‘Red Light On, Gaddi Off’: Effective campaign or rebranding exercise

AAP Government launched a new campaign to control pollution in Delhi. Even though it was presented as new, it seems to be a rebranding of an old campaign run by the previous Congress-led government

‘Red Light On, Gaddi Off’: Effective campaign or rebranding exercise

Abhishek Dutt and Midrash Mathew

The AAP Government launched a new campaign to control pollution in Delhi. Even though it was presented as new, it seems to be a rebranding of an old campaign run by the previous Congress-led government. The AAP Government campaign seems good on paper and in colourful advertisements that run across news channels, but the ground reality is just in contrast. Let us look at some of the points that make the AAP Government campaign a paper tiger.

Faulty Traffic Lights – Non-functional traffic lights is a major problem that a person who drives a two-wheeler/four-wheeler in Delhi faces. If the traffic lights are functional, their countdown timer does not work. If everything works, the traffic lights are placed at pre-determined places without taking into the context its visibility to vehicle drivers. This discourages drivers from switching off their engines at red lights.

A conference paper “The Impact of Traffic-Light-to-Vehicle Communication on Fuel Consumption and Emissions” mentions that Smart vehicles of the future are envisioned to aid their drivers in reducing fuel consumption and emissions by wirelessly receiving phase-shifting information of the traffic lights in their vicinity and computing an optimised speed to avoid braking and acceleration manoeuvres. Similarly, IBM has filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2010 for “System And Method For Controlling Vehicle Engine Running State At Busy Intersections For Increased Fuel Consumption Efficiency”. The least the Delhi government can do till a proper management system is brought in place is to run the present system of traffic lights without fail come sunshine or rain.

Wrongly placed Light poles and Signboards – After Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, there has been a trend to install fancy street lights and signboards. However, these street lights and signboards are placed without proper planning. One such example is at the Traffic light intersection while coming from Sai Dham to Bar Council Office near Siri Fort Auditorium. The Signboard mentioning the road name is so well placed that it does not allow the vehicle driver to see the traffic light. This leads to drivers not switching off their vehicles. Redesigning roads and their closely related public infrastructure towards making them resemble international standards is an exercise in futility if the local context is not kept in mind. The government needs to realise that efficiency, coexistence and interconnectivity of the public infrastructure is not a need of the future, it needs to happen now to avoid wastage of the taxpayer’s money. This can also be called as the Infrastructure of things (IoT).

Bad Roads – As you move towards outer Delhi areas, the road quality and maintenance goes downhill. Recently, Chief Minister announced pothole filling and repair. The roads repaired are back to the old condition soon after repairs. Bad roads lead to slow movement of traffic and frequent jams, especially during the rainy season when roads represent flowing rivers in the city. Concrete Sustainability Hub developed a method to use existing roughness and traffic data to estimate roughness-related fuel consumption in relation to pavement material and structure.

A sample case study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Concrete Sustainability Hub shows a significant impact on fuel consumption in the U.S. due to the roughness of roads, with an increase in consumption of 30,000 gallons of fuel per mile over a 14-year test period. Results also show that a pavement’s thickness has the most influence on fuel consumption, and both flexible and rigid pavements can be designed to reach similar fuel efficiency ratings. Deflection has an impact on the fuel efficiency of both cars and trucks; however, trucks see a much higher impact due to their greater weight. Deflection was shown to increase a truck’s fuel consumption within the US roadway network by 0.1–1%, depending on pavement design. While the impact is fairly small for an individual truck, it becomes significant when aggregated to the national truck transportation fleet, which covers 310,680 lakhs vehicle-miles and consumes 47,704,403,000 gallons of fuel each year.

Unsafe Pedestrian Crossing – Pedestrians crossing the road by jumping in front of vehicles is a common sight in Delhi, which causes sudden stoppage of traffic. BRT corridor had introduced a regulated Pedestrian Crossing at the press of a button. Arvind Kejriwal was keen to demolish the BRT corridor but failed to introduce such a system anywhere else in Delhi. The regulated Pedestrian Crossing would offer citizens a fixed time within which all the vehicles on the specific section of the road would stop to allow a safe and comfortable crossover. As per the ‘Road traffic injuries’ document available on the World Health Organization website, ‘Approximately 13 lakh people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Between 2-5 crore more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury. Road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product. More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.’ It also mentions that the United Nations General Assembly has set an ambitious target of halving the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2030.

On-road/Illegal Parking – The previous Congress government expanded most of the roads in Delhi from two-lane to three-lane and four-lane roads. However, most roads today in Delhi have turned into single-lane roads due to on-road and illegal parking. This greatly affects the speed of vehicular movement and increases pollution due to higher fuel consumption. The visionary sub-city ‘Dwarka’ was developed and made on the lines of Chandigarh. Dwarka sub-city with broad roads and well-planned infrastructure – residential areas, hospitals, schools, universities, sports complex, designated market areas – was meant to be a futuristic city due to its proximity to Indira Gandhi International Airport.

However, half a decade since the citizens of Delhi voted Kejriwal Government to power the market areas and local roads in Dwarka resemble the sight of parking lots due to cars being parked permanently. This barely leaves one lane on the road for the movement of vehicles. This is even though vast tracts of land are available where publicly funded parking lots can be developed along with the projects that they are originally meant for. An increase in the ownership of cars in sub-city can solely be blamed on the lack of public transport to and from and within the sub-city. Also, the metro network in the sub-city lacks low-cost and convenient last-mile connectivity.

Traffic Jam due to VIP Movement – Traffic jam due to VIP movement is a common sight in Delhi. The traffic police should implement a system whereby the commuters know how much time they need to wait and switch off their vehicles accordingly or take the necessary diversions well in advance. Standing vehicles consume more fuel than moving vehicles. The sample case study at MIT shows that any given traffic flow can correspond to two behaviours: a free flow regime where all the vehicles travel at the speed limit and a congested regime in which traffic jams form and the velocities encountered follow a complex distribution. In the congested state, the deflection-induced dissipation per vehicle is up to 3.5 times higher than in the free flow state (Figure 1a), whereas the roughness-induced dissipation is as much as ten times lower (Figure 1b). This suggests that the presence of congestion, not accounted for in previous analyses, can have a significant impact on PVI-induced excess fuel consumption.

‘Red Light On, Gaddi Off’: Effective campaign or rebranding exercise

Mass Transport – Bus, Metro and Auto are the lifelines of Delhi. The bus transit system is continuously declining due to a decrease in the number of operational buses due to the phasing out of old buses and frequent breakdown of active buses. Most of the buses represent a gloomy picture with dirty floors and interiors and broken air conditioning systems.

An RTI petition (TR/SH/RTI/ID5322/2020/1822) dated 5.10.2020 had revealed that as of 31/12/2003 (before 2004) DTC had a total fleet strength of 3632 buses. The RTI further revealed that during the last 6 years, no new bus had been added in the fleet strength of DTC. Metro once the pride of Delhi has fallen into disarray with bad crowd management on major stations to overcrowding on trains, but despite all its failing, the chairman has got an extension, and there is frequent demand to increase the fares.

Autos and electric rickshaws claimed to be flag bearers of the AAP government have yet not been centralised into a system of online booking or via an app that is funded by the government. This would have protected the Delhite from being overcharged by a few bad elements and, at the same time, provided more income for Autos and electric rickshaws drivers, especially during the Covid time.

It seriously needs to be checked how much the AAP Government is pouring into changing the ground realities mentioned, similar to its advertisement campaigns. Arvind Kejriwal government promised to make Delhi into Singapore. Seven years and counting, we are still to see glimpses of the New Delhi-cum-Singapore yet. Let us hope it turns up at some point in future.

(Abhishek Dutt is Councillor in MCD and Vice-President of Delhi Congress Midrash Mathew is an Advocate and Public Policy Analyst)

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