Odd-even and public transport
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Wednesday that if the second phase of odd-even becomes a success, the government will make it permanent for 15 days every month. Today, the Delhi government will initiate the second phase of the odd-even experiment. It is one of the policy measures initiated by the state government to mitigate the problem of rising air pollution in the city. As a reminder to our readers, the odd-even experiment will see cars with odd-numbered plates ply on odd-number dates and even-numbered cars on other days. Despite the overwhelming response to the experiment last year, Kejriwal has admitted that the capital continues to suffer from inadequate public transport. The lack of adequate public transport poses the biggest hindrance to the experiment. A mere addition of 1,000-2,000 buses will not do much to improve public transport. In fact, it could worsen the traffic situation in the capital. To improve the public transport connectivity, there are certain measures the AAP government can take to improve its buses. Besides broken seats and windows, minimal access for the disabled and no space to stow luggage, overcrowding in the Delhi Transport Corporation buses are major concerns. Those who do take the bus do it out of sheer necessity. These basic features need to be repaired in existing buses. Another option is the Delhi metro. Travelling by the metro is a relatively comfortable experience. But getting to the station can be problematic. Moreover, as the city’s population continues to rise, stampedes during peak hours have become a common feature. Although feeder buses do run from certain stations, there aren’t enough. In response, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation recently announced that 200 metro trains will make around 3,248 trips daily during the upcoming odd-even fortnight, a rise of about 56 trips over the existing arrangements. Moreover, 15 additional feeder buses will leave from stations across the city. But yet again, this may not be enough to fulfil demands of last-mile connectivity. The only reasonable alternative before us is the good old auto rickshaw. But according to many commuters, hailing an autorickshaw is a cumbersome process. To improve last-mile connectivity, which remains a major concern for those who have followed the odd-even experiment, the Delhi government must deregulate autorickshaw licenses and put an end to the artificial scarcity of environment-friendly CNG autos in Delhi. Was the odd-even experiment successful in reducing air pollution? Although it did reduce congestion on Delhi roads, there is little evidence to support the belief that pollution levels came down significantly. However, the success of the experiment was down to the fact that Delhi’s citizens had voluntarily bought into it.