Delhi is immersed in lethal toxic pollution today. The consistently demeaning air quality helped Delhi not only to claim on the title “Most Polluted City In The World” but also to multiply the number of patients with respiratory diseases, not to mention this flourished the hospital and healthcare industries. Delhi has been the victim of torturing traffic delays and deleterious traffic pollution.
The proliferation of this calamity necessitated the local government to take some robust preventive actions. The enthusiastic government awakened at the crack of dawn, took the pledge to eradicate the ‘pollution’ word from the dictionary of Delhi, came up with one unique proposition – implementation of odd-even formula – and wished its people –
“Happy new year Delhiites, from Jan 1st till 15th you will be driving your car only on alternate days.”
Delhi-ites, being perplexed trying to examine the intention, asked the government, “Do we have any other choice Sir?”
“Ofcourse. We are your servant. We’ll make your transitioning full of ease and comfort. You can proudly avail our public transport systems – buses and metro. Enjoy!”
Delhi-ites got ready to leave for the office next day with full assurance on city’s public transports. Later, what they found bore no resemblance to “ease and comfort”.
Each and every speck of the metro station was occupied (over occupied).
Will this situation continue? Will odd-even program make peace with the Delhiites or is this already doomed to fail? Let’s just go through some reasons, obvious ones, which set this program up for failure.
- Delhi does not possess ample public transportation, which must had been treated as one of the prerequisites of the program. Total available road space is not sufficient to accommodate all the vehicles during peak hour.
- The Odd-Even or the Road-Space-Rationing is a tried-and-tested(-and-probably-failed) formula attempted by various major cities – Paris, Mexico, Beijing, Sao Palo, and San Tiago to name a few – in different combinations.
- The cars that generate most pollution are not going to emit less pollution anyway. At the best, they will get that privilege on alternate days.
- People will start buying another car with alternate number plate. This definitely does not contribute toward success of the program.
- People will start depending on taxis more on more.
So, one car on the road will be replaced by another car. Thus the total number of cars aggravating air and noise pollution will remain unaltered – fair mathematics!
The odd-even rule only takes care of the symptom not the root cause. Then what could be other measures which would not only assuage the symptom but also address the root cause? Now, let’s ponder or recollect possible preventive actions adopted by other countries in an effort to subside the demonized pollution level.
London’s ‘Pricing Congestion Program’
The London Congestion Charge, a program started in 2003 and continuing, levies heavy fee, £ 10, on motor vehicles operating within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) during the designated hours – 7:00 to 18:00 weekdays. The program charges one fee for the entire day. The city center was the prime area identified under its CCZ. This programs was proved not only for generating revenues for their transport system but also for reducing traffic volume, improving traffic speed and air quality.
Stockholm’s ‘Congestion Pricing Solution’
This program was inspired by the London’s with tailored features to suit the country’s traffic behavior and geography. The tweak was that rather than keeping public away from the city center, it attracted crowd with different variable of charges – free between 6pm to 6:29am, 10 Krona (equivalent to US$1.56, €1) for 6:30am to 7:29am, 20 for 7:30am to 8:29am, and 4 for 8:30am to 5:29 pm. These daily charges add up every time you enter and leave the CCZ.
Encourage the usage of bicycles
Many countries in the world, such as Denmark, Bulgaria, France, Netherland, Germany, Thailand, and few more are filled with the sight of cyclists. Inspiring people to use cycles would not only be beneficial to their health but also for the environment. This reinforcement must be supplemented with the properly organized and regulated infrastructure for the cyclists.
All the above programs are distinct in nature but have few characteristics in common – decline in traffic flow, reduction in carbon emission and noise pollution, increment in traffic efficiency, and improved revenue for the transportation system.
Government must focus on finding new avenues of expanding road spaces. They must build more number of roads and highways with proper lane system for motorist, cyclists, and pedestrians. There should be abundant parking spaces in the cities, especially near the CCZs. Although this would take long term to implement, but a country like India is in a dire need of such infrastructural enhancements.
Add more public transportation
More number of public carriages – buses, local trains, metros – must be infused on large scale so people do not feel hesitated abiding by the rules and taking a break from their vehicles. The number and frequency of buses for the most congestive places such as the busiest office areas, colleges, and universities must be synchronized with the most demanded time.
Dedicated lanes for public transports and cyclists
Separate lanes must be dedicated to the buses only – public buses, school buses, ambulances, fire trucks – during the peak hours. Private vehicles intruding such lanes must be imposed with heavy fines.
Innovations demanded from automobile manufacturers
The galloping traffic and pollution compels that the auto builders come up with innovative hi-tech solutions in greater range; they should manufacture more number of electric, fuel-efficient, cost-efficient, small-sized, and noise-friendly vehicles. On this note, I would prefer a car which could be flexible in size, i.e. compressed to a size of Smart and enlarged to a size of full-fledge sedan. And there should be facility to switch between the electric mode and gas mode. And all these features with a price of Tata Nano’s. Am I asking too much? Well, who knows you might have one in market very soon. Technology is advancing after all.
Companies must provide their own buses
Larger private firms must be mandated to start their buses or car pool services, if not done already. This will encourage employees to ride on company buses frequently. Employees should be offered discount in using the public transports or company buses.
Promote the culture of working in shifts
One approach to condense the peak-hour hassle could be that the employers should implement and promote working in shifts (probably with rotation policy). Additionally, this would gain employees more time for their families as well as for themselves. On the same line, work-from-home option also deserves considerable thought.
Stringent rules imposed on rule breakers
The rule breakers should not get their easy way out just by paying some bribes to the traffic police or cutting a corner. Those wrongdoers should be clearly captured and highlighted using cameras. Their license history should be maligned and recorded. These histories should be adjoined with their bank credit history so that it obliges them to maintain their driving record.
Leveraging adaptive and innovative technologies
Some countries have already been capitalizing on inventive technologies. For example, using the Adaptive Traffic Control system which allows the traffic signals – red, yellow, or green lights – to immediately adapt to traffic demand by sensing the number of cars on the road. Another compelling technology operational in many countries today is the Traffic Message Channel (TMC) delivering traffic and travel information to drivers.
Although these technologies are comparatively expensive than the conventional ones but the benefits reaped in the long run in terms of reduced delays are extensive. India must be proactive in accepting these technologies.
City infrastructure planning
The city has been expanding vastly in all circumferences. New offices should be planned to be situated in untapped areas which could divert traffic from already congested zones. There city infrastructure should be architected in such a distributed fashion that the traffic is redirected proportionately among other areas.
Rigid rules for controlling vehicle emissions
The licenses of the vehicle owners who do not abide by the emission control system should be confiscated. The government should aim to deploy zero-emission vehicles; battery-electric vehicles, play-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles in form of transit buses and other public carriers.
Success of a program depends on government as well as on public. Inefficient and insufficient public transportation, (un)intelligent and petrifying driving skills, and incompetent traffic rules altogether are making the Indian traffic system a havoc. If the country really wants to bring a change, then there must be stringent yet sensible rules crafted and imposed by the government and religiously obeyed by the citizens. Easier said than done but not unachievable also.
The mantra is to have your intention pure and upright – support growth and improvement!
Shweta Kumari Sharma
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