Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

Check Up of India's Heart - Delhi: A Diagnosis of the Capital's Public Transport


Delhi Transport Service (DTS) was Imageincorporated in 1948 by the Government of India for local bus services, which were previously operated by the Gwalior and Northern India Transport Co. Ltd. Later, DTS was reconstituted under the Road Transport Corporation Act in 1950 as 'Delhi Road Transport Authority' (DRTA) which was an undertaking of Delhi Municipal Corporation by an Act of Parliament in April of 1958. In 1971, the Government of India again took over the Delhi Transport Undertaking (DTU) from the Municipal Corporation on the recommendation of a Working Group of the Planning Commission, which concluded that Delhi Transport as an extension of Municipal Corporation of Delhi had not been functioning efficiently and adequately, resulting in leakage of revenue and very high operation costs. The Government of India took over the management of the undertaking by passing the Delhi Road Transport Laws (Amendment) Act, in 1971. It took over the assets and liabilities from the erstwhile Delhi Transport Undertaking operated by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Thus the DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) was set up in 1971. In section 22 of the Road Transport Corporation Act, 1950. DTC, which was functioning under the administrative control of the Government of India, was finally taken over by the Government of National Capital Territory, Delhi in 1996. As of today, DTC operates city buses as well as interstate buses in and around Delhi, connecting the city with 6 other states of India. 


DTC is now the lifeline of Delhi's ImagePublic Transport. 25% of the city's population uses DTC buses for their daily commute. A variety of services are provided by the DTC, which includes night services, limited and express services, school bus services, special hire buses, special bus services for women, special services for Delhi International Airport, and feeder bus services to Delhi Metro Rail. The DTC has a large fleet of CNG (compressed natural gas) driven air conditioned low floor and semi-low floor buses. The organization setup includes a training school for staff imparting various trainings, own ticket printing press, a research and development wing, labour and sports cell, employees welfare unit, a central control room accommodating accident mitigation cell, public relations and publicity department, IT department and traffic department to plan routes, decide fares, etc. 

High Capacity Bus System (HCBS)

DTC operates HCBS on few routes which uses buses with improved carrying capacity and better facilities like air-conditioning, less travel time, less congestion, more comfortable interiors, GPS navigation etc. This system is also termed as 'Bus Rapid Transit' of Delhi. Dedicated bus lanes have been constructed on some roads of Delhi as BRT bus corridors.  Analysis of decade's performance data gives an idea where DTC stands at the moment. 

Average Annual Statistics

Fleet Held


Fleet Operated


Fleet Utilization


Fleet Age (years)




Fuel Efficiency

3.54  kms./litre of HSD

Passenger Trips

2.86 million per day



Fatal  Accidents

75 (28% of total accidents)


14037 million rupees

Fleet utilization has been between 70% to 90% in last decade as seen from the graph here. The maximum fleet made available was in the year 2005-06 (91%) after which it has been going down until 2011-12 when it was 84%.  The average age of fleet operated per year was in increasing order till 2008-09 after which it was controlled and drop down from 7 to 4 years. 

ImageThe ratio of percentage over age buses against total fleet operated was also high and experienced sudden increase from less than 10% to more than 50% between 2008-09. Which means, more than 50% of the fleet was of over age in those years. More the fleet age and over age vehicles, more the wear and tear requiring frequent maintenance and other associated expenses of fuels/lubricants. Recorded total accidents per annum has been in decreasing order until 2008-09 after which the graph is seen continuous rising. Same pattern is followed in fatal accident occurrence as seen in the graph of accidents here.


The gap in average fleet held v/s actual operated was somewhat widened from 2006 to 2010 which indicates that more buses were under repairs and maintenance during those years.  The graph of passenger kms. offered v/s actual performed shows that kilometers offered were reduced from 2005 to 2008 after which again more kms. were  offered (i.e. buses were intended to operate for more and longer routes connecting different areas in and around Delhi)  whereas the graph of actual operated kilometers reveals the inability of promised performance. Even though fleet operations increased almost two folds in the decade, it didn't impact much on ridership increase as seen from the graph.  The fuel efficiency was maintained well from 2005 to 2010 but the drastic drop down in vehicle efficiency in last two years is a matter of serious concern because the fall recorded is almost twice. 


Surprisingly, while the fleet held is in increasing order in the decade and even in last 2 years, staff numbers are going down. The adjoining graph also reveals the similar picture that while fleet held has been increasing, the staff to bus ratio has been in decreasing order which clearly indicates that either DTC used to have additional staff in past which now is being reduced to achieve optimum benefits or DTC is falling short of required staff. For bus based public transit operations, the staff to bus ratio between 1:6 to 1:8 is generally considered ideal by STU's in India but as we can see, DTC had the values around 1:9 in 2003-04 i.e. clearly over staffed, seems that DTC has been trying to optimize the staff numbers. 

Analyzing financials of DTC, the increasing curve of annual deficits is a serious matter of concern because the annual losses have increased five times in last decade.  The pie chart of average annual expenses of DTC indicates a strange expenditure on 'interests paid' which is highest among all other expenses (44%). Also, higher expenditure on staff costs than fuels and lubricants is a matter requiring deep study. 


The increasing gap between annual expenses towards staff costs and fuel-lubricants can be understood well from the graph below.  If we closely observe, the lines of total revenue and fleet operations are almost close to each other until 2008-09 when revenue earnings are increasing but the line of total costs has a pattern of 'steep rise' in the last decade. Besides DTC buses, Delhi has the privilege of having India's first 'Metro Rail' system of mass transportation. Delhi metro has been operational since more than 12 years as of now and carries daily average ridership of  passengers (% of DTC).


Vehicular ownership has increased to 88% in the last decade in delhi (3.9 million registered vehicles in 2002-03 to 7.4 million by 2012) and around 1400 new vehicles get registered daily. More than 15% of Delhi's travel demand is met by personal cars. It is estimated that by 2020, Delhi will have almost 4 million cars, parking space for which requires area almost 1.5 times larger than 'East Delhi'. Vehicular ownership is bound to increase as per capita income and standards of living has increased in Delhi, reports economic survey from National Census 2011. (Image source: The percentage of 'bicycle users' has gone down from 37.6 to 30.6 from 2001 to 2011 and those owing cars and two wheelers has increased from 13 to 38.9 percentage in the decade. With car ridership set to boom by 106 per cent, Delhi's air pollution and congestion crisis is bound to worsen, warns a survey by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Cars and SUVs together contribute 45 per cent, close to half of the total, CO2 load from all vehicles. This will be a stunning 52 per cent by 2021. The survey said bus ridership had already dropped from 60 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent now. With each bus trip lost to cars and two-wheelers, pollution and health costs will worsen.


Air quality monitoring system at few locations in Delhi also indicated high pollution levels in Delhi, at some locations which are even higher than National Ambient Air Quality Standards prescribed by Government of India, Central Pollution Control Board as seen the image here.  "The daily travel trips are expected to explode from 15 million today to 25.3 million in 2020. If no further action is taken to radically improve public transport, walking and cycling, then Delhi by 2021 will gasp for breath, pay unacceptable fuel costs and spew warming gases like never before." Says Ms. Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE. (The Hindu, June 7 2012). Recently Delhi was reported to have air pollution even higher than that recorded in Beijing. Delhi ranks 8th in the report of top 100 cities of world with worst air quality published by World Health Organization in 2011. 

HCBS - The Controversial Public Transport Project of Delhi


In 2008, the pilot corridor of 5.8 km. became operational which was termed as 'India's First BRT'. But soon became debatable and the government put hold on implementing full BRT project in Delhi which consists of 14 corridors spanning across 300 kms. The corridor infrastructure consist of single median lanes for buses with physical segregation and double platform bus stops located close to the intersections; two lanes for general traffic; and bikeways and sidewalks on the two sides. Bus operations include 57 different routes operated by DTC and private operators (Blue Line Buses).

Innovative Use of 'Scrap Buses' as Night Shelters

ImageRecently, scraped and old age buses of DTC were utilized as 'Night Shelters' for poor and those without homes in Delhi. This initiative proved a boon for homeless and people living in slums or on footpaths of Delhi Streets. The idea was acknowledged by many because generally it the city local authorities responsibility or a part of duty to construct 'Rainbasera's (Night Shelters)for homeless. 

Delhi Metro – India's First Metro Train Pride

The commercial operations begin in 2002 owing it the pride of 'India's first Metro Train'. The system today operates on 190 kms. with peak frequency of 2.5 to 3 minutes has 143 stations and daily average ridership of 2 million passengers  which was a mere of 45,000 passengers in 2003, the initial year of start . In other words, the daily users of Delhi Metro are comparable to the entire population of Slovenia or half of that of Ireland. The numbers shall increase once 140 km of new lines are added by 2016.Image

DMRCL (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.) also hosts South-Asia's first Metro Museum. Built in one of the most congested cities in the world, the Delhi Metro used cutting edge technology from around the world to create a system that is one of the most advanced in the world. The museum, a collection of display panels, historical photographs and exhibits, traces the genesis of the Delhi Metro which took 32 years to reach the operational stage from the drawing boards, major milestones, issues regarding the selection of the technology such as rolling stock (trains), rail gauge, etc. The Museum has an extensive section on the construction of the Metro and the problems encountered during the process, including the story behind the construction of technological marvels such as the Chawri Bazaar Metro station, which is the second deepest Metro station in the world, India's first extra-dosed bridge. Currently, over 200 train sets (including four and six coach trains) are in operation on the six lines of Delhi Metro. At present, the Delhi Metro is operational on six lines where more than 2500 train trips are made each day traversing over 70,000 KMs in day. With Phase-III of the network expected to cover about 108 kilometers, the Delhi Metro network will become 295 kilometers by 2015 making it one of the fastest expanding Metro networks in the world carrying about 4 million (40 lakh) passengers. Presently, over 60% of Metro passengers (over nine lakh) are using Smart Cards on a regular basis. However, DMRC intends to increase this figure substantially to a level similar to that of the other Metro systems like Singapore and Hong Kong where almost 100% of Metro users are relying on Smart Cards for their smooth and comfortable daily journey.  According to a report by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), as many as 1.2 lakh vehicles are off the road every day because of the Metro. Roughly Rs 523 crore is saved annually in fuel costs whereas the cost in terms of time of passengers saved per year works out to a whopping Rs 2,978 crore, according to the study.


Delhi has a population of 18 million of which DTC and Delhi Metro together carry around 6.45 million passenger trips per day (36% of cities population use these modes of public transport). Attracting remaining 44% of cities population to justify the statement of '80% trips by public transport by 2020' in the recent Master Plan of Delhi, is a big challenge in itself. With the expanding Metro Rail facility, it is assumed that additional ridership of 2 million will be attracted by 2016. But what about DTC? The question about DTC attracting ridership is doubtful considering the above statistical analysis of its performance.  DTC, being one of the best option for mass transport in Delhi after metro rail, has to undergo series of reforms in order to provide good service to passengers along with taking measures towards cost cutting. There may be several reasons associated with huge deficits of DTC which needs to be addressed in order to make itself financially sustainable for future. Delhi is and will remain the administrative capital city of India and therefore the capital region has to have better and efficient public transport system as it is directly associated with the national image. (image sources: all charts and graphs - self data analysis, other images/pictures - The Hindu, The Deccan Chronicle, The Economic Times, Indian Express daily newspapers, DTC webpage, other blogs and webpages in public domain)