Solving traffic chaos before it's too late

Solving traffic chaos before it's too late

With the country's general elections knocking at the doors, the city is bracing for possible activities that may very often turn violent on the roads between the rival party activists.  Demonstrations, rallies have already begun to occur on the streets which are leading to traffic mayhem.

Needless to say, such a situation is causing negative impact on the country's economy. A recent study says traffic congestion in Dhaka costs the country $11.4 billion every year, which is seven per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. It reveals about one quarter of working hours are lost in congestion as about 1.5 million city dwellers use vehicles for travelling across the city every day. The financial loss is generally calculated on the basis of the cost of time lost in traffic congestion and the money spent for running vehicles the extra hours.

It was revealed that the average maximum speed limit inside the capital was brought down to 6.8 km per hour in 2016 from 21.2km in 2004 due to congestion. The problem may be reduced by 40 per cent by just improving the management of traffic as 98 per cent of the people under the study admitted that they break laws on the road.

Some other reasons were found to be responsible for creating traffic congestion. Many of them are related to management problems. These are illegal occupation of road, haphazard parking, and an uncontrolled rise in the number of private vehicles. In fact, nobody cares for the rules.

Apart from the economic impact, the congestion was found harmful for the travellers' health and environment. Around three quarters of travellers face both physical and psychological health impacts, said the study. It makes people so much worried that most of them avoid going outside unless it is really necessary. As high as 98 per cent of the surveyed people said they make only two trips a day; one for the purpose of going to work while the other one for returning home.

Meantime, the authorities and agencies concerned are reported to have been making inordinate delay in implementing the recommendations of a subcommittee, formed by a parliamentary standing committee, on addressing the traffic congestion in the city. The parliamentary standing committee on the home affairs ministry set up the subcommittee to recommend ways to end traffic congestion and the subcommittee submitted its report in September 2016.

People's tendency to use cars, some times unnecessarily, also creates an impact on the traffic situation. If more buses with better services run on the road, people would naturally get to use buses, which will ease the road congestion to a large extent.

 In addition to some structural changes that have been advised to ease congestion, the subcommittee also suggested that there should be increased fine for violation of traffic rules, which could stop people from getting away by paying a small amount of fine after committing violations.

The minimum road requirement for a standard city is, in fact, 25 per cent to keep the vehicular movement normal. But the country's capital city has only 7-8 per cent road of its total area. Such a minimum level of road structure is one of the main reasons behind serious traffic congestion in the city.

Furthermore, 7-8 per cent of the city roads now in operation are not being used properly. CNG stations besides the road, dumping of debris and construction materials on the road, illegal car parking, waterlogging, dilapidated roads, unskilled driving are the main causes behind traffic congestion in Dhaka.

City planners say the relevant authorities are not going through the way that could solve the traffic jam of the capital. Flyovers are being constructed here and there without any plan where CNG filling stations are set up on its both parts. A large numbers of cars are seen waiting there to take fuel. 

There are many broken places on several main roads in the city for a long time. There are some other roads where water-logging is a common scenario.

The capital's messy traffic management system is manually handled by over 3,000 policemen, making it increasingly difficult for them to enforce traffic rules. With around 200 new motor vehicles hitting the city streets every day, traffic police are often found too exhausted to manage some vital intersections where violations of traffic rules are very frequent, especially by buses and jaywalkers.

As the number of vehicles increased over the years, the automatic signal system is no longer functioning. It eventually got replaced with manual control. The traffic department has already installed traffic boxes at all important intersections so that its personnel can work round the clock in three shifts.

Existing infrastructures are feared to crumble in the next few years, meaning the capital's traffic system is likely to further worsen. It is impossible to strictly enforce traffic rules even if the authorities deploy a huge number of policemen unless new communication infrastructures are developed.

Rules are being violated as the vehicles carrying lawmakers and top government officials often come before the queue of vehicles at signals using the lanes meant for left turn only. Then they compel the traffic police to allow their vehicles to pass, halting the traffic flow of other roads.

The existing city roads need to be made wider and new roads constructed so that commuters may have three to four alternative roads to reach destinations in any given direction. The authorities need to introduce better and integrated traffic control system -- good road signs, easily visible and properly timed traffic immediately. Traffic regulations should be strictly enforced by deploying well-trained and closely supervised traffic police. As the implementation of the parliamentary sub-committee's recommendations is found to be too slow, the situation is getting precarious which is adding to the traffic mayhem.

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