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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Delhi set to get public transport it deserves

At least 3,000 CNG-powered buses will be rolled out, taking the fleet size of Delhi’s buses to 8,460. Though still short of the desired 11,000-mark, it should be enough to resuscitate the Delhi Transport Corporation that has not added a single bus to its fleet in nearly a decade.

delhi Updated: Jan 07, 2019 11:25 IST
Shivani Singh
Shivani Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Reliability and convenience are the two key factors that determine the utility of any public transport.
Reliability and convenience are the two key factors that determine the utility of any public transport. (Burhaan Kinu/HT File )
         

If everything goes as planned, Delhi may finally get to upgrade its public transportation to match its world-class aspirations this year.

At least 3,000 CNG-powered buses will be rolled out, taking the fleet size to 8,460. Though still short of the desired 11,000-mark, it should be enough to resuscitate the Delhi Transport Corporation that has not added a single bus to its fleet in nearly a decade.

The induction of 1,000 electric buses with zero emissions ca help mitigate air pollution. Also, with massive expansions last year, the 327km Metro network now connects all big markets, universities, business districts and Delhi airport.

But how many of us will chuck our cars or two-wheelers to utilise this upgraded public transport?

In 2014, the Central Road Research Institute estimated that the Metro, even with its limited network back then, kept 3,91,000 vehicles off roads, saving a passenger 32 minutes per trip, reducing road fatalities by 125 and collisions by 937, and helping Delhi save Rs 10,364 crore in fuel.

Yet, since 2014, Delhi has registered 1,500-1,800 private vehicles every day. The two back-to-back Metro fare hikes and the depleting bus service have not helped. Private vehicles provide flexibility and door-to-door connectivity. Owning one, particularly a car, is also a symbol of upward mobility. Two-wheelers often work out to be cheaper than taking multiple rides on the Metro.

Reliability and convenience are the two key factors that determine the utility of any public transport. Laying new Metro lines or putting more buses on the road is of little use if commuters can’t time their journey. They need real-time information on arrivals, delays, cancellation and breakdown of transit services.

For this, the Delhi government must expedite the ongoing exercise to rationalise routes to ensure that every stretch that needs a bus service gets one at the right frequency. While the new public buses will come with GPS installation and the existing cluster buses already have them, the DTC fleet should also be fitted with the tracking systems soon. The information on timings and routes should be exhibited on LED boards at bus stops and also made available through phone apps and websites for those on the go.

To maximise the benefits of public transportation, Canada-based Victoria Transport Policy Institute in a report released last year prescribed an evaluation criteria, which included availability, coverage, frequency, travel speed and reliability of public transit; its integration with other travel modes; affordability, fare structure and payment options; user comfort and security; and accessibility of transit stations and stops.

Traffic jams are a great leveller and the perception that public transit is too slow to be useful is no longer realistic. A 2018 report by Victoria Transport Policy Institute, for example, concluded that transit trips are often competitive on congested city roads that did not allow private vehicles a free run.

In Delhi, where traffic speeds have already been cut by half, we seem to have already surpassed the Marchetti’s constant — which says that anything beyond a 60-minute commute stresses one out. Compared to driving, a bus or a Metro ride of the same duration is often a lot less stressful as one can make calls, text, read, listen to music, take a power nap or even work while commuting.

Given that there is not much between private and public transport in terms of actual commuting time, many justify using their own vehicles to avoid first and last mile journeys to and from a Metro station or bus stop. But the door-to-door convenience associated with a private transit is frequently defeated by the struggle to find a parking spot. Most often, getting in or out of parking lots often takes longer than getting to the nearest point where one can access public transit.

To become truly competitive, public transit must focus on improving the last-mile connectivity in Delhi. Feeder buses to Metro stations are still too few and their services limited. Unregulated parking outside stations is creating new choke points on Delhi’s already clogged roads. The Delhi Metro will start a subsidiary company to run and regulate the last-mile travel options. It has started its own e-rickshaw service and counters at some stations to book radio cabs.

This could be the year Delhi redefined how it moves. The shrinking road and parking space, coupled with spiralling fuel and maintenance costs, have already made many in Delhi question their car obsession. Now, it’s the government’s turn to incentivise a lifestyle choice for a greener, faster and healthier Delhi with a convenient, reliable and economic public transit.

First Published: Jan 07, 2019 11:11 IST