Delhi roads have reached saturation point: Experts

NEW DELHI: For Delhi commuters it’s been a bad week, but worse is yet to follow. • Come 2010 and the only way to commute through the
Capital would be on a bicycle or a bus, since Delhi roads have reached saturation point, say experts • In the last five years, average speed on Delhi’s roads has come down from 20-27 kmph to 15 kmph • Idling time at intersections has increased to minimum 5 minutes during peak hours • The peak ‘hour’ now stretches to almost three hours (8.30-10.30 am and 4.30-7.30 pm) Travelling time has more than doubled in five years

Yet, 500 vehicles are being added to Delhi’s roads everyday. From 2.17 lakhs in 1971 and 19.23 lakhs in 1991, the number of motor vehicles on the roads has gone up to 37 lakhs in 2002. In addition, over one lakh vehicles from the neighbouring states also ply on Delhi’s roads. According to traffic police chief Maxwell Pereira, Delhi’s quota of vehicles is more than the combined number of registered motor vehicles in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai together. In five years, the number could be around 43 lakhs.

The result: traffic congestion and long waits at traffic lights are some things Delhiites may just have to live with in the coming years, warn
experts. ‘‘In two years time, you won’t move out unless its absolutely essential,’’ says T S Reddy of the Central Road Research Institute.
And don’t blame that on traffic cops. Everyday, 4,000 traffic policemen are bttling it out there. Delhi Police was sanctioned additional manpower of 1,255 men, but the numbers are still inadequate, says Pereira. ‘‘To a certain extent, the traffic flow is better than what it was because of infrastructural developments like flyovers and better traffic management.’’ This, he adds, is reflected in the declining number of road accidents and fatalities.

So who’s to blame for the mess? It’s car owners: every third person now owns a car or two-wheeler. They constitute 70 per cent of the traffic.The share of cars is increasing, according to a study by the CRRI.

The increasing number of cars is responsible for clogging up the roads, says transport expert Dinesh Mohan. So even as zero-per cent finance schemes and other options are luring more and more Delhiites to buy cars, they may soon have no option but to leave their cars parked at home.

‘‘All roads in Delhi are choked. The traffic flow now is equal to the capacity our roads can carry,’’ says Reddy. Will the Metro help improve conditions? ‘‘It will definitely have a positive effect,’’ Pereira says. Not much, say the others. ‘‘The Metro will only augment the capacity of the public transport system, so buses will be less crowded. But it’s unlikely to make people leave their cars,’’ says Reddy. On the contrary, Metros make cities more congested by bringing in more people, says Mohan.
‘‘Most of the flyovers built in Delhi are so designed that they use up 50 per cent of the space even though they cater to only one-sixth to oneeighth of the total traffic, and hence cause clogging,’’ says Reddy. ’

Are we then headed towards a complete standstill? ‘‘We have to restrict the use of cars and get more people to use buses. Delhi’s drivers will have to come to terms with sacrificing road space and allowing more space for buses,’’ says Reddy. Right now, only one-fourth to one-sixth of road space is available for buses even though 50-60 per cent people travel by bus.

Comment: While the metro and better public transport might help decongest Delhi’s gridlocked roads, ultimately the only way to reduce the pressure on the Capital is for all but the most necessary government offices to relocate to satellite areas or move out of the region entirely. For example, why should the Coast Guard be headquartered in Delhi as it currently is?

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