The Delhi government is finally waking up to the concept of traffic management with the introduction of exclusive lanes for each road-user. How? With the commissioning of a section of the first of the seven corridors under the High Capacity Bus System (HCBS) around the Diwali festive season. A first on Delhi’s roads, HCBS will bring about a neat division of lanes with no room for an overlap. Wouldn’t it lead to more congestion if the lanes are shrinked, given the ever-increasing volume of vehicles in a city known for frequent jams and maximum traffic violations? No. It will only get better, say project designers.
Here’s a lowdown on the HCBS project and the contradictions within.
The first section
Josip Broz Tito Marg in South Delhi falls under the first section of the HCBS. This 5.8-km stretch has already been divided into several lanes, both wide and extremely narrow. Construction is in full swing, and the traffic moves at a snail’s pace on this stretch these days, thanks to the newly-demarcated lanes. Since work is under way, diversions and jams are unavoidable. Kindly bear with the inconvenience. In about two months, buses will ply in a dedicated lane in the middle of the road. One of the HCBS designers, Geetam Tiwari of the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme, IIT-Delhi, says: “Buses are not mere vehicles. They are carriers of pedestrians, who form the majority of road-users. The corridor is meant for the safety and convenience of the majority of road-users.”
Twelve 30-second halts for cars, two-wheelers
The objective is to reduce accidents by eliminating friction between vehicles. There will be two dedicated lanes for buses on the central verge, separated from all cars and two-wheelers by concrete dividers. A slightly raised lane would be earmarked for slow-moving vehicles like bicycles and cycle-rickshaws. The last lane on this section would be a walkway leading pedestrians to 12 bus shelters located within 500-800 metres of each other. For instance, bus shelters will be created in the middle lane at two major intersections below the Chirag Dilli and Moolchand flyovers.
To facilitate smooth movement of pedestrians to the bus shelters, the government also proposes to revise the traffic signal system on HCBS corridors. Signal posts will be erected near all bus shelters, with a 30-second breathing space for the pedestrians to cross over. But if the bus shelters come up at every 500-800 metres, wouldn’t the vehicles on other lanes be forced to a halt for 30 seconds at the new bus shelter signals and a little longer at existing intersections? Result: traffic jams again? No, says Geetam Tiwari. “There will be zebra crossings between the pedestrian walkway and the bus shelters. Cars will run smoothly without overspeeding. A few 30-second halts will ensure greater safety for hundreds of pedestrians. These halts will be synchronised to help car drivers calculate their travel time,” she adds.
Cars and two-wheelers will have to make do with only two lanes on roads having the HCBS corridors as against the three lanes most arterial roads in the city have as of today. So, wouldn’t all this deny car and two-wheeler drives road space? “You do not have to worry about buses overtaking or bicycles slowing you down. This will provide free movement for cars,” says Tiwari.
What about small goods carriers, auto-rickshaws and a host of other slow-moving motor vehicles? Just wait and watch. Goodbye to signal-free rides
Soon, you may not be able to enjoy signal-free rides between Ambedkar Nagar and the Moolchand Crossing if you are coming from Josip Broz Tito Marg.
Nothing to beat a bad road culture
Till date, barriers, subways and foot overbridges have failed to inculcate discipline among Delhi’s pedestrians.
Will people wait for the lights to turn red to cross the road? Tiwari says, “We have kept the behaviour of the Dilliwallah in mind. People like to travel the shortest distance and they would just have to cross half the road to reach the bus shelter.” A senior Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) official said traffic marshals would be deployed along HCBS corridors to discipline jaywalkers.
Problem with positioning of bus shelters?
Buses usually keep to the left of the road, unlike the HCBS proposal. Tiwari says, “On the left lane, there are entrances towards homes, offices, colonies and shops, and there are cars that turn left. When buses travel in the middle lane, there is least friction with other vehicles."
A plan to circumvent Pile-ups
What would happen if a vehicle breaks down in one of the narrow lanes on the HCBS corridor? Would it not lead to a pile-up on the road? Tiwari says, “In the event of a breakdown, a bus can be shifted to the car lane through a three inch high rumblestrip that will serve the purpose of a divider as well.” Besides, special bays will be set up at every 500 metres for cars in the event of breakdowns. Still, going by the road culture, a pile-up does not seem to be a distant possibility.
Some people love to drive on the wrong lane. Is there a mechanism to rein in unruly drivers? Tiwari says, “The traffic police have to stop vehicles from driving on the wrong lane.”
Bluelines, DTC ready for HCBS?
Some low-floor buses that the Delhi government had bought in 2005 are presently running on the Shivaji Stadium-Hauz Khas route. The government is yet to induct more such buses, so the Bluelines and DTC buses will ply on HCBS corridors. “It might take two years to phase out Blueline and DTC buses from the corridor. But to begin with, Blueline and DTC bus drivers would be given special training,” a DIMTS official said. Eventually, only GPS enabled, air-conditioned buses would be run by DIMTS on HCBS corridors.