Billed as a solution to commuting troubles between Delhi and its satellite city, the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway is turning into a nightmare for commuters.
That this should happen to a much-touted alternative points to bad planning and faulty outlook on the part of urban and transport planners. The original traffic flow projections, carried out by consultancy firm Rites in 1998, were way off the mark: The flows that Rites had projected for 2013 were witnessed the day the expressway was opened. Against the estimate of 80,000 vehicles a day, the actual flow is around 140,000.
It’s obvious the flows were not revised. The project was delayed by three years. That should have been time enough to incorporate revised traffic estimates in the project. That would have called for a high degree of coordination.
This called for including automobile growth projections based on accelerating economic growth in the parameters of the project, from land acquisition to the physical dimensions of the expressway. This was not done. But that’s history now. Given the scale of traffic growth, two steps are required immediately.
First, smart cards tracked by radio signals or any other technology that enables this should be made an option. This will enable greater traffic speed as commuters will not halt to pay. At the same time, the cash payment option should be made expensive to make smart cards a viable option. The smart card option has been tried globally.
In the New York metropolitan area, for example, such devices are widely accepted and have helped solve a pressing problem. Singapore is another example.
Second, the National Highways Authority of India should exercise the clause that permits it to explore competing transport facilities once a certain level of traffic sets in. This should be done immediately as it takes time to analyse alternatives, make plans, acquire land and execute the alternative project.
Demand projection problems take over many projects: It’s inevitable. The Bhakra dam (power supply) faced the situation, the Delhi Metro is likely to encounter it too. But what befell the expressway has never been seen before.
(What should be done to smoothen traffic on the expressway? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)