What makes public transport desirable? It is easy access, safety, reliability, timely and accessible information, comfort and interconnectivity, say experts.
Delhi lacks most of these. But one major factor that deters commuters from using buses and Metro the most is integration.
The two most important arms of public transport are so disconnected from each other that at times one has to walk a kilometre to get to a Metro station from a bus stop.
Consider walking a kilometre in Delhi’s harsh temperatures — summers and winters — and it’s easy to understand why people who can afford cars would never want to switch to public transport.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) executive director Anumita Roy Chowdhury says Delhi is a city not designed for public transport.
“We build flyovers, we make signal-free stretches and we ask people to cross the road using overhead walk bridges or underground subways. We discourage them from walking and crossing the road, giving primacy to cars instead of public transport. In most developed countries.., it is people first and cars last,” she says.
The successive governments seem not to have understood the close relation between public transport and lowering pollution, she says.
Other experts agree.
“Delhi needs to improve its transport system...The commuters need to have some incentive to give up their private vehicles and a well-connected and hassle free public transport will act as that,” said PK Sarkar, head of department (transport and planning) at School of Planning and Architecture.
The Delhi government is working on a common mobility car, which commuters can use on any mode of public transport. The initial plan to start a multi-modal system suggests commuters should have to make minimum effort to switch from one mode to another. This will reduce the number of single-commuter trips on the road.
Cities such as London, Singapore and Berlin cope with rising pollution levels despite a huge demand for mobility by having high-quality public transport systems that are fully integrated.
A trip to the centre of the city from the outskirts in Berlin, therefore, would mean a single ticket and hopping from a tram to the Metro or the bus without any hassle. A single ticket is valid on all three forms of transport and the stops for each mode are near each other.
Recognising the need for a strong public transport system to bring down pollution, the Delhi government has been stressing the need to induct more buses in its fleet, a bus pooling application and a luxury bus service.
Calls for a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority — a unified body to coordinate the entire transport activity in the city — is gaining prominence.
“What is happening now is that each transport body is operating separately. There is a severe lack of coordination between them. A common body that will be able to monitor the activities of all transport-related areas will ensure better coordination and reach,” Sarkar said.