More buses on the roads and fewer cars, cycle tracks for non-motorised travel, no more flyovers or signal-free corridors, higher parking and congestion fees — this is what Delhi will be like in 2021 if the recommendations of a committee tasked with finding ways to decongest the Capital are accepted.
The multi-agency committee was set up by the urban development ministry in October 2014 following HT’s ‘Unclog Delhi’ campaign — a series that has consistently highlighted the city’s traffic and space problems.
In answer, the panel has in its final report come up with a Rs 20,000-crore plan that stresses on improving public transport — particularly buses — to wean people away from owning cars.
To lure commutes to buses, the panel said, the fleet must be strengthened — by 2,000 new buses immediately and 4,000 in the next phase. It suggested having bus stops within walking distance of one’s home or office, fares lower than the per-kilometre cost of running a two-wheeler, and an overhauling of the bus rapid transit system.
It called for incentives like free rides for regulars and time-based ticketing so people can take multiple buses on the same ticket. “Free bus days should be introduced to encourage private car users to use public transport, even on non-working days, festivals and holidays.”
The panel said residents should be encouraged to cycle at least short distances, pointing out that 60% of passenger trips are below distances of 4km and 80% below 6km — ideal for non-motorised transport.
It said 35% of Delhi’s population already owns cycles but only 4.5% uses them for their commute due to safety and parking issues. “Inadequate cycling facilities are slowly pushing the population to depend on motorised private vehicles, causing loss of environment, health and life in far greater numbers than was the case two decades ago,” said the report.
The committee said Delhi must aim to bring up the share of public transport and non-motorised travel to 80% of total transportation in the next five years. Total passenger trips are estimated to increase to 280 lakh a day in 2021 from a mere 45 lakh in 1981, 118 lakh in 2001 and 144 lakh in 2008.
To discourage people from buying new cars, it said, “Parking fee should be market-driven and vary across the city based on time, location and local demand/congestion levels through the day. As a thumb rule: higher the congestion, higher the fee.”
Parking on footpaths should be made an offence under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act punishable with a fine 10 times the normal parking rate, it said.
It also called for parking management districts — with facilities for all modes of transport along with vending zones and public amenities — in Connaught Place, Nehru Place, Karol Bagh, Kamla Nagar, Vikas Marg, Lajpat Nagar and Bhikaji Cama Place.
Roads take up 21% of Delhi’s area and, hence, there is limited scope for their expansion, the panel said. Blaming the increasing volume of private vehicles — which meet less than 20% of the city’s transport needs — for crowding of roads, it discouraged the construction of more flyovers, pedestrian bridges and underpasses as all of these promote car use.
It said signal free corridors should be avoided for the same reason. Instead, there should be more pedestrian crossings and cycling routes, at least every 250 metres.
The panel also said the mushrooming of gated communities had forced local traffic to spill over on to main roads.
“I agree with hiking parking fees as it will discourage people from buying cars. However, when they are talking about no more gated colonies, they should also think about the safety of those living in these colonies,” said PK Sarkar, head of department (transport and planning) at the School of Planning and Architecture.
Making suggestions to augment Metro services — Delhi’s public transport lifeline — the panel said there should be planned spaces within a 5-minute walk of each station for buses, rickshaws, autos and cycles along with amenities like toilets, cafes, vendor stands, lighting and trees.
It set different deadlines for different projects but said all these should be completed by 2021. The report was prepared in consultation with 19 stakeholders, including five central government ministries and various departments of the Delhi government and MCD.