With limited public transit, traffic rises in unlocked Delhi
Delhi traffic police control room records show that from May 20 — when public transport and public movement resumed in the city after restrictions were eased — to August 5, at least 15 arterial stretches have seen an increase in vehicular traffic.Updated: Aug 07, 2020 08:22 IST
With the Metro still shut and other modes of public transportation plying only with restrictions on the number of passengers, Delhi’s roads have seen a surge in vehicular volume, leading to incessant traffic snarls, shows an HT analysis. This is happening even as people are not moving around as much as they were before the lockdown was imposed, according to data from Google’s community mobility trends. Experts say increased use of private vehicles in the absence of public transport explains the increased vehicle traffic.
Delhi traffic police control room records show that from May 20 — when public transport and public movement resumed in the city after restrictions were eased — to August 5, at least 15 arterial stretches have seen an increase in vehicular traffic. Daily complaints of traffic jams have also seen a considerable spike, even during non-peak hours, senior officials said.
Traffic estimates show that in the busiest stretches of the city, including ITO junction, Ashram intersection, Britannia Chowk, Mukarba Chowk, Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway and Dhaula Kuan crossing, traffic volume during peak rush hours has increased by nearly 15-17%, compared to pre-lockdown period. The police observed that this increase was observed primarily around commercial hubs and office complexes.
For instance, in ITO intersection, the busiest commercial hub in the city, traffic volume after May 20 has increased from a daily average of 350,000 vehicles to 525,000 during peak morning and evening rush hours.
Connaught Place, Rajouri Garden, Uttam Nagar, Kashmere Gate, South Extension, Hauz Khas and Dwarka Link Road have all seen a significant increase in snarls.
“Especially with the Metro still not operational, the streets have seen an increased load. The number of buses is limited, and there are also restrictions on the number of passengers that can enter one, so anyone who owns a private vehicle now prefers to use it,” a senior traffic official said.
Commuters too complain of serpentine vehicle-queues on roads and crawling traffic.
Sumukhi Suresh, an IT professional who works in Noida, said that earlier she used to take the Metro to work, which took her 50 minutes from Dwarka Sector 10, but she is now forced to drive, and it now takes her nearly 1.5 hours to get to work these days.
“I leave home at 8.30am and I still get a long jam on the Dwarka flyover. After the opening of the Pink Line, traffic on this stretch had reduced considerably, but now things have gone back to how it was. In fact, it has become worse now,” Suresh said.
However, vehicular volume around shopping complexes and recreational spots had decreased, traffic police estimates show.
People in Delhi are still not travelling as much as they used to before the nationwide lockdown was imposed from March 25, but overall mobility has been gradually increasing over time, according to data from Google’s community mobility trends. The tool tracks the number and length of visits people make to certain kinds of places compared to a baseline – in this case, a five-week period between 3 January and 6 February this year.
After the lockdown was announced on 25 March, Delhi saw close to 80% drop in people’s mobility to retail and recreational places, parks, supermarkets, pharmacies and workplaces. Public transit, which includes places such as bus and train stations, saw the highest drop in people’s mobility in a week after the lockdown was announced, as much as 88%.
This, however, has been gradually changing with the city-state easing the lockdown measures over time. For example, on 1st April there was a 73% drop in visits to supermarkets and pharmacies compared to the baseline, but the drop was 64% on 1st May, 27% on 1st June, 26% on 1st July and 20% on 1st August. Similarly, as people started travelling around, the drop in visits to public transits hubs changed from 87% on 1st April to 52% on 1st August.
As Metro services continue to remain suspended, visits to travel hubs cannot be expected to be as high as the pre-lockdown period. Also, schools and many offices have still not resumed functioning, which in itself reduces vehicular traffic movement in the city. As on 1st August, Google’s community mobility data showed 44% drop in visits to workplaces compared to the baseline. The drop in visits to workplaces was more than 80% during the peak lockdown period.
Transport experts said this increased dependence on private vehicles is likely to continue for at least another year. A survey released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in May had shown that the use of private vehicles is expected to increase and the ridership of Delhi Metro and public buses will reduce in the coming months.
“The government will be facing the challenge of restoring commuters’ faith in public transport modes. Even after the metro is opened for people, a person who owns a car will prefer using travelling in the safe confines of their own vehicle, instead of travelling in the metro with hundreds of people where the chances of catching the coronavirus infection is more,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), CSE.