With lockdown restrictions eased and Delhi Metro services shut since March 22, there has been a significant rise in traffic volume on stretches where the Metro was the preferred mode of transportation.
In fact, since June 1st, the traffic volume on at least 12 key stretches is much higher than what it was before the national lockdown was imposed.
For instance, at the main Rajouri Garden intersection (below the Metro station) in west Delhi, the average traffic volume recorded during peak hours was consistently between 80,000 and 85,000 vehicles since 2018. However, over the last 20 days, Delhi traffic police have been recording around 180,000 vehicles crossing the junction during peak hours every day.
Before the Rajouri Garden Metro Station was converted into a connecting station between the Blue (Dwarka Sector 21-Vaishali/Noida Electronic City) and Pink (Maujpur-Shiv Vihar) lines in July 2018, the intersection used to get a traffic volume of around 125,000 vehicles every day.
Officials said the direct correlation between the Metro and traffic volume was visible in other areas as well.
“The traffic volume on the entire Najafgarh Road was eased to a great extent after the Metro began operations. This is primarily because the stretch is not well connected on public bus service routes. In the absence of the Metro, anyone who owns a vehicle is now forced to use those,” said a senior traffic official.
Similarly, at the Uttam Nagar crossing (near the bus terminal) in east Delhi, traffic volume has increased from 110,000 vehicles to nearly 200,000 vehicles every day.
In Mukarba Chowk, barely 200 metres from the Jahangirpuri Metro station, the traffic volume has gone up to 75,000 vehicles during peak traffic rush. Before the lockdown, the volume used to be between 50,000-60,000 vehicles a day, according to official data.
Police personnel stationed in these areas said that in the absence of commuting options, shared services such as gramin sewas, mini-buses and other unauthorised commuting services have gained prominence, adding to the traffic load.
Other stretches where the traffic movement has increased are Dwarka Road near Sadar Bazar (Delhi Cantonment), the Ring Road near Delhi Cantonment Metro station, Dilshad Garden intersection near the Jhilmil Metro station, Munirka crossing, and Hauz Khas crossing on the Outer Ring Road and the Nehru Place intersection (towards Greater Kailash).
Traffic experts said the Delhi Metro, when functional, reduces vehicular volume on several busy stretches. Sewa Ram, professor of traffic engineering at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), said that with fewer viable and dependable public transport modes available now, people are forced to use their personal vehicles.
“A lot of offices have resumed, and several people who own vehicles but used the Metro for travel are now forced to use their vehicles instead. The passenger restriction in public buses has also increased the number of two-wheelers on the road,” he said.
Buses in Delhi were allowed to ply from May 19, but can only carry up to 20 passengers at a time.
Ram also emphasised that traffic volume would continue to increase in the coming months, and that people who own vehicles may prefer to shun public transport, for health reasons.
“In public transport, there is always a fear of contracting the infection. Even after the Metro reopens, there is a chance that the ridership will remain low and the use of private vehicles will shoot up,” Ram said.