Is DTC ready for trial 2.0?

As the Delhi government calls for public suggestions on a second round of odd-even formula in the capital

Headquartered in a shabby building opposite the Indraprastha Metro Station, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) saw a spike in collection from the sale of tickets during the odd-even trial in January.

The DTC in its report to the government attributed increased earnings to jump in average ridership from 35 lakh to over 38 lakh per day, thanks to the government’s decision of roping in buses from private operators. Nearly 10 lakh private cars were supposed to stay off roads due to the Delhi government’s attempt at curbing air pollution, as per a government estimate.

With the government seeking public feedback on its 15-day-long odd-even initiative, DH tries to find out whether the public transporter is ready for another odd-even trial.
Around 1,200 private buses were added to the DTC fleet for the drastic curbs in January. But as per the Corporation’s report submitted to the Delhi Government last month, the Transport Department on December 10, 2015 had asked DTC to arrange 4,000 to 5,000 buses from private operators.

Days before the introduction of odd-even car scheme on January 1, the target was scaled down to 3,000 since the government decided to make a host of exemptions, including two-wheelers, women drivers and VIP vehicles.

As the government plans to remove certain categories of exemptions, it is unsure how many more buses the city will need in order to discourage people from getting the wheels. Earlier on January 17, Transport Minister Gopal Rai had promised 1,000 new buses after July. He said it while addressing an event to congratulate denizens for the successful implementation of the odd-even rationing of road space.

Plan for new fleet
Not a single bus has been added to the DTC fleet for several years now, even though the Delhi government has been unequivocal about its ‘long-term’ plan to increase the public bus fleet to 10,000.

Currently, the DTC operates about 4,700 buses, while the Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transport System (DIMTS) — a joint venture between the city government and the Infrastructure and Development and Finance Corporation — oversees operations of some 1,200 orange-coloured cluster buses.

Aam Aadmi Party has asked its MLAs to gauge the public mood on the proposal of bringing back the odd-even car curbs. The exercise began on Saturday. The Delhi government is already seeking public opinion online.

DTC Managing Director C R Garg claims Delhiites had a sound experience with buses during the odd-even formula. “Traffic remained smooth throughout the odd-even trail,” he says, explaining that commute time reduced substantially due to less congestion
on roads.

Less traffic on roads
The average number of trips operated increased to 38,731 from 33,175 per day because of reduced congestion and breakdown of buses, DTC in
its report to the government says.

With over 6,000 public buses on roads, including the contract carriages, the government was hopeful of carrying at least 15 lakh more passengers per day. The ridership of DTC is around 35 lakh per day.    

Transport Minister has promised major overhaul for the public transportation, besides rooting for fewer exemptions in the next edition of the road rationing drive. A robust passenger information system and common mobility card are part of the plan, according to DTC chief C R Garg.

The DTC will soon float a tender for procuring CCTVs and WiFi network for
DTC buses, Garg told Deccan Herald.

Delhi government has also planned to introduce premium buses for those who wish to pay more for better amenities on board. Brijesh Goyal of the AAP’s trader wing, which submitted a memorandum to Delhi CM demanding premium chartered buses for wholesale bazaars and industrial areas, says the DTC needs to be upgraded to ensure the success of the odd-even plan in the long run.

Most working people share a similar feeling. “I think the government will have to ensure that buses become as reliable as the Metro. Only then you can have people wanting to board buses,” says Ashish Kumar, a resident of Mayur Vihar.

More bus routes
DTC says it plans to tweak existing bus routes to ensure the buses are on time and at places where these are required the most.

Hiring bus marshals from private security agencies is also part of the government’s promise to give a facelift to the public transport. One thousand three hundred home guard personnel are currently deployed as DTC bus marshals in evening shift, according to the government.

Buses in Delhi have earned notoriety for being unsafe, especially after dark. Despite that deployment of bus marshals on buses has been a contentious issue between the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleging that Jung is reticent in withdrawing home guards who are currently deputed with the Delhi Police.

Boosting staff strength
DTC says it plans to make do with short-term hiring of bus conductors even though fleet expansion in round the corner. Ahead of the recently concluded odd-even plan, the Corporation invited over 13,000 candidates registered with the employment exchange to appear for the interviews.

Around 2,000 appeared and the rest didn’t show up. The short-term employees get ‘minimum wages’ guaranteed by the government.

But a more herculean task for the DTC is to ensure installation of GPS on all buses. Garg says a reliable passenger information system cannot be developed without putting GPS in place.

During the odd-even days, Delhi government’s tie up with Twitter to provide information about bus routes worked out well. “It is tough to look up the internet for the right bus numbers. On Twitter, you just had to enter your destination and current location to get your route chart. I took bus two-three times during the odd-even days,” says Pankaj Batra, a Panjabi Bagh resident. 

He adds that the government needs to make travelling on buses more “commuter-friendly”.
Winning more commuters in future will depend on how reliable people think buses are, the DTC chief says. He claims that the world’s largest fleet of CNG buses is willing to “rise up to the occasion”.

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