Delhi’s traffic speed is rapidly falling due to crippling congestion, with weekends faring worse than weekdays, which is pushing up pollution levels and if left unaddressed, the city may come to a “standstill”, a study has said. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), based on a month-long study, said the average traffic speed on 13 major arterial roads remains 50-60 per cent lower than the designed speed and up to 48 per cent lower than the regulated speed.
Designed speed is the speed that a vehicle is supposed to achieve as per the existing street design guidelines while regulated speed, lower than the former, is calculated based on the speed limit imposed by the authorities. “If not addressed immediately, Delhi will run to a standstill. This is an inevitable consequence of explosive and unrestrained vehicle numbers that have crossed the mark of one crore in 2017,” Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy of CSE, said.
The survey, undertaken using Google Maps, was based on data collected for every hour between 8 am to 8 pm in the month of June. The survey report said the situation has reached a state where the line between peak, and non-peak hours, when traffic is supposed to be less, has blurred and roads have become more congested during weekends.
The regulated speed is 40-55 km per hour while the actual observed average peak speed on these roads now is 26 km per hour and during off-peak hours (12 pm – 4 pm) it is 27 km per hour. “The average peak speed noted during weekends is 25 km/hr which is lower than the weekday speed of 26 km/hr. This even drops to 8 km/hr on Sri Aurobindo Marg and 9 km/hr on Mehrauli Badarpur road during peak hours,” the CSE report said.
The CSE also analysed hourly air quality data for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is largely influenced by traffic, for a selected day.
The Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) real time monitoring data for NO2 from Anand Vihar, R K Puram, Mandir Marg and Punjabi Bagh shows that when the average morning peak speed drops, NO2 levels increase from 68 microgramme/cubic metre to 94 microgramme/cubic metre — an increase of 38 per cent, the report observed.
“Congestion also imposes staggering costs on the economy that no one pays for. An IIT Madras study estimated annual congestion had cost Delhi Rs 54,000 crore in 2013. This is 12.5 per cent higher than Delhi’s total annual budget for the year 2017-18,” it said.
It underlined that congestion on Delhi roads was growing at 7 per cent annually with about 537 cars and 1,158 two-wheelers added everyday and the numbers are further inflated by daily influx of vehicles from outside Delhi. With a further drop in car prices under the GST, congestion will only grow, a CSE statement said.