Saturday, February 24, 2024

Shailendra Joshi Column: Involving professionals key for managing traffic

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Roads are like arteries in the human body and free flow of traffic reflects a well-planned and healthy city.

During the past decade, India has made tremendous progress in terms of construction and upgrading infrastructure such as national and state highways as well as expressways. Thus, there is considerable improvement in inter-city and inter-state traffic mobility and connectivity. However, due to lack of continual attention, the internal traffic in most of our major citiesand towns is turning chaotic.

Among several problems faced by Indian cities, deteriorating traffic conditions is a major concern. Despite having vastly improved public infrastructure such as growing length of mass rapid transport system, better signaling system, improved and new roads, greater number of over bridges and underpasses etc., there is no significant relief to commuters in most of the metropolitan cities. Perhaps, the rate of growth of infrastructure is falling short of requirements.

The story is not about infrastructure alone. Three other important reasons could be attributed to the unruly traffic in metro cities. First, rapid growth in the number of automobiles, second, mixed types of vehicles (two-, three- and four-wheelers etc.,) and third, lack ofdiscipline on the roads. All these factors make commuting within our cities and other places of mass gathering not a pleasant experience.

Discipline on roads can, to a great extent, compensate for the lacunae in infrastructure. No amount of infrastructure can make up for indisciplineamong road users, be they pedestrians or drivers of public and private vehicles. One can always compare Mumbai and Delhi for traffic discipline and comparative infrastructure.

In most of the Indian cities,traffic is managed by the traffic police usually without any support of any professional traffic planners. There is an urgent need to have an integrated mechanism (metropolitan/city traffic authority) consisting of representatives of the concerned urban local body, traffic police, engineers of roads and buildings department, and professional traffic planners for ensuring smooth flow of traffic.

Quality of life in various cities is determined inter aliaby the quality of traffic movement. It is expected that a stage may come when the citizens start leaving a city due to traffic congestion and thereby,resulting into unreasonable commuting time. In addition to causing increased social and physical stress levels, traffic snarls are responsible for a new form of ‘deprivation’: that of quality time.

While taking up traffic planning, crossings need to be avoided as they act as a barrier to smooth flow of traffic. While planning the new townships, signal-free traffic movement should be ensured to the extent possible. In addition to creation of additional infrastructure,traffic can be improved in existing cities by following certain fundamental measures such as zero tolerance for traffic violations. One-way traffic system especially, around rotaries and other circular roads, is another such effective step.

While complimenting the traffic police of Hyderabad for initiating severalsteps to improve traffic across the city, one must say that the solution offered by them to commuters travelling around KBR Circle looks sub-optimum. It is a clear-cut example of measures taken to improve the traffic movementgone awry.At several places, intersections have been closed, forcing commuters to take a detour. Although it gives the impression that traffic movement is smooth, it does not reduce commuting time as it increases the overall commuting distance through the diverted lanes and by-lanes.

It is important to provide data if anyavailable, suggesting improvement in traffic flow along with obtaining the feedback of commuters.Obviously, it may have reducedthe requirement of traffic police,but it has certainly increased the distance to be travelled between any two given points.

To conclude, it is important to have professionals, to design and manage traffic in our cities before they become non-livable.

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