The Delhi government’s road rationing scheme may have been a hit with residents, but it is not enough to ease the city’s commuting woes, an international expert on transportation has said.
In an interview with HT, Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) CEO Clayton Lane said that though the government’s scheme was a ‘bold’ move, a lot more must be done to make Delhi congestion-free. “The odd-even restriction was surely a step towards solving the problem, but it is not a solution that can be implemented on a regular basis,” said Lane. “Delhi urgently needs some policy to limit the use of private vehicles… Measures like implementation of congestion charges, hiking of parking rates and limiting parking space have been successfully implemented in several countries.”
Lane also picked on the city’s bus rapid transit (BRT) network, which the Public Works Department began dismantling on Tuesday, by stating that it hadn’t really qualified as one in the first place.
A study conducted by the ITDP CEO’s team during the 15-day odd-even restriction had revealed that only 4% of the car users actually admitted to facing any inconvenience while commuting. Praising the initiative, Lane said: “If such a response can be garnered with a temporary setup, then we can get wonderful results with a few inexpensive alterations in our transportation policies. It is a myth that a growing city needs to have more cars, or that congestion is a part of development. If we provide cheaper alternatives to commuters in terms of a well-connected and integrated public transport system, we can reduce (the number of) vehicles on the road to half.”
Citing London and Paris as examples, Lane said that the number of commuters using cars for everyday travel in these cities came down by at least 10 times at no additional investment. He said it was achieved by merely improving the planning of its existing transport network.
Moving on to the BRT system in the Capital, Lane listed the reasons why it had been nothing more than a regular lane for buses. “What Delhi had was just a bus way, not a BRT network. It did not have basic features such as off-board fare, level boarding and dedicated middle lanes for bus passage. In fact, even in a simple bus way, the speed of transit is much higher than what it was on this stretch,” he said.
Noting that the average speed on Delhi’s BRT corridors was not more than Rs 15 km/hour, he said it goes up to as much as 26 to 27 kmph in BRT networks of cities like Bogota. Even in Ahmedabad, the speed goes up to as much as 24-25 kmph, he added.
“In an ideal BRT network, commuters don’t spend a lot of time on the road – thus increasing the speed of passage. These have been proven to not only be quick and high quality but also extremely inexpensive to lay. In fact, with proper integration, commuters will not even feel as if they are transferring from network A to network B,” Lane said.
The ITDP’s primary programmes include developing BRT systems, promoting the use of transit-oriented development, and planning exclusive lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. The institute is promoting BRTs in over nine Indian cities such as Chennai, Pune, Nashik, Coimbatore and Ranchi, besides international traffic hotspots such as Guangzhou (China), Johannesburg (South Africa), Jakarta (Indonesia), Chicago (USA) and Sao Paulo (Brazil).