Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Odd-Even and More!

Delhi in January 2016 is going to become a laboratory for the rest of the nation. If Kerjiwal’s ‘Odd-Even’ formula works it will show the way to most of our congested cities. Without qualification I think Kejriwal needs to be supported in this endeavor.  The problem is just too huge to not support any and every effort regardless of political affiliation. 

Like most thinking Indians I too have thought about the traffic mess that our country has become. Would I recommend the Odd-Even formula for my city? Probably not. Here’s what I would have recommended.
(Disclaimer: I am not an expert and most of what I am suggesting seems like common sense to me. I may be wrong but I can afford to be wrong on my own blog. )

  1.  Define rush hours.
  2. Make it mandatory for all cars entering specified areas/roads to carry at least 4 passengers during rush hours. Those not carrying 4 passengers should be sent a one time bill, a congestion charge, which is steep enough for them to reconsider their choices (say Rs. 500).  So, if you are in a hurry and in dire need you can still use your car but you have to pay for using it if you aren’t carrying 4 passengers. Definition of dire need would change quite quickly I suspect. This can all be done electronically. London is an example.  
  3. Encourage offices to provide shared transportation. I mean buses, car pools and suchlike. To encourage businesses a small reduction in their tax (0.5% reduction in service tax should do it) could be introduced.
  4.  Smaller offices/businesses could share buses with other similar offices in their buildings/ office hubs. An unintended benefit of travel by car pool/bus will be a more disciplined work culture. This would benefit a huge number of workers who hang around in offices just because they think they have to.
  5. Cities must encourage people to live close to where they work. This is a big one. The number of people travelling long distances to get to work is simply unsustainable. Though most of it is a function of real estate prices, which are governed by market forces, I suspect in some cases it is because of the hassle involved. Buying and selling of property should be made easier and more cost effective. Today if a person were to sell their flat for 2 crore rupees and buy a similar flat close to work (Let’s assume both places are similar in real estate prices) s/he would still end up losing about 20 to 25 lacs in municipal taxes, stamp duties, brokerage fees etc. Nobody can afford to pay that kind of money simply to be close to his or her place of work.

There was a suggestion of faster car lanes for cars with 4 passengers but I’m not sure that would work. If it didn’t work for the BRTs I doubt it would work for cars.
I did also consider cycling. But lack of infrastructure and weather conditions in summer would make sure that it doesn’t become a popular option.

That’s my two paisa worth gyan. Feel free to add and keep the discussion going.