NEW DELHI: Urban mobility experts see sagacity in the AAP government's decision on road rationing echoing arguments that invoking such restrictions, with minor tweaks, are needed in the short term, also to put across the message that car users are a "heavily subsidised" lot.
However, they contended that several other measures in the medium term and long term, towards rapid strengthening of public transportation are needed in order to reach a stable situation and reduction in pollution levels. According to Raj Cherubal, Director-Projects, Chennai City Project, plying of odd and even numbered vehicles every alternate day would lead to a "dramatic" decrease in congestion during the peak pollution months.
"Double or triple your bus fleet. Increase your feeder system dramatically to connect to main trunks and Metro.But it's very easy to harp on long-term solutions but if short term measures such as this are not supported then whole point is lost," Cherubal, who has pioneered 'car-free' days in Chennai said.
He rued that no one calculates and talks about "actual cost to taxpayer and losses" due to all the infrastructure given to private cars. "Real numbers should puncture some of the smugness and entitlement attitude." Holding it as a step in the "right direction", India head of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Shreya Gadepalli said that the odd-even system had been refined by cities like Bogota. Madhav Pai of EMBARQ seconded Gadepalli's argument.
"At least three cars are required to beat the system that allows only 40 per cent of vehicle on any given weekday in Bogota (vehicle numbers ending with 1,2,3,4 on Monday and so on). A robust IT based enforcement mechanism is required," Gadepalli said. Pai says that other propositions like congestion tax being played around by naysayers of the odd-even decision as the cost of implementing such measures is high.
A "paradigm shift" is needed in the transport sector, he said. Car users will have to realise that they are being subsidised heavily and these measures are needed so that the message percolates down, Pai, who has authored 'Bus Karo' a guidebook on bus operations and planning, said, adding that in Bogota odd-even restrictions are enforced only during peak hours.
"Impose parking surcharge and with that money build and subsidise public transport. But that would need time. Even congestion pricing cost is really high. 40 to 50 per cent cost goes only in running the system. There should be short-term measures with commitment to long-term," he said. Cherubal also praised the AAP government for showing "political leadership" and giving a "shock to the system". He said even if 20 per cent stops using private vehicles, the positive affects would be visible.
Cherubal, who is associated with several thinktanks, also stressed on the need for a communication strategy to make people aware of the importance of such measures by softening resistance and introducing people to alternatives. "Introduce car free days and other such events in all neighborhoods. Make it fun. But idea is not to entertain the public, but to change behaviors," he said.
The government has been observing car-free days, one day every month, since October," he said. Gadepalli of ITDP, which has played a key role in implementing Ahmedabad's bus rapid transit (BRT) system, said the government must increase the bus fleet--from around 5,000 currently to around 15,000--and implement around 600km of metro-quality BRT.
"Delhi Metro is not enough. Worldwide, buses serve more trips than rail. For example, London's 8,000 buses carry twice as many passengers as its 1,800 km rail system. Government must also charge market rates for parking. It is a commodity, not a right," she said.
In a radical step to curb alarming air pollution, Delhi Government on December 4 announced its decision to restrict plying of private vehicles bearing odd and even registration numbers to alternate days from January 1 in the national capital.