Delhiites prefer personal rides over public transport

Delhi has 106 cars for every 1,000 people, nearly seven times the national average

Something, somewhere is lacking in Delhi’s public transport sector that has prevented it from weaning away private vehicle users in large enough numbers for the past two decades, say experts.

Delhi Metro is a shining example of public transport’s popularity. But it is only carrying 2.5 million passengers per day, much below the current network’s capacity and it is largely due to poor last-mile connectivity.

“The Delhi Metro’s potential capacity is about 15 million passengers per day. All efforts should be made to move in this direction,” says N Ranganathan, former professor of transport planning at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).

Almost half of the city’s daily commuters still use private vehicles. As a result, new vehicles are bought daily – nearly 1,100. Of these, 400 are cars. Till March 31, 2013, there were 7.7 million vehicles in the already overcrowded city.

According to a study by the Central Road Research Institute, Delhi has 106 cars for every 1,000 people. This is nearly seven times the national average of 700 per cent of 16 cars for every 1,000 people.

Pointing to the low success of strategies to popularise public transport, Kanika Kalra of the Institute of Urban Transport says, “Since the start of Delhi Metro in 2002, the number of vehicles in the city has doubled.”

“In the absence of easy accessibility, commuters find it difficult to use the world class Metro system and instead prefer to use their own vehicles,” she says, adding that the fleet of 6,000-odd public transport buses needs to be doubled to attract more private vehicle owners to use buses.

Head of department of transport planning at SPA P K Sarkar blames poor quality and inadequacy of public transport buses and peak hour rush in the Metro for the partial success of efforts to encourage people to give up personal vehicles.

“Public transport has not had the sequential arrangement of development, which would have increased the modal share of public transport,” he says. “From 60 per cent commuters using public transport in 1989-90, the figure has dropped to 50 per cent at present.”

“Unfortunately, the Delhi government does not have the willpower to restrain ownership of private vehicles or develop public transport,” says Sarkar.

Ranganathan suggests a ‘hail taxi’ system like in Mumbai to discourage use of personal cars.

Other experts suggest an overhaul of the city’s para-transit, with focus on easy availability of autorickshaws (totalling 80,000) and taxis (totaling 20,000) at all times and in all parts of the city for accessing the Metro. Tackling issues of ‘refusal to go’ and overcharging by autorickshaws remain a challenge.

Amrita Kansal, national consultant (road safety and injury prevention), WHO, says, “Public transport is the most sustainable. Urban transport buses should be comfortable and reliable with passenger information system (PIS) to inform commuters about real-time movement of buses.”

“If all urban buses in Mysore can be fitted with GPS for a successful passenger information system, then why not in Delhi?” she says, referring to the importance of PIS shown at a WHO Road Safety workshop in Bangalore earlier this month.

The 6,000-odd buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation and private operators in the capital carry some five million passengers daily, almost double the daily load of the Metro.
Kalra wants an integrated ticketing system between different modes of public transport, mainly Metro and DTC buses. The fares of different public transport modes should be based on defined time and defined value, and the same smart card should be applicable on buses and Metro.

She also favours a wide bus rapid transit system like in Ahmedabad, Indore, Bhopal, Surat and Rajkot to popularise buses.

“Delhi’s somewhat unpleasant experience with the 5.8 km stretch of BRT may not be used to draw hasty decision about the utility of such public transport systems,” she adds.
For limiting use and ownership of private vehicles, the government may have a policy of not permitting private vehicles in certain areas, impose prohibitive parking fee and also following a restrictive registration policy for private vehicles on the lines of Singapore, she says.

Surveys show that 63 per cent people would be ready to switch modes if there is parking at bus stops.

A 2008 study conducted by RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) suggests that by 2021, public transport (bus, metro, rail) may carry 64.6 per cent of all Delhi commuters. But for this a major shift will have to come from two-wheeler users. By 2021, the number of two-wheeler users will have to drop to 7.7 per cent from the existing 21.9 per cent.

Ranganathan calls two-wheelers an “enigma”. “These enable mobility but are of high risk,” he says, suggesting a sustained campaign to educated two-wheeler users about the high degree of risk they are taking by opting for their vehicle over public transport.
Kalra says two-wheelers are unsafe and should be discouraged. “Some cities in China have even banned two-wheelers.”

According to 2010 figures of the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry, 32 per cent of deaths on the roads involved two- and three-wheeler riders.

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