Delhi Moving from meeting to meeting in Delhi, I got a closer, more firsthand look at the progress being made to reduce traffic snarls or “jams” as they are universally called in India. On the way to a cultural center near the Bengali Market where we were meeting a colleague from the George Brown College in Toronto, we ended up on the thoroughfare that has been so much a part of recent discussion where the “Bogota” bus lanes and bus stops had been constructed.
Before hitting that road we were stuck in a jam so bad that we didn’t move for 10 minutes or more prompting the auto rickshaw driver to engage in some broken language negotiates with me about other routes (what would I know) and prices (indeed!) given the obvious delay and my anxiousness at being even later than normal. The Times of India this morning ran several stories on a release about the among of money lost by citizens and the government due to the loss of productive time due to jams and the amount of petrol expended in the jams. Needless to say, it was a staggering figure.
Back to the “Bogota” model system, which I have much admired and discussed in these notes in the past. Seen at ground level the Indian adaptation to this system has been amazing and predictable. The “bus only” lanes are crowded with cars and some busses. The innovative, and physically striking, bicycle and pedestrian lanes had clearly visible signage barring cars and motorcycles. Of course the lanes were packed with motorcycles trying to speed around the traffic. Going along the same route to a second appointment, I was surprised, though certainly not shocked, to find our auto rickshaw driver jump into the lane for several hundred yards. I turned to nod to my fellow passenger, and when looking back forward found that we were also following a number of small cars looking for a shortcut to make the turn left onto the next highway.
I saw buses as well, but no real sign that this new system was working that well yet. The new bus stops were already looking like battered islands in a sea of vehicles and were certainly not crowded with ready passengers.
Delhi is hosting important soccer matches in 2010 and everywhere there are still construction zones marked for the extensions and improvements on the metro subway system. Some work on an elevated line was even visible near the airport as we arrived several nights ago. Maybe the trains will have more impact that the “Bogota” bus system? This city of 15,000,000 is clogged in the madness of millions of vehicles now, and something has to change.