Clayton Lane , Chief Executive Officer of The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) — a non-profit organisation that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of urban life by advancing sustainable transportation around the world — in conversation with The Hindu about Delhi’s brush with the odd-even policy.
Delhi just saw a 15-day trial run of the odd-even scheme. Do you think it was implemented effectively?
Delhi’s odd-even experiment was a phenomenal success. Delhi’s people, in particular, made it happen and deserve recognition. The policy shows that it is possible for Delhi to take bold policy choices and achieve remarkable results in a short time. Delhi should use the experience to think ambitiously about other moves to tackle transport woes. Is it possible to implement a 1,00,000-cycle sharing scheme in Delhi? Yes. Can Delhi widen footpaths and build proper cycle tracks this year? It must. Can Delhi implement a high-quality BRT network to complement the Metro? Absolutely.
Do you think odd-even is an effective anti-pollution measure or just a stop-gap measure to temporarily tackle congestion?
It was a good stop-gap measure. The experiment inconvenienced just 4 per cent of trips, while 96 per cent of Delhi travellers benefitted from less congestion, better bus and Metro service, and lower pollution. It was a win-win. But over time its effect would erode as people buy more cars, shift driving to permitted days, and exploit other loopholes.
Delhi needs a more comprehensive policy to limit motor vehicles in the long- run. The success of odd-even makes the case for a more comprehensive, long-term policy to limit vehicles in the Capital.
What, according to you, should be the broad contours of such a long-term policy?
This policy should use a combination of regulations and fee that are dedicated to public transit, similar to London. It should properly regulate and charge for on-street parking; limit off-street parking in new developments; restrict high-emission vehicles; and charge fee for driving in the Capital. This approach would close loopholes, be easier to sustain, and generate revenue. Delhi should dedicate that revenue – and freed road space – to sustainable transport.
Delhi's public transport infrastructure lacks numbers (of available buses, metro coaches) and quality (State-run vehicles are in deteriorating operational condition). What do you suggest should be the way forward?
Fixing Delhi’s public transport is not a technical problem; it is a policy choice. First, Delhi’s transport policy should prioritise people over cars. Rather than investing in expensive freeways and flyovers, Delhi should invest in footpaths, cycle tracks, buses, and BRT. These not only cost less; they also pollute less, require less space, support vibrant communities, and more equitably serve all of Delhi’s residents. Imagine re-dedicating Delhi’s road space in a more equitable way. During the odd-even experiment, traffic dropped by 30 per cent. This means a three-lane road required only two lanes to handle the same traffic. Why not dedicate the third lane to wider footpaths, new cycle tracks, and bus rapid transit (BRT)?
The goal of transport should be to move people – and 2/3 of people in Delhi walk, bike, or take transit every day.