The Inter American Development Bank, the private sector, and the Municipality of Curitiba financed the north-south Bi-articulated Bus Line project (approved in 1995).
• The municipal government collects detailed operational information, audits the implementation and collects income received from the whole system, and pays the operators for services rendered in real costs. Detailed regulations establish the rights and obligations of the operating companies, define the faults and penalties, and seek to eliminate waste while constantly improving the quality of service. This arrangement ensures the fair distribution of income among operators and prevents unhealthy competition among drivers over specific routes.
In addition to the land use-transport sector, Curitiba has also followed enlightened policies on housing, environment, waste recycling, social matters (particularly for the young), and other initiatives.
• Areas outside the transit corridors are zoned for residential neighbourhoods. Also, Public housing for low income families are built along the transit ways.
• Single fare system of ticketing subsidises the cost of commute for long distances (mostly used by low-income population residing in periphery of the city) over shorter trips. Besides being socially just, the system facilitated the implementation of fare integration between different companies.
• In spite of having potential to raise funds for a heavy rail or subway, Curitiba built on its previous bus systems network and developed a BRT system to guide development, and in the process developing a low cost public transportation system.


Long-term vision, strong leadership and flexibility in plan has lead to the success of TOD in Curitiba. By utilising the existing corridors for BRT and adopting measures to intensify development along these corridors, Curitiba established a public transit system at relatively low cost. Through the use of public transportation and land-use instruments, the local governments effectively directed population growth to establish compact dense settlements independent of private vehicles.

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Designing for Diversity: Tools for optimised affordable housing for Indian cities

Housing delivery to the bottom of the pyramid is a key challenge faced by India as the country is wit
nessing rapid urbanisation. According to a report by Government of India, the housing shortage was estimated to be 18 to 30 million homes in 2012. This housing crisis will get acute as India’s urban population is projected to increase from 330 million in 2011 to over half a billion by 2030. Indian cities will need to plan for 48 million houses in next 14 years to manage this urbanisation. The majority of this housing will need to be developed for the economically weaker sections of the society.

The process of rapid urbanisation, with millions migrating to the cities from villages, in search of better livelihood opportunities has often been chaotic and unplanned. Conventional urban planning mechanisms are slow to accommodate this influx of people who with their limited funds cannot afford to rent or buy in the formal housing market. Because of the lack of any other viable alternatives, the majority of them end up in informal housing with unregulated construction that is highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The self-built housing, however, provides a significant benefit over any other form of housing delivery for this section of the society. The self-built incremental housing is inherently flexible process that accommodates changing family needs and makes it easier to appropriate and adapt parts of the home as a small shop, workspaces to make supplementary income. Use of home as a productive asset is a critical imperative for the low-income families.

The rigidity of current formal mass-housing delivery mechanism points towards the need for empowering the urban local bodies with the tools for developing demand-optimised, diverse housing stock by facilitating community participation & engagement in the design process. To bridge the gap between socioeconomic data and design decisions, Urban Risk Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing digital toolkit to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India. The research project aims to create a policy support tools for city authorities to support the low income residents to invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs within a regulated framework. The toolkit – based on the Housing for All Plan of Action guidelines – not only aims to provide a platform for government and private consultants to collaborate on individual projects but will drastically reduce the time and effort spent in the current manual process. By developing a digital platform to analyse of household and livelihood profiles gathered during “Housing for All” surveys – valuable data that in the current process is rarely used to improve design decisions, this tool will help urban local bodies in understanding the citywide housing deficiencies, to prepare annual action plans, and to provide diverse set of housing typologies.

Urban Risk Lab at MIT

The Urban Risk Lab at MIT develops methods and technologies to embed risk reduction and preparedness into the design of cities and regions to increase the resilience of local communities. Operating at the intersection of ecology and infrastructure, rural and urban, research and action; the Urban Risk Lab is an interdisciplinary organisation of researchers and designers. With a global network of partners, the Lab is a place to innovate on techniques, processes, and systems to address the complexities of seismic, climatic, and hydrologic risks.
The lab is currently developing digital tools to assist policy makers with a comprehensive, end-to-end housing delivery model. This effort, supported by TATA Center for Technology and Design at MIT focuses on providing access to safe, affordable, incremental housing in tier II and tier III cities of India – where users can invest, build and adapt part of their homes as per their needs.
urbanrisklab.mit.edu | risk@mit.edu
The Team
Prof. Miho Mazereeuw – Director, Urban Risk Lab
Aditya Barve, Mayank Ojha
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Urban Affairs or the NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab.

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Emerging Themes: Sustainability- Climate Change and Air Quality


Given that cities now house majority of the world’s population and contribute significantly to the global GDP, they inherently assume responsibility for most of the world’s carbon emissions. Although cities occupy less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, they consume roughly 78% of the world’s primary energy and produce more than 60% of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industry, and biomass use. In India, cities generate two-thirds of GDP, 90% of tax revenues, and the majority of jobs, with just a third of the country’s population.  It is projected that by 2030, while the urban population of India shall grow to 40.76% of the total population, the share of GDP contributed by urban areas shall touch approximately 70%. However, while the urban sector contributions to the country’s GDP increase, at the same time, the domestic power consumption in urban areas was three times that of the domestic power consumption in rural areas. There is a strong two-way relationship between economic development and energy consumption.  Energy, regardless of the source, is a primary need for development. City-related production, mobility and transport, infrastructure and urban density, as well as private households, lead to a substantial increase in urban energy demand.  However, this in turn leads to increased economic prosperity required for fueling urbanisation.

Yet, as the global climate change concerns rise with increased frequencies of unnatural weather occurrences, cities assume a greater role in moving towards sustainable resources of energy and utilisation patterns of those resources. In the business as usual scenario, cities become increasingly vulnerable to exposure to degrading air quality and susceptibility to natural hazards. Indian cities have begun to experience these effects especially with the variations in rainfall patterns. Over the last ten years, significant occurrences of  high intensity rain and flash flooding has been seen in coastal cities of Mumbai (2005), Chennai (2015), Vishakhapatnam (2014), Srinagar (2014) and Surat (2006, 2013). While the coastal cities are most vulnerable to flooding and cyclonic winds, the hill cities experience landslides. The landlocked cities such as Delhi and Indore are now estimated to suffer from droughts and heat waves. Delhi also has the dubious distinction of the most polluted city in the world especially for air quality.

Thus, cities have to adopt multiple strategies, firstly invest in climate resilient infrastructure to mitigate the risks of human and capital loss if and when climate change events occur, secondly incentivise urban infrastructure of housing, waste management, sewage and sanitation and power supply to move to a reduce, recycle and reuse model and finally introduce behavioural change to sustainable modes especially in transportation. The National Smart Cities Mission provided a perfect vehicle for integrating these sustainability objectives of climate resilience and green growth within the national development strategy.  The core infrastructure elements of Smart Cities include assured electricity supply and efficient urban mobility and public transport. Access to affordable and reliable electricity is critical for the development of the cities. For example, e-mobility is a critical aspect of a smart city which can be implemented by providing uninterrupted power.

Sustainability Planning in SCPs

The Smart City models support compact urban growth thereby reducing the environmental impacts of sprawl and focus on the development of dense, socially mixed neighbourhoods that promote human-scale urban environments and healthy public green spaces to maintain livability. They also promote transit oriented development (TOD) and focus on smarter transport systems including Bus Raid Transits (BRTs), bicycle and car sharing, smarter traffic management systems, electric vehicles and are complemented by smarter urban utilities including efficient energy using renewable energy sources, waste and water management systems, street lighting technology, smart grids and more efficient buildings, both via retrofitting and redevelopment.

A preliminary glance at the self assessment evaluation process which the cities had to undertake to establish their existing condition reveals 11 criteria of a possible 24 having a direct positive relation with sustainability. These factors are listed as compact, mixed use, public open spaces, transport, walkable, energy source, energy efficiency, water management, air quality, solid waste and waste water management The mission also challenged the cities to look at convergence with other sustainability initiatives of Government of India such as the National Solar Mission. The acknowledgement by the cities of the importance of sustainability planning is reflected in the proposed projects by the 20 lighthouse cities selected in the first round. Some highlights from the proposals are-

•          Overall 256 projects have been identified by the 20 cities for sustainability. The targeted investments for these 256 projects amount to $1.7 Billion or about 25% of the total smart city investments of the 20 cities.

•          The projects were classified into four main priority areas,

•                      Green city design and resilient infrastructure – 153 projects amounting to $968 million. Projects vary across greenway and open space design, water recycling, solid waste management systems, rainwater harvesting, dual piping systems and air-quality monitoring etc.

•                      Energy efficient public transport – 39 projects amounting to $118 million, varying across bicycle sharing systems, electric/hybrid buses, pedestrian networks and ICT applications for bus route, travel planning etc.

•                      Energy efficient and sustainable buildings – 24 projects amounting to $307 million. Projects primarily targeting rooftop solar panel systems and LED lighting for municipal and private buildings.

•                      Smart energy systems and grids for cities – 40 projects amounting to $339 million. City level projects ranging from solar power generation, wind based energy, energy efficient water pumps, smart grid implementation etc.

Thus the 20 lighthouse cities have recognised the environmental, social and economic benefits of mainstreaming projects geared towards climate adaption and air quality improvements.  The successful implementation will require knowledge diffusion within the city agencies, partnerships with communities and businesses and institutional commitments to scale up these innovations to city scales.

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Emerging Themes: Integrated Mobility


Understanding the need to manage the growth in private vehicle (two and four wheeler) ownership, Government of India in 2006 formulated the National Urban Transport Policy that prioritised greater use of public transport and non motorised modes and advocated integration of  land-use and transportation to minimise travel distance. The first emphasis on improving mobility in Indian cities was provided by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) which allocated approximately 11 percent (or $2 billion) of the mission budget ($20 billion) to urban transportation. This was primarily a recognition of the range of mobility problems that Indian cities faced – a lack of reliable, affordable and extensive public transportation network thereby forcing people to rely on private two wheelers and four wheelers for commuting needs and a low density of road network for this increased private mode of commuting.

Under the JnNURM, approximately 138 projects were undertaken with 33 percent of the funding being allocated to Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) and about 57 percent allocated to road/highway construction (EMBARQ India and Shakti Foundation,2012).  Cities such as Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad have implemented Metro rail based (up to 30,000 pphd – passengers per hour per direction) systems based on the funding from JnNURM.


In addition, 9 cities (Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Bhopal, Indore, Pune/Pimpri Chinchwad, Vijaywada, Vishakapattanam and Jaipur) (Center of Urban Equity, 2013) have implemented or are implementing road based Bus Rapid Transit Systems, with capacities up to 15,000 pphd. Very low allocation  (about 4%) (Ibid) to other projects besides parking, road construction and MRTS has led to the unfortunate exclusion of pedestrian and bicycle users, who constitute 40 percent of total mode split in India. Non motorised modes (bicycle and pedestrian) are feasible as main commuting modes for fulfilling trips in small and medium sized cities, both of which have trip lengths less than 7 kms in average.

Thus the mobility options in Indian cities increased during the JnNURM but a lack of comprehensive approach to integrated mobility left large gaps, especially in the last mile connectivity needs of public transit users.

Smart Cities Mission on Integrated Mobility

The Smart City Mission acknowledged the role of integrated mobility, primarily through public transport for longer commuting and non motorised transport for shorter trips and last mile connectivity. Creating walking communities, reducing the need for commuting, developing compact communities, investing in transit oriented developments and preserving and developing open spaces were ascribed as prescribed features of a smart city by the mission. Similarly projects involving construction of highways, parking lots were left out of the Smart City Mission and instead retained in AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation).

Preliminary analysis of the 20 lighthouse city proposals has endorsed this renewed emphasis on public transport and non motorised commuting within the strategic planning process undertaken by the cities. Adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve the efficiency, ease of use and reliability of public transportation operations also has emerged as a significant proposal by the cities. Some of the highlights regarding integrated mobility planning within the broader SCPs by the lighthouse cities are:

•             The total allocation towards solving mobility problems is 1.8 million USD or 25% of the total proposed smart city expenditures (7.2 Billion USD) by the cities. This is doubling and significant change from the 11% allocation towards transportation made by the previous JnNURM mission.

•             While expressway (flyover) construction, bus rapid transit (BRT) and road improvements were the significant components in the previous mission, emerging global concepts of public bike sharing, ITS/ICT adoption, clean fuel technologies in fleet operation, non motorised transport (NMT) augmentation, urban design and open spaces and even universal access are the new paradigms proposed by the lighthouse cities.

•             Solapur (56%), Ludhiana (51%), Pune (48%) and Devanagere (41%) are unique because of their higher allocations to mobility planning than compared with other lighthouse cities.  Bhopal and Jabalpur both have the lowest allocations (< 10%).

•             Non motorised transportation (bicycle and pedestrian) accounts for the biggest allocation of about $350 million followed by bus based systems at $200 million. Kochi has uniquely proposed ferry based transportation systems leveraging the city’s water network.

•             17 cities have proposed specifically investments in bicycle networks and public bike sharing systems at a total cost of about $90 million. Majority of the bike sharing and bicycling has been proposed in area based projects suggesting the willingness of the cities to implement comprehensive bike sharing systems at neighbourhood levels and then scaling them up in future, to the city level.

•             All cities have expressed wider adoption of ITS and ICT for mobility planning, especially for the purposes traffic management, smart parking and smart bus shelters and integrated fare collection systems. The allocation for ITS and ICT based mobility projects is about $550 million.

•             11 cities have proposed some form of transit oriented mixed use compact neighbourhood planning in their area based approaches. These neighbourhoods will have high densities to support the public transit infrastructure investments while including office centres, open spaces and priority to NMT.

Thus the lighthouse cities have addressed the immediate need for integrated mobility by focusing on bus systems, ferry systems, bicycle sharing systems and augmenting of pedestrian networks. These sustainable modes of transportation are now mainstreamed within the smart city proposals and their success will provide momentum to scaling up to the city and regional levels.


Centre for Urban Equity. (2013). Low-Carbon Mobility in India and the Challenges of Social Inclusion: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Case Studies in India.

Embark India and Shakti Foundation. (2012). National Investment in Urban Transport, Towards People’s Cities through Land Use and Transport Integration.

(n.d.). Ibid.

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Emerging Themes: Role of ICT, From Governance to Planning and Beyond


The National Smart City Mission has been unique from other global smart city movements especially in defining the role of ICT in smart cities. The mission has attempted to converge both the ICT driven governance model (mostly in North American cities) with the ICT driven city planning and city operations model (mostly in East Asian cities such as Seoul, Singapore) thereby expanding the benefits of ICT.

The ICT driven governance or e-Governance model has been entrenched within India’s public  service delivery and public administration for some time now.

The National Telecom Policy (1994), the New Telecommunication policy (1999) and the Information and Technology Act (2000) provided for the enabling policy frameworks to address the role of telecom connectivity and information technology both as export services and integral components of India’s infrastructure growth story.  The National e-Governance plan of 2006 was the first comprehensive approach for making governments services available to the people through electronic media. The plan identified 27 mission mode projects to be implemented at center and state through deployment of common backbone infrastructure and making the services public accessible through Common Service Centers (CSCs).

The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) of 2005 provided similar mandate and momentum for the urban local bodies to provide government services through use of ICT technologies. The e-Governance Reforms formed one of three main strategic reform areas that had to be undertaken at the ULB levels. The idea was to bring about changes in traditional methods of management, administration and operation of the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) with respect to service delivery by simplifying the process of interaction between the internal and external stakeholders.  This reform area identified six areas of intervention for implementing ICT platforms for delivery of government services. These were basic services such as birth and death registration, revenue earning services such as property tax and licenses, development services such as water supply and other utilities and building plan approvals, efficiency improvement services such as procurement and monitoring of projects and finally for monitoring the citizen grievance redressal process.  Of the 65 cities that reported the status of JnNURM reforms, 32% (21 cities) achieved all and 58% (38 cities) achieved at least 75% of the stated e-Governance reforms. Cities such as Nasik performed exceedingly well by implementing about nine modules dealing with property and water tax, accounting, birth and death, online citizen grievance, solid waste tracking etc. The JnNURM mission was partly yet importantly successful in establishing and developing the administrative capacities of the ULBs to adopt ICT driven governance.

Globally during the same period (mid 2000s onwards), cities such as Barcelona, Rio De Janeiro, Singapore, Amsterdam, Seoul, Tokyo started experimenting with wider adoption of ICT technologies to manage city operations such as traffic management, water and energy metering, public transport integration  and solid waste management. There was a definite and conscious acceleration towards being counted amongst various typologies of the connected cities – knowledge cities, broadband cities, digital cities, eco cities, ubiquitous cities etc. Whatever the final notional ambition, the ponderance of ICT technology in every day urban planning and urban operations demand management was evident. Entire new cities such as Masdar and Songdo were developed on this paradigm of ICT to plan urban infrastructure and manage the demand for these urban resources.

ICT in Smart Cities Mission
The National Smart City Mission too aimed to combine ULBs’ already existing capacities to leverage ICT technologies, till now limited to e-Governance and expand them to the planning and managing of Indian cities.  Transportation management, metering of water, energy and air quality and disaster management allowed for quick learning from global examples and adoption to Indian cities. Moreover, the cities were challenged to learn the ‘beyond’ implications of ICT penetration within the city infrastructure, ranging from innovation hubs and disaster response to knowledge based entrepreneurship to social media outreach.  The benefits accrued by integrating ICT within city development planning now expanded beyond transparency and accountability, ICTs were now being deployed for resource and resource utilization mapping (water and energy), for mitigating climate change risk (early warning systems), for altering citizen’s role in urban problem solving (through open data and mapping systems)  and facilitating shared economies (AirBnB, car and ride sharing such as Uber, public wifi sharing).

The 20 lighthouse cities have recognised the important components required for successful integration of ICT within the urban fabric; the need for ubiquitous broadband networks (11 cities), the deployment of sensor based systems to reside on existing and new infrastructure (20 apps), the development of city apps, city dashboards and open data to facilitate the understanding of everyday city operations (20 cities), the provision of spaces (innovation hubs, public spaces, command and control centers) for stakeholder collaboration and collective problem solving (15 cities) and finally the need for local government policy to leverage the use of ICT through capacity building and public outreach (6 cities).  As expected, government policy to leverage ICT has the smallest number of takers currently and a wider formulation of government policy will occur only on a living and breathing ecosystem of ICT in everyday city operations.

Mobility and climate change mitigation has emerged as the primary beneficiary program areas of ICT interventions in the first round of the Indian Smart City Mission. The 20 lighthouse cities have proposed to invest $900 million and $550 million in ICT based technologies for climate change and mobility respectively over the next 5 years.  The cities are more inclined to invest in smaller areas for ICT interventions for climate change adaption; 60% of the investments are identified for area based developments. On the contrary, mobility projects dictate city wide adoptions to achieve efficiencies of scale. Pan city proposals therefore have 72% of the investments targeted for ICT based solutions for mobility. The climate change adaption projects use ICT technologies predominantly for street lighting, extreme weather response and disaster management, solid waste management and renewable energy production using rooftop solar panels. As seen in the previous section, traffic management through intelligent signaling, common ticketing systems, smart bus shelters, web based apps are some of the wider applications proposed by the cities for ICT based mobility solutions.


In summary, the national smart cities mission has been able to help cities in visualising the usefulness of ICT adoption in areas beyond governance. As cities begin to integrate ICT within their urban infrastructure and urban planning systems, they will have to adopt a flexible (scalable in components) yet an integrated (resources needed for ICT deployment) approach to address emerging issues of digital inclusion, data privacy and collective decision making.

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Emerging Themes: Financial Resource Management

As the 20 lighthouse cities begin to embark on their smart city adoptions, they have to consciously plan their financial resources. The current resource restrained times require the cities to adopt multiple approaches in their financial planning; improve the efficiency of user fee and property tax collection, explore newer ways of raising revenues such as local municipal bonds and global finance mechanisms such as clean development mechanism (CDM) and reform institutional barriers to attract private sector to finance urban infrastructure. Deployment of ICT enabled sensors on existing and new infrastructure will help to monitor water and energy usage and price the resources to match the demand. Yet, additional resources will have to be raised to cover the operations and maintenance (O&M) costs of these technological interventions. A preliminary analysis of the 20 SCPs shows varying preferences of the cities to tap possible avenues for urban infrastructure financing.

• The cities have identified 6 main types of funding- grants under the smart cities mission, convergence with other missions, public private partnerships (PPPs), borrowing from lending banks, increase in own source revenue and others such as corporate social responsibility.

• Overall, the 20 lighthouse cities will raise Rs. 64,000 crores, thereby leveraging an additional Rs. 44,000 crores against the 20,000 crores investment by the central and state governments.

• Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur have the most financially ambitious proposals. For every rupee that is funded through the mission, these cities aim to leverage Rs. 5.29, Rs. 4.56 and Rs. 3.64 respectively through a combination of public private partnership, augmentation of own source revenues, long term borrowing and others (corporate social responsibility, state finance grants etc).

• Aside from the central and state grants, own sources accounting for 33% of the planned investments are the biggest source of revenues. These are followed by public private partnerships and convergence funds, both estimated around 13%.

• Land  monetisation is the most widely used tool, understandably by cities seeking to leverage funds using the improved level of infrastructure in the identified areas. Borrowing long term debts to finance capital infrastructure is definitely the least preferred option, possibly due to lack of good credit ratings of the municipalities.

• Per capita expenditure inversely influence financial efficiency. From an efficiency point of view, the cities of Ahmedabad (Rs. 3401), Chennai (Rs. 2940) and Surat (Rs. 5812) exhibit the most cost effective smart city proposals. These cities have the lowest per capita proposed expenditures for their smart city plans.

• Cities need to assess capital financial needs of their smart city plans against the annual municipal revenues they generate. The higher the ratio of resources needed to the municipal income, the greater is the need to improve the income the cities can generate while the opposite case is strictly not true.  Bhubaneswar, Belagavi and Jabalpur need resources multiple times their annual municipal incomes and consequently need to look at increasing their revenues over the duration of the SCP.  This revenue capacity needs to be continually augmented to sustain the smart city effort and to scale it from a specific area to the entire city.

• Alongside the revenue capacity, equally important is the expenditure capacity. This indicator represents the city’s capacity to execute the smart city proposal based on the recent municipal expenditure. It is calculated by dividing the proposed annual SCP expenditure by latest available actual municipal expenditure. A resultant number less than 1 indicates that the Smart City Proposal is well within the city’s existing capacity. A number greater than 1 indicates that the city has not executed a project of this scale previously and needs to focus on capacity building to ensure its successful implementation. Amongst the 20 lighthouse cities, Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad. New Delhi Municipal Council and Chennai exhibit sufficient financial experience in implementing projects proposed in their SCPs.

• A mobilisation diversity index, similar to the Herfindahl-Hirschman index was calculated to test the diversity of the funding sources (other than the national mission grant) as identified in the Smart City Proposals. The value of HHI is between 0 and 1. A number close to 0 indicates that the funding sources are less diverse, i.e. most funding is from a single source. A number closer to 1 indicates greater diversity of the funding sources, i.e. the funds are coming from a variety of sources. Diversity in funding indicates resilience of the financial plan. Interestingly despite not having any credit rating and therefore low borrowing capacities, the cities of Solapur, Belagavi and Kakinada have the most diversified portfolio for resource mobilisation.

Definitions of Financial Indicators

Budget (INR Crore) – the overall capital expenditure proposed in the SCPs by each city

Budget Efficiency – the overall capital expenditure divided by the population of the city

Funding Leverage – the amount of money to be mobilised by the city divided by the funding identified under national and state schemes

Mobilization Diversity – similar to Herfindahl-Hirschman index, calculated to measure the dependence of the proposal on one or more funding sources

Revenue Capacity – the amount of money to be mobilised divided by the latest municipal revenue of the city

Expenditure Capacity – the amount of money proposed to be spent under the SCP divided by the latest municipal expenditure of the city

JnNURM Property Tax Reform – the status of implementation of JnNURM tax reform

Credit Rating – the credit worthiness of the city

Note: $1 = Rs. 66.48

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