The Delhi’s Odd-Even experiment has ended. The Jury is still out on the outcome of this ‘Odd-Even’ experiment, i.e. reduction in pollution. There is no concrete evidence to prove one way or the other. Pollution reduction numbers may not be visible instantaneously with the absence of vehicles partially on roads in just 15 days.
However, people of Delhi ensured high compliance to the odd-even rule, leading to success of this experiment in terms of less traffic. The Chief Justice of India’s voluntary compliance in spite of having the waiver just reiterates the citizen’s desire for healthier environments and surroundings, in which they live, work and socialize.
The huge compliance percentage is a good sign of citizen’s willingness to cooperate with the local government in areas where their lives are affected, when the government moves in the right direction. This success is a testimony of citizen’s readiness to take two steps, when the government takes one step forward for public good.
In terms of pollution, Bengaluru is fast catching up to Delhi’s worsening pollution conditions. What can Bengaluru do differently in order to save itself from pollution and traffic snarls?
Reducing vehicles is one way to reduce jams
What works for Delhi will definitely work for Bengaluru too, provided all the above aspects are addressed adequately. Not sure if Bengaluru city could experiment the Odd-Even experiment as of today. But the results of Delhi’s odd-even experiment should open the eyes of local state government, city planners, advisors and importantly the citizens.
The reduction of volume in vehicles on road during Odd-Even plan was visible in Delhi everywhere. This led to smoother rides and lesser travel time. There were hardly any traffic jams or congestions. According to one estimate, people were happy to reach their destination in half of the time they would take prior to this experiment.
Traffic congestion is directly linked to vehicular volume on roads. Once it reaches its capacity, not much can be done to ease the traffic jams. The average speed automatically gets reduced and can only lead to travel times to double and triple. Any addition of road expansion, fly overs and signal free corridors will only help temporarily.
It is like buying a bigger pant to fight obesity. Initially for few days and few months, there will be some relief but soon this relief will disappear. Even the additions will get filled with more vehicles as the saying goes, more roads means more vehicles.
Therefore to reduce traffic congestion, jams and reduced travel time, the number of vehicles on roads needs to be reduced. There is absolutely no other remedy to achieve this.
Strong public transport is the need of the hour
How can we reduce vehicular volume on roads? Population is going to rise and migration to urban areas will continue until we find a way to keep the rural economy attractive enough for youngsters. The only remedy to keep a check on vehicular volume is to provide reliable and dependable public transport system. Increasing buses will not be sufficient. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad need mass transit systems that can move 1000s of people in one trip .
During the Delhi Odd-Even experiment, buses and Delhi metro played a crucial role. Majority of the people did switch over to these choices leaving their personal vehicles. The lesson is that if the Public Transport system can be strengthened by more public transport service trips and good multimodal integration for last connectivity, there is a scope for reduction of vehicle volume. Hopefully that will bring down the vehicular pollution in long run.
A good reliable, dependable public transport is a combination of buses, metro, suburban rail, mono/light rail and auto/taxi/bicycle/walk for the last mile connectivity. Currently Bengaluru city is solely dependent upon BMTC bus service, which is insufficient to cater to the city’s needs. Namma Metro is still not up fully, with the June 2016 deadline arriving fast. BMRCL chief thinks it can meet the deadline, but the experts believe otherwise.
Bengaluru city urgently needs additional ‘Mass Transit Systems’ to keep millions of personal vehicles off the road. That should include completion of Namma Metro on war footing.
In addition, Bengaluru city needs to augment its mass transit systems with other services like suburban rail and mono/light Rail. There is an urgent need to build mass transit systems that can serve 20-30 lakh commuter trips per day. Suburban rail service seems to fulfill the need if it is given a shot. Since it is slated to make use of the existing railway infrastructure, project can be built with incremental relief to the public.
Going by the 2012 RITES report, Phase-1A of suburban railway could be finished in 6-9 months allowing 4 lakh commuter trips, Phase-1 can be done 2-3 years increasing its capacity to 8-10 lakhs and phase-2 in next three years catering to another 10 lakh. In a nutshell, it can support 20 lakh passengers per day.
Better last mile connectivity needed
Bengaluru should give priority for public transport vehicles on its roads. Currently BMTC service is handicapped with unreliable departure/arrival timings. Until BMTC service gets punctual, people will be unwilling to rely on it.
Like Delhi, Bengaluru also suffers from poor last mile connectivity. For a sustainable urban transport regime, the last mile connectivity model transport like auto/taxis should be brought under public transport regulation and should be integrated with all the mass transit system like BMTC, Metro, Suburban Rail, Mono/Light Rail etc.
Non-motorised transportation needs to be encouraged at much larger scale than today. Cycle and pedestrian Infrastructure needs to be build all across the city.
Public transportation all over the world is undertaken and funded by the state. There can be scope for private players mostly to complement the state’s role. A political will is what it needs mainly.
Transportation is not a technical problem, not an infrastructure problem, not even a financial problem. Most often, it is a political problem. This seems to true in Bengaluru’s case and it is being proved by the whole political spectrum.