Real test for odd-even scheme

Traffic in New Delhi

Restrictions on private traffic in New Delhi pick up for the second time this year. There is talk about installing the odd-even scheme permanently in India’s capital.

April 15th: The first odd-even day in new Delhi kicked in as the capital had a public holiday. Many people were off work and there was hardly any traffic in the morning hours. But already on the second day, traffic picked up considerably though not as much as on other weekdays. There is an estimated 25% less traffic on the roads. It seems the citizens of Delhi are once more following the restrictions on their personal mobility as they did during the first trial period in early January.

The odd-even scheme allows private cars to drive inside city borders or into the capital only on alternate days – depending on the cars number plate ending with an odd or even number. The scheme is part of the New Delhi government’s fight against high air pollution, especially against the most hazardous particular matters PM. There are about 8.5 million registered vehicles in the capital and more than 1000 added each day to its congested streets.

Traffic in New Dehli during odd-even scheme
Traffic in New Delhi during odd-even scheme

The challenges for succeeding the odd-even scheme have become bigger. The first trial in January came during public holidays at the beginning of the New Year and schools were kept closed during the 15 days period. Now an additional 3,7 million school children have to reach their school premises many relying on private transport. Furthermore, the first period was announced as an experiment while now the government is thinking of installing the scheme permanently for 15 days each month.

The Delhiits followed the first odd-even scheme well. But now there is growing concern since many people have problems reaching their work place. Public transport is not catching up with the rising mobility needs of the New Delhi middle class many commuting from or to the outskirts in Gurgaon or Noida.

The government asks people to carpool and many do. My landlady is joining forces with her neighbor upstairs. Since they both own cars – one with an odd the other with an even number plate – they face very little restriction. But others have to kick in additional 5000 rupees to commute with taxis, which are still allowed on the Delhi roads. Uber is running a campaign for carpooling and special apps facilitate pooling in your neighborhood. However, many women don’t use these among safety concerns.

Delhi citizens are also getting more suspicious of scams since there is so many exemptions. Women alone or with children in the car are allowed on the road for security reasons. Two wheelers and natural gas run vehicles are still driving along with government officials, police and ambulance vehicles.

The governments has responded with recruiting more staff to properly enforce the scheme, now going up 5000 volunteers and 2000 traffic personnel. The first trial period saw more than 9000 fined vehicles.

A reduction in air pollution has not been proved so far. Additional air monitoring systems have been brought up this time. On the short run the main advantage for the Delhiits were not better air quality but less congested roads. People could reach their places much faster than without odd even. That’s mostly why they keep following the scheme.

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