In this concluding article of the series 'City Jam', Atul Mathur and Nivedita Khandekar come up with a list of ten suggetions which could improve the traffic situation in Delhi.
1: Traffic signages are meant to be helpful but they are not in Delhi. “Overgrown trees and banners blocking traffic signals, traffic signages that make no meaning and no marking for speedbreakers show the total callousness of the civic agencies. All these things contribute to traffic chaos to a large extent. Proper signages and road markings are an integral part of road design. I wish they start taking this aspect of road designing seriously,” said a traffic expert.
2 Shift bus stops
How many times have you zipped past on a flyover and got stuck in jam as you got down? It is a common lament for those driving up the flyovers at Dhaula Kuan, IIT Gate, South Extension, Janak Setu and Shahdara. Why do we have to have bus stops at the foot of the flyovers or just after the traffic junctions? Experts say it is bad planning. Former Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) director SMSarin suggested that bus stops should be at least 70-80 metres after the traffic junction to avoid congestion. Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) SN Shrivastava insisted that places are identified where bus stops need to be relocated and the Delhi Transport Corporation officials are informed.
3 Tow-away plan
Be it national highways, arterial roads or even access roads, vehicles broken down in the middle of the road is a common sight, specially trucks and inter-state buses that take up at least half of the road space. By the time the crane arrives, the traffic piles up goes beyond a kilometre. And in most cases, the vehicle repair starts right there caring two hoots about obstruction caused to the traffic. “PCR vans should be made responsible to get the vehicle towed to ensure unobstructed vehicular movement,” S.P. Singh, Coordinator, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training said. But police can’t do much. They don’t have too many cranes to tow away bigger vehicles that cause maximum problems. “Actually there is no prompt vehicle recovery system. No one ever gave it a thought,” said another expert.
4 Repair roads
It is not just heavy and heterogeneous traffic that slow down speed. Potholes bring down speed causing snarl-ups. Take, for example, the Press Enclave Road near Saket, which is perennially bad and broken. When all motorists, including the up and mighty, notice it, how can it escape the eyes of the civic agencies? “Water and bitumen are big enemies. We should have a good drainage system to prevent water logging on roads. With proper monitoring of roads, small broken patches should be immediately repaired before they turn into potholes,” said Sarin. But for authorities, fixing roads is tougher than rocket science. They still don't have a formula to lay roads that last more than a monsoon.
5 Evict encroachers
Isn’t it time that footpaths and roads are left for the purposes it were meant for? Vendors putting up shops on footpaths forcing pedestrians to walk on roads and vehicles illegally parked leaving narrow carriageways can be seen all over the city. “Encroachment reduces the capacity of the road and slows down traffic to a great extent. There is no encroachment on footpaths and roads in developed countries,” said PK Sarkar, School of Planning and Architecture.
6 More CCTVs
By the time the traffic police comes up with its high-end technology based Intelligent Traffic Management, can’t we have some closed circuit cameras that inform the police where the traffic has started piling up apart from noting down the registration number of vehicles flouting traffic laws. “It is a one-time investment, which can be covered under integrated transport plan. Or it can also be put up through public private participation. CCTV will not only create a fear among motorists that somebody is watching them and will help reducing traffic violations and chaos,” said Nalin Sinha, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
7 Alternate routes
Experts say that traffic diversions and alternate routes are the only short-term solution to ease traffic congestion. “For example, the volume of vehicles coming from and going towards Agra using the Mathura Road is huge. If this highway traffic is shifted to an alternative route, the intersection can be de-congested,” said Nalin Sinha, Programme Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
8 Fix bottlenecks
Take for example NH-24 in east Delhi, which has at least six bottlenecks: 1. Volume of traffic has increased manifold on narrow highway. 2. Work on widening road from 4 to 8 lanes proceeding slowly; widening of road’s Ghaziabad stretch still to be approved by ministry of road, transport and highways. 3. Flyover near Ghazipur landfill site very wide, up to traffic intersection at Ghazipur. But immediately after this point, the road that leads to Akshardham narrows. So, 7-8 lanes of vehicles from Ghaziabad side funnel into just 2 lanes on a bridge over Ghazipur drain as soon as the signal turns green. 4. Long queue of autorickshaws waiting for their turn to refuel at a CNG station little over 200m from the crossing, reducing road space. 5. No vehicle recovery system in case of breakdowns. The civic agencies can start fixing them as well as those on other roads.
9 Fix traffic signals
As power goes off, traffic signals too stop working causing chaos on the roads. By the time traffic cops start manning the traffic manually, there is a huge pile-up of vehicles. In this technology-advanced world, is power backup for traffic signals too much motorists to ask for? By the way, out of 701 traffic signals in Delhi, only five are solar-powered. “Dedicated power back has huge cost implications. We have been requesting power distcoms for uninterrupted power supply to traffic signals, but it is not working out,” Shrivastava said.
10 What about us?
As motorists, we also contribute to traffic chaos, don’t we? We stop at a junction to turn right where right turn is not allowed unmindful of its implications on traffic coming from behind. In a hurry we jump the traffic signal, even when the traffic on the other side has stared moving, only to stop in the middle of junction and obstructing traffic. As a biker we try to out-smart others by hip-hopping on the footpath and road to reach ahead faster. “If the people have pride in the city/country they live in, they must follow rules,” observed Shrivastava.