No flying over this problem

No flying over this problem

Every time there is talk of infrastructure development in the capital, chief minister Sheila Dikshit and her ministers don’t shy away from patting their own back for building some 70 flyovers.

While the Delhi government argues that it has transformed several arterial roads in the city into signal-free stretches by constructing flyovers, the fact remains that roads continue to remain clogged, especially during peak hours.

The serpentine queues of vehicles crawling, even on flyovers, make a mockery of all the hype in the name of infrastructure development. The biggest question is, have these flyovers provided a solution to the traffic woes of the city? The answer is a big no.

Urban transport experts say flyovers are short term and piecemeal solutions to the problem of burgeoning traffic in any urban area. “It has been observed that at several places, flyovers shift the problem from one place to another. In effect, it only helps you reach the next jam faster. Especially in a city like Delhi where the number of vehicles is increasing at a fast pace, all advantages of the newly built infrastructure lose relevance in no time,” says P K Sarkar of the School of Planning and Architecture.

Experts say while flyovers are helpful in decongesting traffic at major intersections, they serve their purpose only if they are constructed after a proper traffic analysis, which takes into account the flyover’s impact on adjacent traffic intersections as well.

Technical lacuna

In order to study the impact of a flyover at a traffic intersection and adjacent intersections, professor B Maitra of the Civil Engineering department of IIT-Kharagpur conducted a comparative study of traffic movement using a simulation method in Gariahat and Phari intersections in Kolkata, both before and after a flyover was built at Gariahat intersection.

In his research paper, ‘Modeling traffic impact of flyover at an urban intersection under mixed traffic environment’, Maitra concludes: “After construction of flyover at Gariahat, the increase in vehicular-hour delays for Phari intersection was more than the reduction in vehicular-hour delays for Gariahat intersection. As a result, if both Gariahat and Phari intersections are considered together, the resultant was a net increase in vehicular-hour delay on the stretch.”

Maitra says urban authorities in Indian cities have taken initiatives for building flyovers at major intersections, but a comprehensive planning approach is missing in most cases.

“The locations of flyovers are decided on present day operating conditions or sometimes even by perceptions of the decision-making bodies, without resorting to the analytical planning approach. The case study presented in the paper is an example of many such flyovers in several cities in India. Instead of solving transportation problem, an ill-planned flyover only shifts, and even enhances, the problem,” says Maitra.

Advantage lost

Experts say traffic impact analysis needs to have a holistic view of the entire stretch of road before construction of a flyover. Comprehensive research should include study of vehicle movement on all approach roads at the intersection to determine the direction of the flyover. An analysis of the width of the proposed flyover, as well as the road before and after the flyover, is a must as these could also negate the advantages of the flyover.

“The Modi Mill flyover cloverleaf in south Delhi is a classic example. While travelling towards Kalkaji, the road just ahead of the flyover is very narrow. It leads to traffic jam on the stretch as the road gets clogged as the volume of traffic reaching Kalkaji Mandir signal ahead is much more than the road could bear,” says S Velmurugan, head of traffic engineering and safety division, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).

A similar problem has been identified by Delhi traffic police in a survey conducted by them about the regular traffic jams near Kashmere Gate ISBT. Despite that part of Ring Road being signal-free, the stretch between Hanuman Mandir (near Salimgarh flyover) and ISBT sees jams due to the narrowing of the carriageway ahead of the flyover, coupled with the angle of a cloverleaf and wrong location of a subway on the carriageway.

In order to ensure that flyovers serve their purpose, experts say incorporation of several features is a must, which otherwise are often overlooked.

Elements like installation of proper road signs before and after the flyover play a crucial role in maintaining smooth traffic flow.

“Overhead gantry signboards should necessarily be installed for main lanes at least 50 to 100 metres ahead of flyovers. Reassurance signboards for slip roads are also a must to prevent conflict of traffic near flyovers,” says Velmurugan.

CRRI had conducted a survey, under instructions from the Delhi government, of signage near 34 flyovers. While the findings were incorporated at certain places, they are still waiting to be implemented at several other flyovers.

“The recommendations were implemented at 15 flyovers. I still find lack of proper signage at Sriniwaspuri flyover, Oberai Hotel flyover, Shahadra flyover and Zakhira flyover, to name a few,” says Velmurugan.

Experts say the location of bus stops near a flyover also adds to the traffic mess, so extra care needs to be taken while providing for the bus bay. “Authorities can’t locate bus stops far away from traffic intersections as commuters should not be forced to walk a long distance. But the approach road to the bus bay after descending the flyover should be at least 100 metres long.”

“It will prevent the conflict between movement of busesdescending from the flyover and traffic on the slip road,” says Velmurugan.

Solution to traffic woes

A close observation and analysis of the entire matrix of urban transport makes it amply clear that construction of flyovers is just a small component of it. The solution is much wider, going beyond simply making traffic intersections signal-free.

Experts say one of the biggest reasons for the traffic mess in the city is the burgeoning number of vehicles. The number of vehicles has exploded in the past one decade while road infrastructure has not been able to catch up.

With the number of registered vehicles in the city touching 7.4 million, it grew by over 50 per cent over the past one decade. But the road network has increased by just 11 per cent during the same period, say city government officials.

According to traffic police officials, the problem goes beyond the number of vehicles. “People think maintaining traffic is only about manning traffic intersections. A survey has found that 38 different kinds of vehicles ply on Delhi’s roads, ranging from buses to cars to two-wheelers to even animal-driven carts. In other words, the city traffic sees 38 different kinds of vehicular movement simultaneously. The problem at hand is much more difficult than it appears,” says additional commissioner of police (traffic) Anil Shukla.

Experts say the rise in the number of vehicles is largely due to increased dependence of city residents on private vehicles.

“A decade ago, the share of public transport on the city roads was 60 per cent. Now, it has gone well below 50 per cent. Even in case of public transport, only 10 per cent is catered to by Metro, while the rest travel by buses and other means of intermediary transport like autos and taxis,” says P K Sarkar.

“It shows the increased dependence on private vehicles. Since EMIs have made buying cars easy, owning a personal car has become a matter of status symbol as well,” says Sarkar.

Providing a robust and dependable public transport network is the only way out, experts say.

“The fulcrum of public transport in Delhi has to be Metro. By 2021, Metro will be spread over 446 km, which ideally will bring most colonies in close proximity to Metro stations. The Metro network, assisted with last-mile connectivity and a good network of public buses, is the only solution to the traffic woes of the city,” says Velmurugan. takes pride in city’s flyovers which have come up during its 14-year term.

 VOICESMATTER


I don’t believe flyovers have completely helped ease the traffic situation, but if we compare it to a city like Kolkata which has few flyovers and cities having the same density of vehicles, then I think flyovers are helping here. We should not always see the immediate gains of a project, especially when it is related to infrastructure.

In Bangalore, even when the number of vehicles is less than Delhi, traffic there is worse because of lesser flyovers and poor overall infrastructure. In Delhi, it is understood that flyovers have limited scope. But it certainly helps even if it shifts the traffic jam from one signal to another. The government must take some long and short term measures for flyovers to be effective.

They include improving the quality of public transport to discourage private vehicles, limiting the number of vehicles a family can buy and selling them through lottery as is happening in China. The government should notify days when odd and even number vehicles can ply every other day, the way it has been happening in Tokyo and other cities where traffic is heavy 
* Anupam Kumar, resident, south-west Delhi

Most people may argue that flyovers are essential to ease traffic in a big city, but in my opinion this does not actually stand true.

Although years ago, flyovers actually eased traffic, but today it is completely different.

Apart from a handful of flyovers in Delhi, most others seem to be facing the same problem of bottleneck traffic during morning and evening peak hours. To make things worse, the number of people using four-wheelers has increased, making the situation worse.

The problem is not in building more flyovers, but people should be educated to better use them. Awareness and civic sense are the key
*Sai Prasanna , resident, east Delhi

Studies suggest that flyovers don’t help reduce traffic. Flyovers leave a footprint on the road they are built. When the main road is built, it is not decided at that time that flyovers would be built over it. So when flyovers are built, their pillars occupy much of the main road beneath, causing congestion on the main road. Traffic on the flyover may become smooth, but the overall problem persists as traffic is instead accumulated on the road beneath. Also, the areas around the pillars turn into illegal parking space 
* Dhiraj Mahindra, resident, south Delhi

Flyovers can be useful if roads are designed keeping in mind that flyovers would be built on them later. That way roads can be much wider. Also, flyovers help reduce traffic if they are built over long distance, passing many traffic signals. That way, if not all, many can reach their destinations without facing any traffic snarl. Another aim of flyovers is to keep heavy vehicles on flyovers and leave the road beneath for other vehicles. If this is strictly implemented, it can help ease traffic                   
*Rajesh Sharma, resident, west Delhi

The problem lies not with the concept of flyovers, but with the lack of driving
discipline.

Flyovers help us reach destinations faster.

It can be a problem if everyone wants to reach the same place, but if people exit from certain routes along the flyover, everybody can reach faster.

The aim should be to implement traffic discipline among people. I think flyovers have done considerably well given the rapid increase in the number of vehicles
* Supreeth Sudhakaran, resident, east Delhi

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