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Bus and Metro travel free for women in Delhi

Topic covered:

  1. Issues related to women.


Bus and Metro travel free for women in Delhi


What to study?

For prelims and mains: logic and rationale behind the move, significance, concerns and challenges associated, criticism, evaluation.


Context: Few experts have criticised the Delhi government’s proposal to make buses and the Metro free for women.

Under the proposal announced by the Delhi government, women will have the option to not pay for rides. The move, which is at the stage of feedback and planning, has drawn reactions ranging from enthusiastic approval to vehement rejection.


Rationale behind this move:

To tackle congestion on the roads.

To make it easier for women to move from informal and more unsafe modes of transport such as shared autos and cabs to more formal and safer modes such as the Metro.

To help more women enter the workforce.


Past experiences elsewhere:

Studies on fully free public transport systems have underlined both positives and challenges.

  1. Hasselt, Belgium, made public transport free in 1996, and also expanded its transport fleet. A decade later, a study reported a tenfold increase in ridership. however, rising operational costs forced Hasselt to do away with the scheme in 2014.
  2. German town of Templin made public transport free in 1997, and continues with the policy even today. Within three years, ridership increased 1,200%, with children and the youth making up the vast majority of the increased numbers. This, however, led to increased vandalism. Also, “the vast majority of the substitution effects were due to shift from soft modes — 30-40% from biking and 35-50% from walking. Only 10-20% of the substitution effects were associated with previous car trips.”
  3. In 1991, the Netherlands introduced a seasonal free-fare travel card for higher education students, which led to the share of trips made by students rising from 11% to 21%. Fifty-two per cent of cyclists, and 34% of car users moved.


How different is Delhi’s scheme when compared to similar schemes in the West?

The West has done it to battle road congestion and pollution. However, the reasons given by the Delhi government are different- safety and security.


Challenges ahead:

Funding: The challenge for the Delhi government is to find the funds for the project — which it says it has. According to the Delhi government, the cost of subsidising women’s travel will be around Rs 1,200 crore annually. However, studies show that operational costs frequently rise in the long run, and schemes become increasingly less viable.

Challenges of implementation: Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is looking at special passes for women. But the Metro has automated fare collection (AFC) gates that require tokens or Metro cards — the Metro will have to either isolate entry and exit points for women where AFC gates can be done away with, or come up with special cards or tokens for women.

Last mile connectivity: For women, walking to and from the nearest bus stop or Metro station, especially during the early mornings and late evenings, remains unsafe in many places in the city.


Sources: Indian Express.