The Delhi government might be touting a "roaring success" over the odd-even car number scheme, which has been implemented on a pilot basis from 1 January for a fortnight in a bid to curb pollution levels in the Capital. But an unreliable public transport, especially buses, has failed to shift car owners to this mode of travel. Undoubtedly, the roads turned congestion free, especially on Monday, the first working day when one could really assess the scheme’s effectiveness. But public transport continued to be an ordeal. Though the Metro was able to attract a majority of the crowd, a fine of Rs 2,000 acted as a deterrent for violators of the scheme.

Government claims

On the first day Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal instantly termed the scheme a "success due to public’s cooperation". "I repeatedly said that the scheme will meet with success only when people embrace it and not through force," Kejriwal told media outside his residence. "It has become a movement and we are truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far. Delhi will show the way to the rest of the country."

Stating that the scheme will be assessed after 15 January, the chief minister said, "Nowhere in the world is the scheme enforced permanently. It is practically not possible. Whenever pollution levels spike this is used as a tool."  Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said people of Delhi have responded to the environment-friendly odd-even drive in the same way that they came out on the streets during the anti-corruption movement three years ago. "That time people of Delhi wanted a corruption-free city. Now they want a pollution-free city," he added. In the next phase, two wheelers were likely to be included along with women drivers, he added. DTC managing director C R Garg said the number of trips made by each bus have increased due to less congestion on roads.

Car pool a rescue 

A large chunk of car owners shifted to car pooling or the Metro. Notorious for erratic timings, schedule and frequency, DTC buses had its regular commuters but there was hardly any car owner who took the bus. Private cab companies reported a rise in usage of their apps in the last couple of days with users opting to share rides with other passengers.

"The biggest growth is for trips between Delhi and Noida (400 per cent), followed by Delhi-Gurgaon (150 per cent) and Noida-Gurgaon (100 per cent). Carpooling is enabling people of Delhi to travel with ease during the odd-even road rationing dates," long-distance ride-sharing platform BlaBlaCar said.

Cab aggregator Ola said it saw tremendous adoption of shared mobility categories like Ola Share, Car Pool and Ola Shuttle. A host of mobile applications such as Orahi, Ibibo Ryde, BlaBlaCar allow people to sign up and start offering or availing rides from a list of commuters going in the same direction. Besides, more than 25,000 people downloaded PoochO app in the last two days to avail of autorickshaw services. Many people even car pooled with colleagues, friends and relatives.

State of public transport

A total of 4461 DTC buses, 1251 private running under the Paryavaran Bus Sewa and 1431 cluster buses were plying on the roads on Monday to cater to 44 lakh pasengers. The transport minister said the DTC has the capacity to ferry 64 lakh people while the Metro is set to ferry 32 lakh people instead of 26 lakh. Before the scheme, an extra 3,000 buses were procured by transport department from schools to add to fleet of DTC and cluster buses. But on Monday, an extra 72 trips could not cater to the extra rush of 10-12 lakh people surging the Delhi Metro. A huge rush was seen at Metro stations during peak hours, especially at Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate stations, till 11 am.

"The Delhi Metro’s ridership on 4 January by 8 pm went upto 22,85,887 as against 20 lakh on 28 December," said Delhi Metro spokesperson. The autos were plying on roads but their poor services, including refusal and overcharging continued to be an ordeal for commuters.

Challans issued freely

Taking together Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, the number of challans touched 1500 for violating odd-even norms. To regulate the roads and keep a check on people, 66 teams of transport department’s enforcement wing and 200 teams of civil defence volunteers are on roads along with traffic police at all the major crossings. Around 120 autos were also challaned for refusal, overcharging and other complaints.

No abating of pollution

The ambitious project to implement odd-even scheme began only to curb pollution levels. "Air quality remained very poor. But the reduction in PM 2.5, possibly around 15 per cent due to less emissions and vehicular dust reduction, that was observed for a few hours, could be seen as an impact of the odd-even measure as other factors like wind speed and temperature remained the same as the last two days," said System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) project director Gufran Beig on the first day. But it was too early to say anything, he added.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said the results of ambient air data collected by mobile units at 15 locations across Delhi on 2 January  showed an encouraging trend of reduction in air pollution in both PM 2.5 and PM10 categories in central and southern parts of Delhi. DPCC scientists blame vehicular traffic for 80 per cent of PM 2.5 levels and said this showed a reduction on Tuesday.

According to TERI, in comparison to 2 January, concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 had increased but NO2 concentrations showed a decrease. Analysing the trends between 24 December and 3 January, TERI said the PM2.5 concentrations increased by 72-176 per cent at its four monitoring stations. However, this was mainly due to reduced wind speeds during the period.