Pay it Forward: Holistic Policy Approaches

This headline really says it best: An Indian state could use archaic laws to ban the best thing about Ola and Uber

While we took a rather simplistic approach to seeing how ride-sharing could work effectively in a market like India, one thing missing from a lot of discussions is how we approach problems like policy in technology from a holistic standpoint.

The Karnataka government could have done a lot of good for business by letting ZipGo, Ola, and Uber carry on with their ride sharing. Our air is getting worse , and our roads are more congested than ever. If anything, we’re trying to face football-sized challenges with a table tennis racket.

Ride sharing may not be the solution to traffic woes and, granted, unlike Mumbai and Delhi, Bangalore has fewer hubs where traffic can originate from at one point in the day. However, considering that air is worsening and we’re spending more times on roads than we need to, it isn’t a far stretch to make allowances under the motor vehicles act of 1989 in Karnataka to change how the carriage system works. With a change to policy there, you’d open up ride aggregator platforms to provide incentives to individuals who commute to and fro as the sole occupants of their vehicles. Sure, the flip side is everyone decides to buy a car and offer rides in an attempt to make money — but that’s not a problem we have to deal with right now because enough people won’t be able to buy vehicles fast enough for the eventuality to occur.

What the transport commissioner missed was a fantastic opportunity to holistically take on some of Bangalore’s biggest issues in one fell swoop. Granted, we wouldn’t be back to the easy commuting days of the 90’s and mid-00’s. But, for a minute, let’s build on the positives of more people ride sharing through enhancing the scope of the carriage system to allow for private vendors to operate on a system similar to one the government runs — reduced congestion resulting in reduced commute time meaning better productivity. Reduced time on the road means more people might want to engage in activities that aren’t just restricted to commuting back home after work. That’s increased spending on entertainment. That’s a plus on employment because with people demanding more options to unwind, both the private and public sector need to invest to cater to this demand. That’s a plus in taxes. With commute times dropping, yes, the flip side is more people will drive — but if it is immensely convenient and cheap to travel without having to invest in your own car, chances are that millennials won’t.

The flip side could be that increased economic activity may still not work out for the environment in the long run. What we’re missing as this blog gets longer is that with a reduction in traffic, you’ll see more people choosing to cycle to work. That’s zero emissions, isn’t it? Given how quickly we’re running out of time when it comes to the climate, it’s important that when evaluate policy and its consequences, we don’t focus on the silo we operate in but look at much broader ramifications. In essence, bring in the right rackets to knock those balls right out of the park.