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Why Delhi Metro carries far fewer riders than almost any other city’s system worldwide

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Increased Metro ridership can improve Delhi’s air, where banning private vehicles cannot.

Delhi’s air pollution won’t go away. On a good day, the air quality index shows a ‘poor’ reading. Desperate authorities are contemplating banning private vehicles. If they go ahead, the chaos that will result can be imagined. Vehicular pollution is of course only a part of the problem, but despite years of struggling with the issue, the Delhi government has not increased its bus fleet — which today is smaller than it was 40 years ago, when the city’s population was less than a third of what it is today. Additional public transport capacity has been created in the form of the Delhi Metro, but that yields some curious statistics.

A picture of TN Ninan, chairman of Business Standard Private LimitedComparisons with cities in other countries show that, for its size, the Delhi Metro carries far fewer riders than almost any other city’s system. With 314 km of track, Delhi has a daily rider average of 2.8 million. China’s Shenzhen has a slightly smaller system (286 km) but carries 60 per cent more riders, at 4.5 million. Mexico City’s metro system is smaller (226 km of track) but carries 4.4 million riders daily. And Singapore, with less than two-thirds of Delhi’s track length, at 199 km, carries 10 per cent more riders than Delhi, at 3.1 million.

Also read: All the legal attempts made to combat Delhi’s air pollution in the last 2 decades

There is no uniformity in numbers across the major metro systems in the world. The range can be from a top figure of 34,000 riders daily for every kilometre of track in Tokyo and about 27,000 in Hong Kong, to 20,000 for Paris and lower numbers in other cities: 18,000 for Moscow, 16,000 for Beijing and Shanghai, and so on. But while there is no uniformity to the numbers, here’s the thing: Delhi seems to have the lowest passenger-track ratio among all the major metros in the world, at less than 10,000. At the least, the system should be aiming for a figure of 15,000, and possibly for 20,000 — or a doubling of riders with the same track length.

There could be many reasons for Delhi’s low number. One would be the number of cars per metro train. The majority of Delhi’s trains have six cars, while some have eight and some four. On most metros, a range of six to eight seems to be normal. But New York usually operates between eight and 11 cars per train. Delhi has been trying for some time to add to its existing capacity of about 1,600 cars by adding another 600, but this has been hanging fire for one reason or other. Moving to a uniform system of eight cars per train would up ridership quite significantly. With fewer cars than required, what the usually crowded Delhi Metro has done is to spend money on expensive infrastructure and then under-utilise its potential capacity.

The second problem seems to be the frequency of trains. In Delhi, the gap between two trains would appear to be more than three minutes at most times, and six minutes in outlying areas. Peak traffic times see the frequency increasing to a little over two minutes; the system seems unable to reduce that further to 90 seconds, achieved on other metros. Surely there must be a technical solution to the problem.

Also read: Satellite pics show crackers are only tip of the iceberg when it comes to Delhi pollution

Finally, there is the issue of the design of the network of tracks. In many cities, the heart of the city gets special treatment in terms of a very dense network of lines and stations. Paris has 245 stations in an 87 square kilometre area in the heart of the city. In comparison, Delhi has only 229 stations in all, and much of the track length stretches out into the suburbs, near and far. Again, Moscow has a 50-km line that circles the historical centre of the city, and takes much of the traffic load. London too has a Circle line that touches the major traffic points in the heart of the city. Should Delhi Metro’s future projects be focussed more on the city centre, rather than places like Bahadurgarh or Faridabad, to increase ridership, reduce surface traffic congestion and improve the city’s air quality?

By Special Arrangement with Business Standard

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  1. Lol, again a biased and anti-hindu article. I wonder where do you get the fundings from? I definitely thinks is the far right or sone urban naxals. Please stop it and learn about your own culture before spitting nonsense

  2. Write anything u want but the populace knows what is right. U r a narrow minded person who is just, jealous of his success. But ur silly writing cant change peoples dedication and love for him. Write ur bullshit and be happy, no one gives a damn at what u think. Seriously u r not good at doing homework before writing. Learn to wrie meaningful article and we will love that. I have read many articles but this was total crap.

  3. Sector 21 metro should be extended to kapashera and Gurgaon bus stand and beyond.
    Airport express line from Daula kuan should have an alternate line going to manesar all along NH 8.

  4. Airport Metro should carry six compartments with 3 for airport passengers and three for metro stations with lower fare it will reduce pressure on Blue line and also increase ridership of Airport metro line up to Dwarka.
    Increase Revenue…

  5. As mentioned by many readers above the main reason for low ridership rather low utilization of Delhi Metro is last mile connectivity and little bit high fare. But the main cause is last mile connectivity, After getting out from Metro one has to search here and there for some public transport which is very harassing and uncomfortable. Delhi Metro or Delhi transport department should examine this point and if something is done the ridership will definitely increased. High fare has very little impact as by using Metro there is lot of benefits like time saving, pollution free AC ride, etc

  6. Kya loda likha hai…. nothing on high ticket fares..comparative low fares is an essential eliment to increase ridership

  7. We should make one expert penal who manages all the delhi transport system, Metro, Buses, Auto, Taxis, Battery Rickshaw, Local Railway trains and also we should look something for River transport as well. In Delhi every transport mode is managed by different people, and every one thinks different. Yes i also believe that metro fares are too high, it should be with in the reach of common man. Gurgaon is our hub but unfortunately there is only one metro line, its strange. We should have metro lines from every part of NCR which connects to Gurgaon. All Delhi transport should be fully AC because in summers it smelled alot when we travel in fully loaded bus. All transport system should come under one umbrella. All the delhi people licence should also be renewed with tough examination, more than 50% people don’t know how to drive. Govt should give some money to the delhi public transport system and increase some taxes on private vechiels. And most important people should be fined who don’t surrender their vechiels after 15 yrs of Petrol and 10 yrs old Diesel vechiel.

  8. The planning of the metro is carried out by reserving candidates who do not understand the actual requirement’s of people living in the city. Planning is being made by bureaucrats how they get more benefits financially from metro during production stage.

  9. Pick pocketing must be controlled. Here passengers have to be very careful & alert all the time taking care of their cell phone, wallets etc. In other countries even if a passenger forgets his bag it is returned to him or her after checking bag and finding clues of owner from the items in bag. Can we even dream of that in Delhi metro? The stations should be designed with middle plateform rather than having track in the middle. Passengers have to climb unnecessarily if they land on wrong plateform. This also increase tendency to cross tracks. The interchange stations should have different lines on the same middle plateform.

  10. Mr. Ninan, have u travelled in the delhi metro? During peaks hours there’s no place for one more person in the jam-packed bogies…where do you think those extra “statistically necessary” passengers will fit in? Sometimes statisticians sound so insensitive and so far away from reality!!!!

  11. Dear writer if you will check the fact you will get to know that the high fares are the major reason behind less ridership of metro you charge 30 RS. For just 10 kilometers while someone using his motorcycle spends only 10 to 12 RS. For this distance. If metro is so keen and want to uplift it’s ridership than they must think about reducing the fares, a lot of people want to travel by it but due to more burden to their pockets stops them to ride it.

  12. Yes, I agree with Mr. Ravi kumar..fare also plays a role in this.. When it cost same to me with both time and money. I would better prefer traveling with my bike rather than in metro.. Also there is so much rush during office hoursin metro.

  13. Time to destination or to any major intersection must be reduced. DMRC did not conceptualise running express trains during peak hours just because there is no third bypass track at the stations. NY and all major cities run express trains which do not stop at all stations. For example, Noida city centre to Rajiv Chawk run time should be within 30 mins. Can we be futuristic in our planning?

  14. I travel by car and yesterday thought of travelling by metro. I did travel by metro but my experience was horrible. I was back to my orginal boarding station by 10.30 pm but there was no mode to take me to my residence from metro station. Few E rickshaws that were there were asking for exorbitant Rs 150 for a distance of 2 kms. What a bad idea to be stuck at metro station at 10.30 pm with family having 3 ladies. We had no option being at E rickshaw wala mercy at shell out Rs 150 for just 2 kms. So next time I will think twice before I use metro.

  15. Delhi metro fares are ok considering the distance involved. In comparison Bangalore metro is much more expensive. I have used both systems hence can say for the fares. But yes as rightly pointed out, the general attitude of the public to travel from door step to door step, is what is going against the ridership.

  16. Sir
    There is need of private public partnership to operate metro
    And sometime ola over taxi services become cheaper than Delhi metro
    There must be competition
    Otherwise public has to suffer like the monopoly of Indian railways
    Country like ours there is huge demand but lack of supply whatever under govt.

  17. Don’t report blindly.
    Newly opened Pink line and Magenta line has fewer passengers than Violet lines.
    Even Badarpur Escorts Mujesar line has more ridership than pink line
    Even Magenta line had fewer passengers When opened for Botanical garden to janakpuri west.
    Here’s needed to be raised 60% in two steps instead of 100%.
    In India official Inflation is 4% in nowhere in the developed world inflation is more than 4%. No one cares to increase in such world for 25% increase in fare except over confident BJP which imposed 100% fard hike resulting in 20% drop in ridership.
    Give a good plan India will destroy it by hemadri jugad.
    4% inflation 100% Hike. 0% credit for present govt. 0% use for public.
    Yes public deserted Metro and 20% fall in ridership.
    Wait for figure of Pre May passengers and passengers as on 31 st March 2019.for evidence.

  18. Dear Writer
    The most important reason that you haven’t lightened is unreasonable fare cost, for single ride Ac bus which can drop you nearest to your doorstep AC bus is charging Rs.25 while metro charges Rs. 60 which is more than a double, and if you are still far from your door you need to pay for bus or feeder sapratly.

  19. I agree in general your observations.But it is not correct to say that Delhi metro is carrying lowest metro ridership among major metros.In fact average ridership of all the metros Casey a ridership of close 10,000 per km.

    You have missed one more point.Delhi has a vast network of 30,000km road network which is a kind of invitation to drive..

    To some extent climatic conditions in Delhi also encourage private vehicle use.

  20. Wrong interpretation…..if comparisons of Delhi metro and Singapore metro is being done….an approach of bus terminal to metro should also be considered…Singapore metro has very good connectivity with bus terminal…which provide last mile connectivity

  21. We cannot compare foreign metro to Delhi metro . Nobody in Delhi residing in CBD except govt servants put up on govt quarters
    people use to come from Noida gazibad sonipay gurgaon etc to work. I have seen crowdlees trains in New York Chicago etc. Also Delhi resident for good three decades travelled widely throghou India and US. The attitude of Delhi people to show off their wealth by using multiple cars in a family has to be changed. Of course increasing no of cars and frequency can help
    They may convert the ring railway which is unpopular as metro route for better connection and service

  22. Well two prime reasons missed here are expensive fares that keeps the low income category away, and poor last mile connectivity and parking facility at stations that keeps the affluent class away. The metro seems to be only utilised by students and professionals who do not own their own vehicle.

    • with your logic, then low income category people must be availing other public transport (which is not the case). Bottom line is NCR is spread wide and there can never be a point to point to connectivity. Feeder services are required to support metro and they should have linked ticket price structure.
      btw, if more people will get in metro, people will start complaining that it is very crowded. People will always criticize a good initiative. You should ask the regular commuters
      of metro.

  23. Most importantly the fare of delhi metro is too high for short drive like dabri mod to nehru enclave double side cost 100 rupees which far more than if a man travel in his car with cng

    • we don’t put the cost to the time and no cost to the stress. Both of them will lead to the poor quality of life. Also, reducing the ticket price will increase the ridership is a bogus argument.

  24. Mr T.N. Ninan has made a pertinent and insightful comment about why the Delhi Metro is less effective than it ought to have been especially keeping in mind the crying need to drastically reduce vehicular traffic in order to make in impact on the horrendous air pollution in the City. However one aspect he did not emphasise, I think, is the very high cost of ticket prices on the Delhi Metro which discourages many potential users. While this particularly applies to low budget travellers those owning cars do not enjoy the kind of facilities of parking their cars at Metro stations before taking a train to their destinations which is a common feature in other Metro cities like London. During my stay in London I saw that this was a common practice. Then there is a problem of travelling door to door with the Delhi system; one has to take another feeder service to reach the station and to avail of another such feeder service to travel onward after leaving the Metro. Such a cumbersome journey adds to the cost and discourages many commuters to use the Metro. These problems have been highlighted many times but nothing seems to have been done to address them.

    • These types of articles are placed to discredit the governments. What he has missed stating that license/insurance fees in these cities are through the roof which in NCR are a pittance. Plus, in NCR it is fashionable to show off their buying capacity. People will boast of spending huge amount of money on the automobile whether needed or not (status symbol). NCR people are lazy, they don’t want to walk to the nearest station or take the public transport.

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