The ‘odd and the even’ – the other benefits!

So today the 5th of January, I got to work in my odd numbered car, and it took me 10-15′ or so less than usual. I have the privilege of working part time and flexi-time. So the ‘odd-even’ formula has  not had me scrambling for solutions to commuting problems.

For those unfamiliar with the term that has become part of the our lexicon of late – Delhi recently achieved the distinction of the ‘most polluted city in the world’ and the State Government took a decision to implement a policy of ‘on the roads, only cars with odd no. plates on odd days and even on even days’ for the period of 1st to 15th January. They did this around 10th of December and in the 20 days to the New Year,  build up was interesting (hmmm!!) and showed up the petty side of many players. While the print media (which has become less relevant) was cautious and tried to put forward information from different points of view, TV had an issue to milk to its last drop! It was all like a long teaser trailer, and everyone was waiting for the show to begin.

The 1st fell on a Friday and  was a holiday for a lot of the private sector. The overall adherence to the rule by the public, had the Government gleefully patting themselves on the back while the skeptics and critics said ‘Monday will be the real test – lets watch’!! And so Monday came – and Delhi (with its reputation for brashness and aggression) continued to surprise everyone and complied.  Its not just sheep who follow a leader – human nature is to join the trend!! Anyone who may have thought of taking out their car on the wrong day, would have looked around and thought again!!!

On my 35 Km ride into work this morning along NH8 and Outer Ring Road, I saw only about half a dozen even number plate cars, and a couple of them had male drivers, women drivers are exempt from the rule. Traffic was moving smoothly. And most of the buses I saw were not more crowded than usual. The statistics in the morning paper  showed that even the Metro usage was  only a little more than usual ( 22 lacs against 20 lacs on other Mondays at Rajiv Gandhi Chowk Metro Station ). I am sure that office attendance did not drop, and so it seems that there are ways to get around without the luxury of one car per person!! This is not to discount the genuine difficulties that many may have faced – but there is a positive to that as well. It may have helped some of the privileged car owners to appreciate the difficulties that the ‘others’ face on a daily basis.

The skeptics and critics are changing track and trying to point out how little the move has affected air quality. And it must have one of them that posted a picture of chaos in Rajiv Gandhi Chowk Metro Station that was actually taken around Diwali time!!

But, did we really expect the air, that we have thoughtlessly ruined for the last many years, to magically cleanse itself!! If anyone did, they were fooling themselves. I, during the drive was thinking of the many other advantages the move will make.

  • Speedier commute, means less wasted petrol, increase in overall productivity.
  • More time at home with family
  • Less traffic related stress – for self driven cars, driving on alternate days only, on less busy roads. (Even for those like me who have drivers, less stressful).
  • Less stress on parking lots in shopping areas
  • And this may result in fewer deaths due to ‘road rage’!!
  • Greater possibility of cycling, with the roads being a little more free
  • School buses will get kids home earlier, giving them more time to play
  • Car pooling, shared taxis, shared mini-buses may not drop you to your doorstep, forcing people to walk (something most people do not do at all!!)

And finally, I who have been scared off driving by the Delhi traffic may get induced to do so again.

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4 thoughts on “The ‘odd and the even’ – the other benefits!

  1. other than anything else, if this brings to focus the need our cities have to invest in comprehensive workable and cohesive public transport, its great. But till cities provide that solution to its citizens, what do people like me, who have a profession which requires long commutes, without the luxury of being able to choose dates and with two odd number cars at home and two small kids do? I shudder to think how it would have been if I lived in delhi!

    • Mono, it is not solution at all for the actual problem. But it has proved so many important points – that the public is not stupid; that communications and education can motivate people and so on. Of course more rational and long term solutions have to be put in place – but even unpopular ones do not necessarily have to die because of ‘political compulsions’!! If the cause is right, and the leadership is seen to be sincere, people will accept – at least that what I think this exercise has shown us!

  2. Wonderful to hear that Delhi drivers have bucked the stereotype. While the odd-even strategy maybe working, it has to be part of a larger plan to improve the quality of life indicators for Delhi. Most politician don’t invest in long term/multi-tiered planning as they don’t make good symbols of success to tout around during election time. People of Delhi/NCR should push on these long term goals and hold electeds and administrators to account.

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