Delhi is the national capital of India and lies in the north of the country. Ever since independence of India in 1947, a boom in economic growth, rapid industrialisation, and other job opportunities attracted people to Delhi from proximate areas. In 1991, population of Delhi reached the staggering figure of 9.42 million and presently stands at about 18 million in an area of 1,483 sq. km with a population density of 25,535 sq. km. [v]
Underground and elevated infrastructure. The Metro has become one of the most crucial mode of public transport in Delhi since its commission in 2002. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is responsible for the planning, maintenance and operations of the Delhi metro network. The metro spans a network of about 213km with 160 stations. On an average, 2.6 million commuters travel by the metro daily [iii]. During January 2016, on same days when the Odd-Even scheme (a 15 day pilot of keeping cars off the road based on their last digit on number plate) was in effect, the ridership also crossed the 3 million mark.
Connectivity across state jurisdictions has also been facilitated by the metro. Metro access to neighbouring cities of Gurgaon and Faridabad (in the state of Haryana), and Ghaziabad and Noida (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) has reduced travel time for many of those who live in these neighbouring cities but work in Delhi or vice-versa. Inter-modality has also improved with the metro as metro stations are located within walking distance of many important city nodes like the inter-state bus transport depots, railway stations and even the airport. Affordability (fare ranges from US $ 0.12 – 0.45) and predictability of a trip by metro add to its attractiveness.
Surface infrastructure. The city of Delhi has one of the largest road networks in India [viii]. The road network already occupies 21% of the total city area, limiting the potential for future increase [i]; [ii]. Nonetheless, the modal share of Delhi is much better than any developed country as only 25% of the population is using private vehicles while the rest are using public or non-motorized transport (NMT) (see figure 1).
Nonetheless, the priority given to construction of new road and flyover infrastructure to ease traffic congestion has spurred growth of private vehicles. Adding to this is the middle-class aspiration of owning a car. However, the level of ownership of vehicles is still low when compared with developed countries – for instance, Delhi has 85 vehicles per 1000 persons whereas in UK, it is 760 vehicles per 1000 persons. [viii]
In this setting, the attractiveness of buses has fallen over the years, as is also shown in figure 2. The future looks bleak as a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) commissioned in 2008 was taken down this year due to massive protest from the neighbouring areas. Thus, it is critical to identify areas for dedicated bus corridors and make bus services more reliable, convenient, attractive and efficient by reforming the bus system. Bus route rationalisation, use of IT can help fulfil this purpose to a great extent.
The bus service faces multiple challenges:
Urban sprawl and mobility needs. The extension of NCT of Delhi into the National Capital Region (NCR) displays the sprawl tendencies of urban growth in Delhi. Sprawled over 34,000 sq. km area, NCR is the country’s largest planning region with a population of 46 million. As can be seen from figure 3, Delhi has expanded geographically to a large extent.
Environmental challenge. Last year, Delhi received the title of the ‘world’s most polluted city’. Although burning of agricultural waste in the neighbouring state of Punjab played a big role, the increasing number of diesel vehicles on the streets were also to be blamed. This is not the first time that Delhi’s pollution hit an all-time high. In late 1990s and early 2000s, industrial emissions and effluents from vehicles often left Delhi skies clouded with smog. So in 2002, a benchmark decision was taken to shift the entire public road transport system on CNG Fuel System. Now all auto-rickshaws, buses and even some cars are run on CNG. This had a tangible effect on Delhi’s air pollution level. [iv]
However, the ever-increasing number of diesel vehicles due to subsidies on diesel has again led to high levels of air pollution in recent times. Both particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) as well as nitrogen oxides are increasing steadily. In fact, PM2.5 levels are normally 3 to 4 times the standards during winter times and are as high as 7 to 8 times the standards during smog. Ozone levels have also been rising. This has serious consequences for public health. [vii]
Information and Communication Technology. Integration of IT solutions with public transport system is missing across the city. The BRTS had limited success with LCD screens that displayed time for the next bus. Attempt was also made to link the bus system and the metro with a single smart card, but it hasn’t been operationalised. Much can be done with CCTV cameras installed on some of the streets and if their coverage is expanded, a robust control room can help in streamlining the transportation system of Delhi.
Delhi is the fourth largest city in the world and the ownership of private vehicles is rising in the city. A sustainable transport system requires that the Delhi government plans for an integrated public transport system and does not shy away from a fight with the private vehicle lobby. The higher modal share of NMT gives hope that a transition to public transport is possible if the services are made easily accessible, comfortable, efficient and attractive. Efforts to improve inter-modality are needed and use of IT solutions can help achieve these to a great extent.
[i]Advani, Mukti and Tiwari, Geetam. 2005. Evaluation of Public Transport Systems: Case Study of Delhi Metro. Available at http://tripp.iitd.ernet.in/publications/paper/planning/mukti_metro_kharagpur_05.pdf
[ii]Delhi Development Authority. No date. Master Plan of Delhi 2021, Chapter 12: Transportation. Available at https://www.dda.org.in/planning/docs/12_Transportation.pdf
[iii]Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Press releases. Available at http://www.delhimetrorail.com/press_reldetails.aspx?id=D56csDWRltIlld
[iv]Government of NCT of Delhi. No date. Chapter 2: Transport. Available at http://delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/6f2ff080486859d58728c7e83e6e4488/Chapter2.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&lmod=-336296642&CACHEID=6f2ff080486859d58728c7e83e6e4488
[v]Kundu, Amitabh. 2011. Trends and processes of urbanisation in India. IIED & UNFA, Urbanisation and Emerging Population Issues – 6. Available at http://pubs.iied.org/10597IIED.html
[vi]Mohan, Dinesh. 2015. Powerful Lobbies want Delhi’s BRT scrapped. Here’s why they should not succeed. The Wire. Available at http://thewire.in/8396/powerful-lobbies-want-delhis-brt-scrapped-heres-why-they-should-not-succeed/
[vii]Report of High Powered Committee on How to Decongest Delhi. 2014. Available on http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Report%20on%20How%20to%20Decongest%20Delhi.pdf
[viii]Sahai, Sanjiv N. and Bishop, Simon. 2009. Bus System Reform in Delhi. Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd. Available at http://www.dimts.in/pdf/bus_system_reform_in_delhi.pdf
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