Congestion on Delhi roads has worsened – says new analysis by CSE of latest Google map data

  • Average traffic speed on 13 arterial roads 50-60 per cent lower than their design speed and 35-48 per cent lower than the regulated speed of 40-50 km/hour 
  • No non-peak hour now on main arterial roads -- virtually no difference in time taken to travel between peak and non-peak hours 

  • Week-end traffic speed and congestion is worse than that on week-days 

  • In contrast, Lutyen’s Delhi without big arterial roads has better speed and time saving as well as well defined peak and non-peak hours 

  • Air pollution increases with congestion. When average morning peak hour speed of 28 km/hr drops to 25 km/hr during evening peak, nitrogen dioxide levels increase by 38 per cent

  • Congestion imposes staggering costs on the economy that no one pays for. IIT Madras study estimated annual congestion cost of Rs 54,000 crore in 2013. This is 12.5 per cent higher than Delhi’s total annual budget for the year 2017-18 

  • CSE says: “Current obsession to only build and widen roads and make elevated roads and parking facilities will lead to more congestion. Need public transport strategies, walking infrastructure along with appropriate pricing of car usage to curb motorisation” 

New Delhi, July 10, 2017: For daily commuters in Delhi, what has been the experience is now being borne by hard statistics. Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) new assessment of travel time and traffic speed in Delhi shows the city is in a grip of a worsening congestion and pollution crisis. 

A simple exercise for key stretches of 13 arterial roads, based on hourly and daily travel time and speed derived from Google Map – a popular tool to gauge traffic time by residents of Delhi while travelling in the city – shows low traffic speed; near disappearance of non- peak hours; weekends with higher congestion; and higher air pollution with lower traffic speed during peak hours (please visit for the assessment).

Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE: “If not addressed immediately, Delhi will merely run to stand still. This is an inevitable consequence of explosive and unrestrained vehicle numbers that have crossed the mark of 10 million in 2017. The numbers are further inflated by daily influx of vehicles from outside Delhi. With a further drop in car prices under GST, car congestion will only grow.” Currently, congestion on Delhi roads is growing at 7 per cent annually. About 537 cars and 1,158 two-wheelers are added every day on these roads. 

Roychowdhury points out that even after building so many roads (22 per cent of Delhi’s geographical area), Delhi’s battle against pollution, congestion and energy-guzzling is getting increasingly more difficult. This is undercutting the city’s efforts to control emissions and toxic exposures in all sectors. If strategies are not changed to curb motorisation to reverse this trend, it will become increasingly more difficult to reduce high toxic exposure, crippling congestion and loss of productive time. 

What is this assessment about? 
This is a simple and indicative exercise to assess the impact of congestion on travel time and traffic speed on Delhi’s major arterial roads which have been specially designed to give priority and primacy to improve speed of vehicular movement. This assessment has used the daily real time information of Google Maps for different arterial roads during the month of June in Delhi to calculate average traffic speed during different hours of the day on the roads. There is a rider -- June is not the most representative month as educational institutions remain closed. 

Key stretches on 13 main arterial roads in Delhi have been identified with more than 60,000 passenger car units (measure of traffic volume, based on road space usage by different categories of vehicles) per day, as per a 2010 RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) survey for the study on Transport Demand Forecast in Delhi. These stretches are representative of the geographical spread of the city -- south, north, east, central and Lutyen’s zones of Delhi; as well as their connection with national highways and state highways to NCR towns of Gurugram, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. 

The data was noted for every hour from 8 am to 8 pm for the month of June. The speeds were then calculated for every hour for all the roads daily. Arterial roads are primary networks that provide long distance travel through multi-modal transportation system connecting all major city-level land uses. They also facilitate inter-city and regional trips by connecting with highways and expressway networks. 

Stretches assessed in selected arterial roads

  1. Mahatma Gandhi Road (Ring Road): Sardar Patel Marg Station to Azadpur Flyover (Model Town)

  2. Mahatma Gandhi Road (Ring Road): Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex to Majnu Ka Tilla

  3. Gurgaon Road: DLF Cyber City to University of Delhi

  4. Outer Ring Road: IIT Delhi to Jamia Millia Islamia

  5. Shakurpur Road: Naraina Industrial Area to Wazirpur

  6. Outer Ring Road: Swaroop Nagar to Wazirabad

  7. Anuvrat Marg: Arjan Garh to Ahinsa Sthal

  8. Outer Ring Road: Jahangirpuri to Peeragarhi

  9. Mehrauli Badarpur Road: Badarpur Border to Lado Sarai

  10. Mall Road: Azadpur to Kashmere Gate

  11. Sri Aurobindo Marg: Lado Sarai to Kidwai Nagar West

  12. Maulana Azad-Akbar Road-Tilak Marg: National Museum to Supreme Court of India

  13. Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg: Masjid Ambedkar Nagar to Central Market, Lajpat Nagar

What does it show?

  • Average speed is significantly lower than the designed speed of the arterial roads as well as the regulated speed: All the 13 selected arterial roads have been designed to achieve a driving speed of 50-70 km/hr as per UTTIPEC’s (Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre) street design guidelines as well as Indian Road Congress guidelines for urban roads. The regulated speed is 40-55 km/hour. The actual observed average peak speed on these roads now is 26 km/hr and off-peak is 27 km/hr -- which is 50-60 per cent lower than the design speed. During the 12 hours (from 08:00 am to 08:00 pm) of the day, around 75 per cent of the time, the average speed remained between a 25-30 km/hr. About 17 per cent of time, the average speed remained between 20-25 km/hr. Only 8 per cent of day’s time was the speed more than 30 km/hr.

    Says Roychowdhury: “It is another matter that such high speed corridors should not be built through the city. As they attract very high traffic volumes, the congestion moderates the speed. Roads need to be designed for lower legal speed inside the city (international best practice is of 30 km/hour) along with other alternatives and car-restraint measure to control traffic volume and improve service level of roads and also reduce accident risk.

  • Traffic speed has reduced over time: According to the RITES report, the average peak speed in Delhi was 27.7 km/hr and off-peak was 30.8 km/hr – today, it is 26 km/hr and 28 km/hr, respectively. According to an IIT Madras study on Delhi’s congestion cost, traffic congestion in Delhi cost the city close to Rs 54,000 crore a year in 2013. This will increase to Rs 90,000 crore a year by 2030. This is expected to get worse, especially as Delhi has now crossed the 10-million mark of total vehicle registrations.

  • Arterial roads remain choked throughout the day – non-peak hours are vanishing: It is conventionally assumed that there is sharp dip in vehicle numbers during off-peak hours (12:00 noon to 04:00 pm) compared with peak hours. It is typically assumed that peak hour average speed is about 40 per cent lower than the non-peak hour speed. But in Delhi, the non-peak hours have nearly disappeared. For most part of the day, speed remains constant. There is negligible variation between peak and non-peak speeds. The average morning and evening peak speeds are 28 km/hr and 25 km/hr, respectively, on the 13 stretches. But the off-peak speed is 27 km/hr which is almost equal to peak speeds. This is much less than the regulated peak hour speed of 40 km/hr and non-peak speed of 55 km/hr. 

  • Some stretches are more vulnerable: There are some stretches that are chronically congested. On the stretch from Ambedkar Nagar to Lajpat Nagar on Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg, the average morning and evening peak speed noted are 16 km/hr and 17 km/hr, respectively. Speed can even drop to 5 km/hr during evening hours. On Sri Aurobindo Marg from Lado Sarai to Kidwai Nagar West, the average speed is 19 km/hr that during the worst peak hours between 6-7 pm during; weekends can experience an hourly speed of 7 km/hr.

  • In contrast to popular belief, weekends are more congested than weekdays: The analysis explodes the myth that Delhi’s roads have less traffic during weekends. There is more congestion during weekends (Saturday and Sunday) than week days (Monday to Friday). The average peak speed noted during weekends is 25 km/hr which is lower than the weekday speed of 26 km/hr. This even drops to 8 km/hr on Sri Aurobindo Marg and 9 km/hr on Mehrauli Badarpur road during peak hours. Evening peaks are worse during weekends – 21-23 km/hr in contrast to 25-27 km/hr on working days. While the average traffic speed on Saturday is 21 km/hour, on Sunday it improves slightly to 23 km/hour but remains still worse than weekdays. This clearly shows that use of personal vehicles increases significantly during weekends. 

  • Lutyen’s roads are less congested and have well-defined peak and non-peak hours: The average traffic speed in Lutyen’s Zone, which has primary arterial roads with widths up to 50 meters, is considerably higher. The average peak hour speed is 44 km/hr -- almost 40 per cent higher than on other arterial roads. The average off-peak speed is 52 km/hr, which is almost double that on other arterials. There is a considerable difference between the average peak and off-peak speed. The off-peak speed of 52 km/hr is a 20 per cent improvement on that of peak hours. 

  • Air pollution worsens as congestion builds up: CSE has also analysed hourly air quality data for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – largely influenced by traffic -- for a selected day. CPCB’s real time monitoring data for NO2 from Anand Vihar, R K Puram, Mandir Marg and Punjabi Bagh shows that when the average morning peak speed of 28 km/hr drops to 25 km/hr in the evening, NO2 levels increase from 68 microgramme/cubic metre to 94 microgramme/cubic metre -- an increase of 38 per cent. This can get worse during winter when inversion builds up during evening.   

  • Arterial roads connected to NCR cities are more congested: Most of the arterial roads are conduit for traffic from the neighboring NCR cities. For instance, Sri Aurobindo Marg connecting to Gurugram via NH 8 has an average speed of 24 km/hr which often drops to 7 km/hr during evening peak hours. The Mehrauli Badarpur Road connecting to Faridabad notes an average speed of 25 km/hr and Outer Ring Road to Ghaziabad via NH9, 27 km/hr. CSE’s earlier analysis last year has shown that cars that entered Delhi daily from cities of NCR were more than the total cars registered in the city in 2014-15. Local and incoming traffic is undercutting air quality and health benefits from local measures. 

Act now
In this pollution and congestion battle, both the Central and the state governments will have to recognise the implications of road infrastructure that gives priority to vehicles for overall motorisation and related problem of pollution, congestion and energy-guzzling. But even in this near-doom situation, there are no efforts to scale up integrated and efficient public transport options with last mile connectivity and curb personal vehicle usage with tax, road pricing, parking pricing and management strategies.  

  • Immediately scale up affordable, comfortable and reliable bus and metro transport services; build cycling and walking infrastructure; organise para-transit and shared mobility to reduce dependence on personal vehicles. 

  • Finalise and implement the proposed parking policy as a stringent demand management measure including – effective variable parking pricing; demarcation of legal parking areas; stringent penalty for illegal parking; residential parking permit etc. 

  • Earmark low emission zones and pedestrian zones in the city to regulate entry of personal vehicles. 

  • Improve inter-city public transport connectivity and make it seamless. 

  • Stop building highways through the city.

To connect to a subject expert, please contact Souparno Banerjee ( / 9910864339) of The CSE Media Resource Centre.