Delhi

DTC revs up to reclaim ‘city’s lifeline’ title

Annual ridership increased by 3.95 lakh in 2014-15, but the number of DTC buses fell by 511 to just 4,705.file Photo  

he first, and the oldest, component of the Capital’s public transportation system, which seems to have lost preference among commuters over the years, may finally get a new lease of life thanks to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s ambitious odd-even vehicle rationing scheme.

Scheduled to be rolled out on January 1 and to be in force till January 15, resurrecting the average Delhiite’s interest in boarding a bus — which was arguably the sole way to travel if you were growing up in the 60s or the 70s unless one was affluent enough to own a car – is, according to insiders, among the most significant behavioural changes that the government aims to affect.

It is pertinent to mention here that the government has, over three consecutive car-free days, evidently sought to popularise travelling aboard buses albeit temporarily through provisions for free rides on specially and additionally deployed DTC buses along routes from the Red Fort to Tilak Lane on October 22, in Dwarka on November 22 and most recently on Vikas Marg.

Dreams of a Unified Transport Authority

Apart from water and power, reforms related to the transport sector were among the most significant promises made by the AAP in its 70-point Action Plan for the Capital in the run-up to the Assembly elections, which the party swept in early 2015.

The party had promised a Unified Transport Authority for the formulation of “holistic transport policies for all forms of transport”, expansion in bus services with a resolve of adding “at least 5,000 new buses to the city fleet in five years” as well as the expansion of the Delhi Metro to reach rural areas under a scheme dubbed “Metro Rail 2.0”.

In fact, among the first things that Minister for Transport Gopal Rai officially presided over after being sworn in on the Delhi Cabinet was the commissioning a study dedicated to ascertain how many public-run buses were actually required for the newly sworn-in government to offer relatively more efficient point-to-point transportation services to the average commuter.

Speaking to The Hindu on the completion of 100 days of the AAP government in May this year, Mr. Rai had revealed that his mandate was clear: affecting a systemic change in the way Delhi commutes viz. popularising public transport to the extent that “people decide to use it instead of personal vehicles”.

New government, old pangs

Almost a year into office, the government and Mr. Rai’s office are still pursuing the matter with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which has been requested to provide land for more bus depots and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which suggested that no more vehicles be added to the streets to see the benefits of a more efficient public transport system in the long run.

In the interim, according to the public transporter’s own records, the DTC evidently continued to buckle under the annual increase in passenger footfall – which went up from 34.92 lakhs in 2013-14 to 38.87 lakhs in 2014-15 – despite a gradually depleting fleet of operational vehicles. For instance, maintenance issues, lack of operational staff and ancillary reasons saw the total number of buses on the DTC’s fleet being reduced from 5,216 in 2013-14 to 4,705 in 2014-15.

While 4,567 buses were made available to passengers in 2013-14, the number fell to 4,180 in 2014-15. As a result, annual ridership, which was recorded at 15,867.61 lakh passengers in 2013-14 fell to 14,187.28 lakh in 2014-15. Reduced availability also meant lesser accessibility to the public transporter's fleet with the DTC being forced to curtail its operations from 3,165.21 kilometres in 2013-14 to 2,870.98 kilometres in 2014-15.

Resurrecting the DTC

With its intent on re-popularising DTC buses as the preferred mode of transport among commuters abundantly clear, a formal plan related to adding and accommodating more state-run coaches to address varying mobility needs, according to a senior official, has already begun taking shape.

While measures such as the introduction of free WiFi services and the e-ticketing system seeks to catch the fancy of younger commuters, the government’s attempts at promoting its buses among working women from the perspective of their safety has led to the formulation of a plan to increase the number of vehicles equipped with GPS systems and fitted with CCTV cameras.

Even as the government, according to Mr. Rai, sought to increase availability and address issues of frequency through more buses and route rationalisation, the AAP dispensation, he said, was well on course to deliver on its promise of adding ‘at least 5,000 buses’ to the public transporter by the end of its term in office.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 6:23:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/dtc-revs-up-to-reclaim-citys-lifeline-title/article8038423.ece

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