Without Effective Planning Delhi’s Odd-Even Plan Will Create Chaos
When it comes to planning infrastructure projects like mass transit, Delhi has a head start over other Indian cities. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is a good example. It is well maintained and planned, and has been able to cover most of the city. It is also one of the most used modes of transport in the national capital territory.
However, a city with the size of Delhi requires robust and diverse transit options in order to eliminate the need of private cars. Delhi has several transport agencies, as well as cycle rickshaws, cabs, and a booming transport startup economy.
The city has a multi-modal transport network, but with unplanned and unreliable services it is simply a fragmented set. With all these options, why are does Delhi face humongous traffic issues, adding to the rise of personal vehicles, traffic congestions, and pollution?
Lack of Information and Operations
Bus agencies have several issues to fix in their operations; bus bunching (buses running together as a bunch) and maintaining trip schedules is an important area to be addressed.
The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS), which runs orange cluster buses, uses GPS to provide real-time locations and the Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) for about 1000 buses in Delhi. This is really good, but most people can’t access this information as it is only available through the PoochO App.
In cities like New York, and London, such data is shared with everybody through open Application Program Interfaces (APIs). This allows apps like Google Maps or M-indicator to report bus locations to a wider audience. By making real time transport data available, people can use technology and plan their travel, allowing them to save by not having to wait for buses, or standing on platforms. If people feel that taking public transport doesn’t waste time and is reliable, they will be more likely to use it instead of reliable personal vehicles or cabs.
Investment and Long-term Planning
The government’s plan to decrease the number of cars plying on Delhi streets is with good intention, but I am afraid that it’s a plan without any foundation. And it does not have any contingencies to deal with the chaos it is going to cause.
Even though they are in talks to increase the public transport options in the city, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to do so within this short period. When Paris decided to implement a similar plan, it laid out its aims until 2020. Paris is increasing bi-cycle sharing programs and promoting public transport by making it free. If Delhi is following Paris and other cities around the world, then it better start providing the same set of services.
- Bus agencies have several issues to fix in their operations, like bus bunching (buses running together as a bunch) and maintaining trip schedules.
- Real-time locations and ETAs for buses should shared publicly through APIs, and not only on apps.
- Transit deserts, or areas without access to public transport should be taken into consideration.
- When it comes to Intermediate Public Transport (autos and cabs), Delhi is unable to enforce its laws effectively.
- Promoting bicycle sharing, cycle rickshaws and public transport should be the main agenda.
When roads are designed, traffic is forecast and modelled to take in several parameters, including the activity to assess disruption in current traffic. The Delhi odd-even formula needs to be planned effectively. Public transport can only cover certain parts of the city, and that is one of the primary reasons why people living away from the city centre commute in their own vehicles.
Transit deserts, or areas without access to public transport is a key issue in most cities around the world. These become important when planning and connecting everyone in the city to the transportation network grid. If you compare the locations of bus-stops and GPS locations of autos in a day in Delhi, you will see the difference in access for people isolated from public transport. Even though the metro is extensively covering the city, last mile connectivity is still a huge issue.
Rule of Law
When it comes to Intermediate Public Transport (autos and cabs), Delhi is unable to enforce its laws effectively. Autos still don’t run on meter, and drivers complain about the recurring extra expenditure the government is making them spend through new auto-meters with GPS and panic buttons. The Delhi government has been at war with taxi aggregators, disrupting the industry the safety lapses with citizens. It is high time they find a solution to this.
What the city needs is a comprehensive plan for reducing traffic on the roads, and emissions in turn. Promoting bi-cycle sharing, cycle rickshaws and public transport should be the main agenda. Delhi metro is good and efficient, but it still lacks fast/express services.
Public transport in Delhi is shut post 11.30 pm, unlike other parts of the world where you have low frequency services running round the clock. The government needs to take enough steps to improve things on a long run and bring co-ordination among transport agencies through a unified entity. At the same time, recognised startups like Ola, shuttles, and other private players should be allowed to play their part.
More information must be made available so we can understand how people travel in Delhi, and plan ahead instead of reacting to desperate situations. If I were to plan the odd-even formula for private vehicles, I would look into the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) data in detail, and gauge the share of CNG, petrol and diesel vehicles. Clearly you can’t penalise CNG and electric vehicles just because they have an odd/even registration number when they contribute the least towards air pollution.
People want to use public transport, but they need more real time information and enforced procedures so they can feel safe when taking it. They should also be able to view it as the most efficient way to travel. An efficient public transport network is the key for growth of any city. It is important for the safety of the citizens, and the city’s economic growth.
(Srinivas Kodali is an early researcher working on Intelligent Transportation Systems and Cities. He is currently part of Transportation Working Group at Datameet focusing on open data and standards in transportation. In the past he was a Project associate at Center of Excellence in Urban Transport, Indian Institute of Technology Madras. He occasionally writes about cities and transport on his blog.)
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