Seven years from now, every inch of Delhi’s roads will be gobbled up by vehicles and the city will come to a standstill for there won’t be any space left for vehicles to move.
The number of vehicles — both cars and two-wheelers — are rising at a rate of 8% per annum. For a city of 17 million, Delhi has close to eight million registered vehicles, more than that of Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore put together.
Add to this the 1,400 new vehicles that are registered every day. While the number of vehicles has increased at an astonishing rate of 135.6% since 2000, the road network has increased by only 16.5%.
The result: Traffic snarls are getting longer by the day.
The average speed of vehicles on several busy roads has come down to almost 5kmph. According to urbanemission.info, one-fifth of a car’s travelling time is spent idling or crawling at 4kmph.
Experts blame it on poor public transport. Though Delhi boasts of a world-class Metro, which caters to almost 2.2 million people every day, and its fleet of buses has grown, the advantages of an improved public transport system has been offset by increasing private vehicles.
“Automobiles are a spatially inappropriate technology for a dense city. With them, we have systematically ruined the human living environment in most of the world’s major cities. By adopting the automobile, Indian cities are trying to do the physically impossible,” said Mark Gorton, a New York-based transport expert and founder of Rethink the Auto.
According to a transport expert from Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System (DIMTS), the agency that provides consultancy to transport department, private vehicles account for nearly 35% of the total number of trips while public transport — buses, Metro and autorickshaws — account for 46% of trips. “By 2021, we can hope that the share of private vehicles drop down to 21% and that of public transport goes up to 62%. But we will need an integrated and highly reliable public transport system,” the expert said.
According to a study by RITES, 60% of Delhiites are willing to switch to public transport if mere 10 minutes are saved and 37% will shift if 20 minutes are saved. About 63% would be ready for a switch if parking was provided at bus stops.
Experts believe the government needs to adopt two-pronged strategy to ensure the city does not reach a gridlock situation. While it has to further strengthen its public transport to discourage private vehicles, strict measures need to be taken to make owning cars difficult. Though Delhi has been talking about increasing parking rates and congestion pricing, there is little political will.