A Pragmatic Solution to Delhi’s Transportation Needs

There have been reports in the media about Uber and other similar services facilitating diesel vehicles in Delhi contrary to the established law and practice. We wish to clarify Uber’s position on the subject and suggest a pragmatic solution to the problem.

There are several causes of pollution in Delhi, including industries, DG sets, vehicles, domestic burning, biomass-refuse burning and others, with vehicular pollution contributing to about 25% of overall pollution in Delhi.

Three years ago, it was reported that there are more cars owned in Delhi than in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai combined. Delhi has the highest private car ownership in the country and there are over 2.5 million private cars registered in the city. Estimates suggest that 30% of the cars registered in Delhi everyday run on Diesel. In contrast, there are a little over 35,000 vehicles registered as tourist taxis, with All India Tourist Taxi Permits (AITP) in Delhi, part of which are registered on the Uber platform and consequently tens of thousands of drivers are able to make a livelihood and become entrepreneurs.

In this background, curtailing the freedom of commercially licensed cars plying in the city with the goal to solve for overall air quality in Delhi is less than effective.

DIESEL VEHICLES IN DELHI

In 2001, there was a mandate to ply vehicles on ‘Clean Fuel’ in Delhi and accordingly buses and commercial vehicles were required to switch over to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). However, the cars with the AITP continued to ply within Delhi for a few reasons :

1. Legal Ambiguity – All India Tourist Taxi permits are granted permit under Section 88(9) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Rules framed by the Central Government* permit an AITP holder to provide point to point service in the National Capital Region if the vehicle conforms to the mass emission standards irrespective of fuel type.

16. Conformity to mass emission standards – The Tourist Transport Operator shall not engage or use any vehicle for the purpose of journey, the origin and destination of which falls within the National Capital Region, unless such vehicle conforms to the mass emission standards (Bharat Stage – III) specified in sub-rule (14) of rule 115 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

The Tourist transportation infrastructure, most of which complies with the Bharat stage III emission standard, therefore also operated in Delhi serving thousands of citizens.

2. Widespread usage within Delhi – Over the last decade or so, due to an ever-growing demand characterised by rapid urbanisation, drivers who traditionally plied tourist routes in and around Delhi started also serving the unmet demand for transportation in the city. This practice was widespread and common at the time Uber entered the Delhi market in 2014, and AITP vehicles were extensively used for intra-city travel. This was not only tacitly approved by the Delhi government, but various Government Agencies actively requisitioned All India Tourist Taxi permit vehicles (DL 1Y/DL 1Z registrations) for their official daily travel needs.

3. Inadequate CNG infrastructure – Existing CNG infrastructure will need reinforcement and improvement to meet the needs of the entire NCR. This is particularly true outside the administrative boundaries of Delhi where the CNG infrastructure is poor. The rising cost of CNG, long queues outside filling stations and a shortage of trained mechanics and scalable solutions to convert diesel engines have made it increasingly expensive and difficult to implement.

OUR SOLUTION

While there is an urgent need to address pollution in Delhi, a blanket ban of commercial cars plying on diesel fuel within the city may not be an effective solution; especially when there are thousands of families whose livelihoods depend on the business supported by these vehicles. However, acknowledging the importance of moving towards cleaner fuel in the city, Uber proposed a two-pronged approach to the problem.

1. Implementation of Clean Fuel Technology

The advent of better engine and emission technology allows us to strike a reasonable balance between the interests of the stakeholders involved. We propose that existing commercial cars that run on fuels other than Clean Fuels be allowed to ply within Delhi provided they conform to the Bharat IV or higher mass emission standard. We suggest that any restriction, if so warranted after a consideration of facts and improvements in technology from 2002, be imposed with prospective effect.

Uber will support this initiative by:

a. Registering on its platform only those vehicles that conform to the Bharat Stage IV or above standard;
b. Partnering with institutions to finance Clean Fuel cars at affordable rates for partners so that new cars registered in Delhi ply on Clean Fuel;
c. Investing into research and development of scalable Clean Fuel technology and infrastructure in Delhi and NCR. As a company, we are spending millions of dollars in developing smart and efficient urban mobility solutions around the world. We express our willingness to channel these investments into India and invite the government to create platforms that bring public and private institutions and resources together to achieve mutual objectives.

2. Encouraging ridesharing and carpooling

The long-term solution to Delhi’s rapidly rising transport needs lies in finding solutions that increase efficiency on the roads – a system that meets Delhi’s need to get around while minimising the number of vehicles on the road. Reportedly, over 4 million cars use the Delhi roads everyday and this number is growing rapidly with rise in car ownership. At this rate, average traffic speeds could plummet to as low as 5 km/h in the coming years.

In this background, we urge the government to consider forward-looking regulations to allow for carpooling and ridesharing in the city, that will help decongest the cities’ roads, improve commute times, and take cars off the road. Uber is committed to finding technological solutions to facilitate carpooling and invest into the Indian market to foster job creation, more efficient transport infrastructure, and safe, reliable and efficient transportation for Delhi citizens.

We urge the government to explore solutions that balance the right to livelihood of tens of thousands of drivers while creating a favourable environment that supports a transition to cleaner fuel alternatives and more efficient transportation models.

* Motor Vehicles (All India Tourist Transport Operators) Rules, 1993

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