India is urbanizing rapidly and many of its cities are relying on government-financed metro rail as the backbone of their mass transit networks.

This raises the question of what can be done to ensure that the economic benefits of the metro system are maximized, and how these initiatives can be financed.

Our research indicates that in India, land use management is critical in shaping the amount of socio-economic benefit that metro rail can help create. Relaxation of floor-area ratios - the ratio between floor area of a building and the size of the land parcel where a building is located - has been widely adopted.

This allows more businesses to use the space in an area. In Singapore, for instance, floor space regulations around select transit stations were doubled from their original value to attract private investments, promote redevelopment, and ensure more intensive land use.

Overly restrictive floor-area ratios cause cities to grow horizontally instead of vertically, contributing to urban sprawl.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 7, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.