Dear Delhi, think traffic plans before choking to death

Building up road network, and diverting and distributing traffic over a wide network is important because Delhi at present has wide roads but little cross-connectivity, say experts

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Puja Bhattacharjee | May 15, 2013



As a city, Delhi has a glorious past and seems set for a gloomy future. It is the present that’s in a bit of a flux.

If you analyse the first master plan of the city, designed by the British, experts say you will find the city was developed on the lines of American cities of the 1960s and ’70s — sprawling roads and low-rise housing. And loads of greens.

But all that is fading, and fading fast, under the pressure of burgeoning population, unplanned growth and rising traffic.

And it’s the government’s own policies, favouring, inadvertently or otherwise, the growth of private transport in the city-state, which is to cop much blame.

While scores of people have taken to the Metro over the past decade as the railway network’s expanse grew, not much of it has come from people using their own transportation. A large percentage of this crowd has moved from the other sources of public transportation, which has not kept pace in this network growth race in tandem with the rising demand.

The number of people giving up use of their own vehicles and shifting to the Metro services is not much, due largely to the paucity of feeder buses or other sources of last-mile connectivity

“Distances in Delhi are much bigger than the average compact cities,” says a top official (name withheld on request) of a transportation organisation focussing on Delhi. “Street zoning has increased the travelling time and thereby encouraged people to depend on private transport. The last 30 years have seen a tremendous growth of private vehicles.”

According to the official, the high accident rate suggests that congestion and bottlenecks are a cause for concern even after so many infrastructure provisions. This, the official says, is largely due to the growth in private transport. “The streets remain choked at peak hours and accidents take place during off-peak hours, when people speed on the city’s wide four-lane roads,” the official points out.

So what’s the solution, I ask. “Building up the (road) network, diverting and distributing traffic over a wide network is important because Delhi at present has wide roads but little cross-connectivity,” he explains.

In what could be a solution, though at micro-local level, Delhi metro rail corporation (DMRC) and the unified traffic and transportation infrastructure (planning and engineering) centre (called UTTIPEC) are working to convert all 68 Metro stations to pedestrian-friendly and intermediate public transport (IPT). This, an official explains, is meant for seamless integration with public transportation.

The project entails restructuring surface road level up to 300 metres as per multi-modal integration plan. The plans are expected to be ready by the end of September this year.

Vikas Marg Metro station in uber-congested Laxmi Nagar in trans-Yamuna east Delhi is the pilot for another project to cut the clutter. It entails building three parking lots to free the main road of congestion and enhance pedestrian facilities. The plan will be replicated elsewhere after assessing its success on Vikas Marg.

“We have to consider it on a short-term and long-term basis. We want to test the running and managing of the parking lot,” the official says.

In the end, it’s about a little bit of integrated and purposeful planning, and loads of awareness among the average Delhiite. And that is precisely where the present gets murky, for the twain is yet to meet.

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