NEW DELHI: The sinuous traffic jams on all roads adjoining Pragati Maidan during the recently concluded Auto Fair may have brought things to a head, but the stark reality has been staring at us for the last several years. Delhi’s arteries are getting choked by the day. These days, it’s not uncommon for Delhiites to get stuck for hours in traffic pileups, especially in peak office hours of 9-11 am and 5-8 pm. The prime reason, unsurprisingly, is the vehicle count, which has now breached the 7 million mark.
Numbers tell the real story the capital is in. According to officials of Delhi’s transport department, roadspace available per 1,000 cars has come down to a mere 5 km in 2011, compared to 12 km in 1996.
Delhi’s vehicle registration data suggests that on December 31, 2011, the car count touched 2.16 million, which includes over 68,000 thousand jeeps and 74,000 vans. In two-wheelers too, the capital has touched new highs. There are over 2.17 million motorcycles, 2.32 million scooters, 86,000 mopeds running on our roads. Besides, Delhi has 1.15 lakh light trucks, over 20,000 buses and 40, 000 auto rickshaws.
There are an estimated 30,000 km of roads criss-crossing the capital, including urban and rural roads. But a majority of the offices are in urban areas. Hence, a large chunk of the seven million registered vehicles owned by Delhiites rush into the city every morning between 9-11 am, putting unbearable pressure on the roads.
Officers of the Delhi transport department said that the government is trying various measures to wean people off private vehicles. Cars alone occupy a lot of space, with a significant number of working people driving to work. “To discourage people from using cars, and taking up public transport like the Metro and bus service instead, we raised the parking charges by introducing hourly parking rates,” said Ranjeet Singh, deputy commissioner, Delhi transport department.
Singh said the public transport facilities in Delhi have reached a level of frequency and comfort that should encourage car owners to avail them on their way to office. In fact, already, a lot of people have started parking their vehicles at Metro stations near their homes, and availing the Metro for the rest of their journey. But those numbers need to increase further, and fast.
“We took serious steps, like increasing road tax on diesel vehicles by 25 per cent, and hoped that registration (and by implication, demand) of diesel cars would fall, but that didn’t happen. Other measures have worked, like the introducion of high-capacity buses,” he added.
The government has taken other big-ticket measures, like expanding the Metro, planning a mono rail in East Delhi, to reduce cars on the roads. “Measures like the introduction of economy taxis, which charge `10 per km compared to radio cabs at `18 per km and traditional yellow & black cabs at `13 per km, have helped. Around 2,450 are running in the capital now.”
The Grameen Seva Auto, high capacity auto rickshaws that run in the outskirts and rural areas and link these outlying areas to the nearest bus or Metro station, have also helped. But in a city of over 1.75 crore people, too much is never enough!