For the last fortnight, the National Capital’s car commuters came to grips with the binary odd-even policy. On odd days, only cars with number plates that ended with 1,3,5,7 or 9 could ply and on even days the car registration had to end with 2,4,6,8 or 0.
It was part of the Delhi government’s road rationing policy to tackle the city’s hazardous air that was announced in December after the levels of particulate matter (the lethal dust that enters the lungs) constantly increased.
At the end of the 15 day policy, the Indian Express looks back at what worked and what can be improved.
Compliance – To the outside world, Delhi’s commuters seem irascible, unrepentant and have scant respect for the law. Increasing incidents of road rage, high traffic violation figures and road-related deaths do little to refute that claim. But with the odd-even policy and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s appeal to “save the future for children” Delhi responded.
The Delhi Traffic Police, the government and experts estimate at least 80 per cent compliance. This is new for the capital. Earlier campaigns – seat belts, jumping red lights, over speeding and using a phone while driving – have had little effect despite years of advertising and strict fines. Even the rule against dark tinted windows on cars after the December 16 gang rape gained traction only after police stopped violators at traffic signals and ripped the films off with blades.
Congestion – While the jury is till out on whether the levels of air pollutants rose, fell or stayed the same, the high levels of compliance with the policy ensured lighter traffic on Delhi’s roads. Special Commissioner (Traffic) Muktesh Chander concurred. “There are no numbers at the moment, but one could easily perceive that traffic had reduced as had travel time. With high compliance this is obvious considering so many cars were off the road,” he said.
What can be improved
Public transport – With close to 50 per cent of cars off the road, the obvious choice is always public transport, particularly the Metro and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Both modes of transport operated at maximum capacity for the duration of the odd-even policy, but the increase in ridership was marginal. Experts attribute this to the explosion of app-based taxi services like Ola and Uber and that the Metro and and bus service was crowded during peak hours. “It has to be improved. If we want people to abandon the luxury of a car, then a suitable alternative must be provided. The government plans to introduce higher priced AC luxury buses soon to this effect,” a senior government official said.
Better planning – While the road rationing policy worked for 15 days, the government needs to use this momentum to bring in mid-term and long-term reforms to tackle air pollution.
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