We’ve heard the usual stuff like people will just buy two cars, cheat by changing numbers, impossible for the police to enforce given the exceptions. Here though is an attempt to point out towards those outcomes that will cause adverse impact to the desired outcome, simply because such a random move is not based on sound rational and economic principles. Here, we assume that the odd-even formula is implemented for the long run, everyone follows the law and the odd-even thing is actually enforceable. Given that we examine some of the possible outcomes.
- A colleague at the work-place, who is not financially well placed, takes a lift (West Delhi to Cybercity, Gurgaon) from a person who has a parking in a nearby building, on a daily payment basis. Here, the vehicle owner is not wealthy enough to buy another car and shares fuel cost by taking 3 to 4 passengers daily. He will be unfairly disadvantaged by the odd-even formula.
- A couple in Delhi work in two places in different directions say 10 km each and have flexi-timings. Now they drive their own cars to work and back. There is a 50% probability that they will have odd-even numbers and if not that can be arranged. Now one might have to drive the other or hire a driver who will ferry them one by one making the total run per day 80 km instead of 40 km. A similar analogy will be applicable for more people using cabs (since a large population works at office districts and resides elsewhere) though at a smaller scale (the total km may be ~1.5x instead of 2x). Overall, this will cause even more pollution.
- People buy/ are planning to buy new cars, often do not and now definitely will not discard the old ones. But now, while these old second-cars which do not comply with the latest emission norms are seldom used, the odd even formula will force many such cars on the road. This will have the opposite of the intended consequence.
- In some cases people already having plans to buy second cars will hasten their moves, but a large majority will go for cheaper options of buying/ borrowing at a consideration second hand more polluting vehicles, or will use such vehicles on an ad-hoc basis based on some version of a daily paid formula. More unauthorised cabs, poorly trained drivers and non-roadworthy vehicles will be incentivised to ply on the road as a result.
- It is highly unlikely that more than a small number of people will resort to permanent pooling simply as a result of this formula. In many cases where people do try to pool with friends, colleagues and neighbours, there will be increased incidents of people having to wait on busy roads in already congested office areas. A larger number of people calling cabs at the same time will also cause similar issues thereby resulting in more waiting for running vehicles and hence more pollution.
Some supporters of the move will say that these are minority effects and overall the impact will be positive. But the fact is that while people may resort to activities that are in line with the desired impact such as pooling cars, using public transport (which is already strained), etc, for a few days but with the passage of time more and more people will choose the more convenient option which will fall in one of the categories above. A quick check comparing the number of vehicles registered over the last 10 years and the number actually plying on an average on a daily basis will prove the point.A better step maybe quicker phasing out of older vehicles, advancing the implantation of stricter emission norms, incentivising environment friendly transport systems, etc. Also, concentrating/ enhancing resources of civic bodies and authorities to deal with traffic congestions, debottlenecking, dynamic re-routing and other such experiments might pay-off. Government should also think outside the box and do things like asking companies, institutions and organisations to take offs on weekdays instead of weekends once or twice a month, incentivise companies to have more and more employees work from home, and the like. Many such ideas will be available if sourced. Ideas like congestion pricing, improving infrastructure, strengthening public transport, supporting smart communities, et al, have been around for decades but require long term planning which no one did.