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No escaping Delhi traffic jams: Why city is spending double the time on roads

delhi Updated: Dec 15, 2016 14:45 IST
Soumya Pillai

Heavy traffic jam in Dhaula Kuan. Over the years traffic congestion has been rising in the area. (Raj K Raj/HT File Photo)

Six years ago, 36-year-old Ameeta Wardhan used to leave her office in Gurgaon around 6pm, driving all the way to her house in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, picking up veggies and groceries on the way and just in time for her favourite soap at 7.30pm. But now, travelling the same distance, she does not reach home before 8.30pm.

The increase in the traffic snarls because of the spike in the number of vehicles on the road has forced several commuters such as Wardhan to spend twice as much time on the roads.

A study conducted by a group of six Bhopal-based urban designers and road engineers revealed Today, a person travelling a distance of 40 km by a private vehicle in the city during peak hours would spend an average of 3 hours and 43minutes on the road, as opposed to 1 hour and 36 minutes in 2011.

Read| Capital chaos: Delhi’s traffic has slowed down and doubled time spent on roads

“Driving back from office to home is a task. Most times the traffic crawls at such a low speed that I feel that I would perhaps reach faster if I just got out of my car and walked,” Wardhan said.

She said earlier if she had the leisure of coming home, lazing a little and then start dinner preparations. Now she has to rush into her chores as soon as she reaches.

In fact, because of the stress, she gave up driving and has been commuting via Uber or Ola to get home in the evening. It is in the cab that she orders the weekly groceries, which also reach her residence earlier than she does on most days.

Interactive | How Delhi is losing the race against its traffic

The study, which will be submitted to the Delhi government in 2017, has assessed five routes from residential neighbourhoods to office hubs in the last six years. The average travel time and the speed of the same route was analysed every year between 5pm and 7pm using speedometers time assessment watches.

Five routes in Delhi were surveyed before the results were collated. Vasant Kunj B-11 to Central Secretariat (15.1kilometers), Dwarka sector-19 to Barakhamba Road (25.05kilometers), Kailash Colony to Connaught Place (10.08 kilometers), Vasant Kunj C-block to Connaught Place (18.2 kilometers), and Mayur Vihar phase-1 pocket-2 to Mandi House, are among the routes that were assessed.

How Delhi is slowing down
Five routes from residential areas to office hubs were assessed for six years between 5pm and 7pm
  • Over 50 people were surveyed to find how much time they spend travelling for work. It was found that about 80% people did not travel more than 40kms — to and from work — so this distance was taken as the benchmark
  • Speed strips were placed at every 5kms on each route between 2011 and 2016. The time taken for the back tyres to cross the strips after the front tyres had crossed it, was noted to calculate the speed of the vehicles
  • The scientists travelled on the routes and recorded their journeys with the help of a stop watch to find out the time taken to complete each route. This was done every day for two weeks each year. The data was collated and the average was taken
Vasant Kunj B-11 to Central Secretariat
ROUTE Nelson Mandela Marg-Outer Ring Road-Rao Tula Ram Marg-Shanti Path-Teen Murti Marg-Kushak Road-Udyog Bhawan
Dwarka sector-19 to Barakhamba Road
ROUTE Dwarka Road-Dwarka flyover-Dwarka Road-Airport Road-Dhaula Kuan-SP Marg-Mother Teresa Crescent-RML Hospital-Gurudwara Bangla Sahib-Tolstoy Road-Barakhamba
Kailash Colony to Connaught Place
ROUTE Greater Kailash Road-Lala Lajpat Rai Road-Dr Zakir Hussain Marg-C-Hexagon-Ashoka Road-Janpath-Connaught Place Outer Circle
Vasant Kunj C-block to Connaught Place
ROUTE Vedant Desika Mandir Marg-Vasant Kunj -B-Block- Nelson Mandela Marg-Outer Ring Road-RTR-Shanti Path-Teen Murti Marg-Kushak Road-Raisina Road-Janpath Road-CP
Mayur Vihar Phase-1 to Mandi House
ROUTE Noida Link Road-Patparganj Road-Akshardham Road (NH 24 point)-National Highway 24-National Highway 44--Bhairaon Marg-Pragati Maidan

Sample this: As a commuter moving from her house in Vasant Kunj B-11 was to travel till Central Secretariat or back, you would now take at least an hour and 52 minutes during peak evening traffic hours. The same distance could be covered in 42 minutes in 2011. The average speed of the route has also reduced from 43kmph to 20kmph.

A series of similar studies conducted by CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) in the past have also shown similar results.

The study read that the average speed of the city had gone down from 40kmph to 20kmph. It reasserted that the city’s speed is likely to reduce further and reach almost 5kmph if the congestion is not controlled. That speed though is likely to leave fewer dents on your car but it will take you nearly three hours to reach office located just 15kms away.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that most arterial roads in the city are already carrying more load than they have been designed to carry.

Roychowdhury said the more time a commuter spends on the road, higher are the chances of them being exposed to pollution.

“Cars are known to be the most inefficient way of moving people. This was not something that we did not already know would happen. The government needs to come up with a strong public transport system which would also take into account last-mile connectivity,” she said.

A study by CSE in 2012 showed that the 48-km Ring Road, which is a six-lane carriageway, is designed to carry 75,000 vehicles a day but in 2011 it was carrying almost 1.6 lakh per day and had estimated that the number would increase up to 4 lakh in 2016.

Experts said that initiatives such as the Delhi government’s odd-even road rationing initiative proved how getting even 30% vehicles off the road can make a huge difference to the city’s congestion.