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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If you change nothing, expect more of the same!

In yet another incident, a Blueline bus crushes a motorcyclist to death in Noida.

The High Court calls the death of seven person in an earlier incident as shocking. The police have impounded 100 buses and a former Union Minister drives a Blueline bus to the Chief Ministers home!

Everyone is clearly agitated and surprised that nothing seems to work.

Now consider this:

A large number of Blueline buses ply whole day in Delhi, they take small risks all the time (because it pays), and the chance of a mishap is small (in any individual incident of risky behaviour). But on an average we have an accident every two days.

The situation may be modelled using the Poisson Distribution. Without going into the mathematics of it, we can expect:

  1. A few accident-free days. 

    It won't be the result of the so-called crackdown, but rather due to Poisson Noise.
  2. A spate of accidents. 

    For the same reason as above, not because things may go completely out of hand. (Mathematically, the situation seems to be stable for last three years!)

The accidents would reduce when the distribution characteristic change: either reduce the number of these buses or adjust the incentives that cause the behaviour.

But that seems to be difficult to do.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chema Vilchez in New Delhi

The Lotus Temple, September 29, 2007

Sometimes images get stuck in the mind.

Most of last week, I revisited the shimmering Lotus Temple that was visible from the auditorium where we had gathered for a concert hosted by the Spanish Embassy.

Perhaps, it was the magic that created in the next hour that fixed the whole experience in my mind.




Monday, October 08, 2007

Why do Blueline buses continue to kill?

In July the Times of India reported that Delhi State's Transport Minister, Haroon Yusuf, would pray at Ajmer for respite from deaths caused by Blueline buses.

Either the visit didn't happen or the Spirit at the Dargah wasn't mollified because deaths from Blueline buses have continued.

Seven people, including five women, were killed in Badarpur area on Sunday morning when an overspeeding Blueline bus rammed into people crossing a road, triggering protests by angry onlookers who indulged in stone pelting and tried to set the bus afire.

Blueline bus kills seven in Delhi-Delhi-Cities-The Times of India

Not only the prayers, nothing else seems to work either:

  1. Speed governors. (Easily tampered with. Or, maybe with some difficulty.)
  2. A crackdown on the buses. (Whatever that means.)
  3. Action against errant drivers. (Not much it seems, because it hasn't made a difference to their behaviour.)

"Technology is the only way out of this mess," according to Mr Yusuf. And some technology solutions are being thought up.

But my question is: Who or what created the mess in the first place? It should be obvious that the answer is incorrectly aligned incentives!

It pays to speed. And the returns aren't offset by penalties, whether you are caught speeding or arrested after the accident.

What would fix the problem then? Adjusting the incentives, of course. But that seems to be difficult to do for some reason.