How does India commute to work?  

With the current debate raging over Delhi metro fare hike and its feasibility, How India Lives takes a look at how Indians living in 8 mega-cities commute to work.

We analysed Census 2011 dataset for Indians who are neither employed in agriculture nor in household industries living in 8 of India’s biggest cities – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai.

A large proportion of them, ~36%, either live at their place of work, or have little to no distance to commute, while only ~20% commute more than 10 kilometres every day.

In India, traditional cities were developed in a way that required little or no commute as people chose to live close to work as long-distance commuting essentially impacted their earnings. This trend is clearly manifested in the visualization below, where close to three-quarters of all working people live within 10 kilometres of their workplace. Metro is mainly used for longer trips, with average trips close to 16 kilometres.

In the 8 cities, walking is still the most preferred mode of commuting, largely because of small distances to work. In Delhi-NCR, 22% walk to work and only a minuscule 3% take the train. Except Mumbai, where an equal proportion take the train and walk to work (25%), buses cater to the second largest proportion of people commuting to work. Given the length of the average commute even in top Indian cities, buses and other means of public transport cater to a much larger share of the population while receiving only a fraction of the total investments.

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The decade of low-cost airlines has another winner: Low-cost rail AC

This piece originally appeared on


A new front in the battle for the top-end passenger opened in September 2003, when Air Deccan was launched as India’s first low-cost airline, aiming to wean away the rail traveller who travelled in air-conditioned (AC) classes.




While Deccan has come and gone, low-cost airlines are here to stay, accounting for three-fourth of domestic market share in June 2015. Interestingly, low-cost rail AC, which comprises AC three-tier and AC chair car and formed a key growth premise of low-cost airlines, has also flourished.

In the initial years of low-cost airlines, these two classes of AC rail travel initially lost ground but have since not only emerged ahead, but also opened up a lead. It does not help that the government taxes air travel heavily, but subsidises train travel.




What this also illustrates in the larger context of low-cost airlines is that while they have made a significant dent at the upper end of the rail AC segment, the lower end of rail AC is more than holding its own.





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