Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Efficient allocation of road space

Consider this about traffic trends in New Delhi,
According to a 2008 survey, nearly 75 percent of trips in the city are completed on foot, bicycle or public transit, while just 10 percent are by car. The remainder are on motorized two- and three-wheelers... Only 17 out of 1000 Delhi residents own a car... Less than half own any motorized vehicle at all... And despite the fact that they carry only 25 percent of the city’s commuters, cars and two-wheelers (motorcycles and scooters) take up 75 percent of Delhi’s precious road space.
In other words, there is a clear failure with road space allocation. Three-fourth of commuters (those walking, or using bicycle or public transit) use just one-fourth of the city's road space. When such market failures happen, the most obvious way out is to tax the disproportionate road users and make their road use very expensive. The commonest practice is higher vehicle taxes or toll fees. A less deployed form of taxation would be to inordinately lengthen their travel times.

And this is precisely what has happened with private vehicle travel times in New Delhi's experimental 5.8 km BRT corridor which has been opperational since 2008. The crawling traffic in the regular traffic lanes and the long waiting times at traffic lights have made life miserable for car users. But far from being applauded for achieving its objective, the newspapers and opinion makers have lambasted the BRT expriment and pronounced it a failure.

This highlights the complexity associated with addressing traffic issues. Compounding the issue is the small distance of the corridor. It is too small to benefit large enough numbers while seriously inconveniencing the more vocal sections of the population. The only way out is for the Delhi government to stand firm and push through quickly with extending the corridor to cover large enough commute stretches besides providing good quality BRT services. This will hopefully tip the balance in favor of those benefiting and also encourage a significant proportion of car users into using this service.

1 comment:

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