P K Sarkar, who heads the department of transport planning at School of Planning and Architecture, explains what went wrong, and how a repeat can be avoided.
Does a broken-down vehicle triggering such a gridlock indicate a larger problem?
Yes. Unlike us, cities abroad have a machinery to tackle emergencies. Their logistical systems are designed to stay alert to any mishap or problem. Our Motor Vehicles Act has not prescribed a time limit for authorities to react to an incident like this. Vehicles abroad are forced to follow strict fitness and maintenance clauses that make vehicle break-downs rare. Our truck industry is least interested in maintenance of vehicles or following norms.
What are the possible mechanisms which could have cushioned the city from the snarls it saw today?
Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS), comprising overhead cameras and fast information dissemination techniques, would have warned commuters against taking the bridge. Traffic advisories on SMS used to be sent to commuters earlier, but no longer. Police and drivers are not trained to handle situations like this. We have been asking for formation of a Unified Traffic Authority comprising civic bodies, police and industry players so that they can act fast in a scientific way to address such issues.
Do roads need to be designed better or is there a need for newer roads?
Road development is not the solution. The long-term solution is augmentation of public transport. Public transport system in Delhi is crumbling and the number of buses has gone down by half. In Chicago, New York and Hong Kong, when the number of vehicles went up, governments augmented public transport to discourage people from going for private vehicles.