Delhi records traffic surge from pre-lockdown levels
Curtailed public transport and fear of infections likely reasons behind the increase, say expertsUpdated: Nov 01, 2020, 05:02 IST
The streets of the national capital are experiencing about 10% heavier vehicular traffic compared to the levels recorded before the lockdown necessitated by Covid-19 pandemic in March, according to traffic estimates, with experts suggesting that curtailed public transport and fear of infections could largely to be the reasons behind the surge.
Records of the Delhi traffic police’s control room show that compared to Delhi’s peak hour vehicular volume in the month of March — before the Centre clamped a nationwide lockdown to control the rising cases of Covid-19 — there has been a nearly 10% increase in overall traffic in September and October. This development comes even as visits to markets and recreational hubs are lower compared to last year’s festival season, according to data from Google’s community mobility trends.
Another senior traffic police official said on condition of anonymity that the estimate incr-ease of 10% was calculated from the traffic volume recorded at major roads of the Capital. “We take some 50 busiest roads from across the city and assess the average volume there. It is an estimate,” he added.
Another traffic official said: “One of the primary reasons behind this surge in traffic is that even though the public transport modes such as the Delhi Metro have resumed operations, many former users who have their private vehicles still prefer to use them. With the number of cases still on the rise, private vehicles seem to be a more reliable option for commuters who have that option.”
At the ITO intersection, which is considered one of the busiest stretches in the city, the peak hour vehicular volume in the month of March was 350,000 a day. In September, however, with several offices in the area calling back employees after stay-at-home measures due to the pandemic, the traffic volume shot up to 600,000 a day during peak hours.
The vehicular volume estimates are recorded by the control room in the first week of every month to determine the number of vehicles crossing an area during the rush hours (8am-11am and 5pm-8pm).
At south Delhi’s Rao Tula Ram Marg signal, the traffic volume increased from 60,000-80,000 in the month of March to around 100,000 in September.
An upward trend in vehicular traffic has also been observed in arterial roads such as the Rajouri Garden main signal, where the traffic volume has gone up from 125,000 before the lockdown to 220,000 in September. In another busy west Delhi area, Uttam Nagar main crossing (near the bus depot), traffic movement has gone up from 110,000 to 185,000 during peak rush hour.
The official quoted above said that while the estimates for October were yet to be analysed completely, the department observed that the traffic around markets and shopping centres has reduced in comparison to the festival season from previous years. Google’s community mobility data shows a similar trend. The tool tracks the number and length of visits people make to certain kinds of places compared to a baseline.
According to this data, in October, there was a reduction in traffic volume around retail and recreational hubs, parks and workplaces. However, there has been a spike of 3-10% in the vehicular movement around residential areas, supermarkets and pharmacies. There has also been a reduction of nearly 15% in traffic around public transport pick-up points. Experts said that this could be indicative of low footfalls for modes of public transport.
A survey released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in May showed that the use of private vehicles was expected to increase and the ridership of Delhi Metro and public buses would 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 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.
Some experts also feel that in the months immediately after the reopening of schools, and with more offices calling employees back to work, there could be another spike in traffic volume.
“People are slowly getting back to their normal lives but they are also wary of crowds, if they have the means. The number of cases is still on the rise and we do not know when we will see a reduction in the number of cases. But once schools and other institutions are also opened, we will surely see a surge in traffic jams,” said Madhusudhan Krishnamoorthy, transportation and road safety expert.