New Delhi: It may be better for the citizens of Delhi to stay indoors even if it’s a weekend as a new study has said that weekend traffic speed and congestion is worse than that on weekdays. This is because use of personal vehicles increases significantly during weekends.

The study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) highlighted that the average traffic speed on 13 key arterial roads (analyzed for study) is 50-60% lower than their designed speed and 35-48% lower than the regulated speed of 40-50km per hour. This effectively means that the actual observed average speed on these roads during peak hours now is 26km per hour and is 28km per hour during non-peak hours.

In 2010, the average speed in peak hours in Delhi was 27.7km per hour and during non-peak hours was 30.8km per hour. These 13 arterial roads were designed to achieve a driving speed of 50-70km per hour while the regulated speed is 40-55km per hour.

The study stressed that now there is “virtually no difference in time taken to travel between peak and non-peak hours" as arterial roads remain choked throughout the day. While it is usually assumed that there is a sharp dip in vehicle numbers during non-peak hours, the study revealed that in Delhi, the non-peak hours have nearly disappeared and “for most part of the day, speed remains constant" with “negligible variation between peak and non-peak speeds".

The study, based on hourly and daily travel time and speed derived from Google Maps for key stretches of 13 arterial roads in Delhi, shows low traffic speed, near disappearance of non-peak hours, weekends with higher congestion and higher air pollution with lower traffic speed during peak hours.

The 13 stretches represent Delhi’s geography—south, north, east, central and Lutyen’s zones of Delhi—as well as their connection with national highways and state highways to satellite towns of Gurugram, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. The data was noted for every hour from 8am to 8pm for the month of June. Arterial roads are primary networks that provide long-distance travel, connect all major city-level land uses and facilitate inter-city and regional trips by connecting with highways and expressway networks.

The study highlighted that there are some stretches that are chronically congested “where the average morning and evening peak speed are 16km/hr and 17km/hr respectively" and sometimes, “can even drop to 5km/hr during evening hours".

“If not addressed immediately, Delhi will merely run to stand still. This is an inevitable consequence of explosive and unrestrained vehicle numbers that have crossed the mark of 10 million in 2017. The numbers are further inflated by daily influx of vehicles from outside Delhi. With a further drop in car prices under GST, car congestion will only grow," warned Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, CSE, a Delhi-based environmental think tank.

At present, congestion on Delhi roads is growing at 7% annually. About 537 cars and 1,158 two-wheelers are added every day on the national capital’s roads.

Roychowdhury noted that even after building so many roads (22% of Delhi’s geographical area), Delhi’s battle against pollution, congestion and energy-guzzling is getting increasingly more difficult.

“This is undercutting the city’s efforts to control emissions and toxic exposures in all sectors. If strategies are not changed to curb motorization to reverse this trend, it will become increasingly more difficult to reduce high toxic exposure, crippling congestion and loss of productive time," she added.

Roychowdhury’s warning is not without reason as high congestion has high costs. According to an IIT Madras study, traffic congestion in Delhi cost the city close to Rs54,000 crore a year in 2013. This will increase to Rs90,000 crore a year by 2030.

Meanwhile, the study also shows that the arterial roads connected to satellite towns like Gurugram and Faridabad are more congested.

The study recommended a series of measures for both the central and the state governments to tackle the situation. It recommended immediate scaling up of affordable, comfortable and reliable bus and metro transport services, building of cycling and walking infrastructure, use of shared mobility to reduce dependence on personal vehicles and improving of inter-city public transport connectivity.

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