The Covid lockdowns have had a huge impact on traffic and mobility patterns in the Capital – congestion continues beyond rush hours, new points of chaos are emerging and fewer trips to public transport hubs are made once restrictions are lifted. assessments by the traffic police and data from Google Mobility Trends.
During the first curfew imposed in March 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19, the city of cars – Delhi is often cited as having the most over 10 million cars in the country – was in a chock. the block is suddenly empty. An analysis by Delhi traffic police shows that between March and June 2020, travel time in the city decreased by 40-60% depending on location. For example, traveling from residential areas in east Delhi to west Delhi took about 40 minutes, compared to over an hour in pre-pandemic days.
But the situation quickly changed after June 2020 as people began to continue traveling to workplaces, entertainment outlets and supermarkets and malls, with the government loosening the sidewalks as part of the lockdown guidelines.
New choke points
The rotation of vehicles has resulted in the emergence of new traffic patterns. Senior traffic police officials said at least 20 major non-traffic arteries have become new congestion points over the past year.
“By November last year, we started to notice the increasing traffic congestion. In fact, there has been a change in traffic patterns over the past year. “We see more roads turning into congestion points in addition to the existing congestion points,” said a senior traffic official, who asked not to be named.
Traffic police records show that extensions such as Ring Road near Safdarjung Hospital, Sri Aurobindo Marg near Hauz Khas, Rajouri Garden (Najafgarh Road), Ajmal Khan Road (near Karol Bagh), Pankha Road (near Hari Nagar) are some of these areas. where heavy traffic jams are reported more frequently.
“If repeated traffic jams are reported from there over a significant period of time, a tension is raised on our radar. The criterion is that traffic on these roads is due to heavy traffic density, not a temporary cause such as a vehicle breakdown or accident,” he said.
Heavier traffic at regular hotspots
Traffic police said the snarling at regular chaos spots intensified as new traffic choke points emerged. Estimates show traffic volumes increase by 10-12% during rush hour in the busiest areas of the city, including ITO junction, Ashram Chowk, Britannia Chowk, Mukarba Chowk, Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway and Dhaula Kuan crossing. compared to the pre-quarantine period last year. Some of these extensions also break from the original “rush hour traffic” patterns, which were classified by traffic police as 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, when traffic is concentrated on the roads.
Complaints received to the control room of the traffic department between June 1 and July 20 this year, ITO junction, Mukarba Chowk, Ring Road (Hyatt Hotel to AIIMS overpass), Ashram junction, Britannia Chowk, Kashmere Gate (close to ISBT) It shows extensions like ), Rajouri Garden crossing (Najafgarh Road), Dwarka Road (near Palam overpass), and Outer Ring Road (near Hauz Khas metro station) are now reporting traffic jams beyond rush hour. Of course, some of these extensions – like the Ashram – have their own unique issues, such as haphazard construction work.
At the ITO junction, which is classified as one of the busiest areas of the capital, the traffic volume in the days before the pandemic was around 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles (during rush hour). Traffic volume rose marginally to 325,000 to 340,000 in September 2020, but congestions were still limited to four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening, with relatively smooth flow for the rest of the day. Traffic volume has been high throughout the day since June 10 this year when traffic movement resumed after the second lockdown in April this year. A short-term estimate shows that the intersection registered about 400,000 vehicles during rush hour and jams continued almost all day long.
According to Google’s mobility trends, the city’s traffic pattern has been changed by the pandemic. The tool tracks the number and length of visits people make to certain types of places against a baseline – in this case, a five-week period between January 3 and February 6 this year.
According to trends, after the curfew was declared last year, Delhi saw a nearly 80% drop in people’s trips to retail and entertainment venues, parks, supermarkets, pharmacies and businesses.
Public transport, which includes places like bus and train stations, saw the highest drop in people’s mobility, up to 88%, in a week after the lockdown was announced.
But this is gradually changing over time with Capital easing restraint measures. For example, on April 1st last year, there was a 73% decrease from baseline in supermarket and pharmacy visits, but the decrease was 64% on May 1, 27% on June 1, 26% on July 1 and July 1. It was 20%. August 1st last year.
The latest mobility trends from July 26 of this year show the decline in visits to retail and entertainment venues such as cafes, shopping malls, cinemas and libraries to 29% and to workplaces to 30%. Movement in residential areas across the city saw an upward movement, with an increase of 9%.
Less travel to public transport hubs
The most worrying trend, according to experts, is fewer trips to public transport hubs such as Metro stations and bus stops. Mobility trends show a 24% drop in mobility around these points compared to baseline, even after public transport modes resume service.
Of course, restrictions were imposed on seating capacity in public buses and Metro, according to Covid protocols. While 100% seating is now allowed on DTC buses and Metro, standing is not allowed to deter crowds.
Experts say that in addition to the restrictions on seating capacity, health and safety concerns in public transportation deter people from using these vehicles. They said this means that even those who only use their private vehicles for shorter journeys are starting to use their private vehicles more frequently, with more vehicles on city roads than in the pre-pandemic days.
An analysis by the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), an organization focused on public interest research and advocacy, showed that the average travel speed in 12 key districts in Delhi increased from 24 km/h before the lockdown to 46 km/h during the lockdown. This was again reduced to 29 km/h after the lockdown between October and November 2020 when the government announced a gradual reopening of activities.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said the network was operating at 20% of its capacity, even after full seating capacity was allowed on trains. This causes long queues outside the stations.
“While modes of public transport are currently operational, there is a fear among people that traveling this close with others could increase the likelihood of infection. This could undo years of work to get people to abandon their private vehicles and use public transport modes,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, Director of Research and Advocacy, CSE.
“People who have a private vehicle but prefer subways and buses now prefer to travel with their own vehicles for safety and convenience,” he said.
But this is not a trend unique to Delhi. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville predicted the possibility of a sweeping transition to the “one-person vehicle” in June last year, dominating the roads of at least 16 US cities, putting them at risk of excessive traffic post-pandemic.
Focus on congestion management
Traffic police and experts said that in a post-pandemic world, the focus should be on congestion management and developing innovative measures to control reliance on private vehicles.
“Policing will have to focus on congestion management. “As traffic rule enforcers, it is certainly our duty to ensure that traffic rules are followed and people are not penalized, but the focus should be on managing congestion and with that, raising awareness of best practices.” police (traffic).
Chander said he wrote to his colleagues in July asking them to focus on congestion management on major roads rather than criminal policing.
Sewa Ram, a professor of transportation planning at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), said the city’s new commuting patterns must be thoroughly studied before a holistic plan can be made around the city.
“This is a scenario no one in the world has seen before. The increase in congestion may be a temporary effect of the pandemic, but we must prepare for the worst and plan how the city’s infrastructure should be prepared to handle this new load,” he said.