Alternate title : How to effectively solve the problem of ever growing traffic?
There is one thing which I have noticed while driving around in Kolkata – Most of the Privately owned cars are driven by hired-drivers instead of the car owners. This applies to people owning Audi Q7 as well as Tata Nano. May sound unbelievable, but a good number of low-end cars are driven by hired drivers while the owners prefer to sit comfortably on the back seat. Why? Ask a person who owns a vehicle and he would not hesitate to blame it on the pathetic state of roads and disgusting traffic. And this isn’t false.
But if we try to look at the bigger picture here, to identify the root of the problem, it is not difficult to rule out bad roads and bad driving sense as the major culprits of strenuous driving experience that the drivers face today. The actual culprit is the ever increasing number of privately owned cars.
According to an estimate, there are around 6 billion people worldwide today and the number of cars on our planet is around 800 Million. By 2050, the population is expected to rise to 9 billion people whereas the number of cars on the planet are expected to double. Considering the present scenario, when traffic management is becoming increasingly difficult worldwide, it is quite unimaginable as to how our present traffic management tools will be able to cope up with that much traffic. What is demanded is a Revolution and a change in the way how things work today in the transport industry.
Even though different people will suggest different solutions, the most successful solution is bound to be based on public transportation. As everyone knows, public transportation brings down the vehicle-to-passenger ratio hence reducing the number of vehicles on road. But, the present public transport system isn’t capable enough to cater to the current needs of commuters, let alone the increased requirements of the future. Hence, this calls for an innovative solution with public transportation at its heart.
In one of the recent TED talks by Bill Ford, who is the Executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, shared the same concern. In his talk, he demonstrated how we are addressing the problem of ever increasing cars in the wrong way. He calls for the development of technology which will enable inter-vehicle communication which will lead to a more uniformly distributed traffic along all routes.
At the very same time, when Americans suggest to solve this problem with better navigation and smart vehicle networks, the Europeans have chosen a different way to control this. In London, each car driver is required to pay a ‘congestion tax’ which is very much like the Toll tax except that there is no toll booth. Elsewhere, government regulations have put the maximum speed limit to around 10-20mph in city while completely restricting cars from entering several roads. All of this has been done to promote public transport and to prioritize the pedestrians. (Read – Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy)
While the western world is busy devising their ways to tackle the imminent traffic gridlock, our country is cherishing the prospect of a proposed Metro Rail Project in some XYZ city. This is when, Metro Rail Projects are very expensive, can never recover the initial capital costs from their incomes, and are capable of serving only a fraction of the population since they are not well spread out in the city. The attached link (Bangalore – Metro is not a solution) explains why Metro Rail is not as successful as it is in cities like London. This document also compares the effectiveness of Metro Rails with that of expansion of Bus Networks. Further, as the effectiveness of Metro Rail was criticized and was considered too expensive and time-taking to setup, the possibility of setting up Monorails came into picture. As of now, Mumbai will be the first Indian city to test the concept of Monorails in the Indian Scenario. Chennai, where the construction of Metro Rails is still on, seems to be next Indian city where Monorails will be constructed. ( Read – Monorail or Metro Rail: the pros and cons )
In my opinion, I feel that using BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) systems is the best solution at hand for the developing nations. In India, this system was tested in Delhi where it has gained appreciation as well as criticism from the public. The reactions are obvious. People who travel by buses on BRT corridors appreciate the service whereas the car owners, travelling on the same route, criticize it for reducing the space available to them for driving hence causing even worse traffic jams. But the idea is simple. The ultimate objective is to benefit maximum people, which is being done as more people are transported by buses on these routes as compared to cars, and to prioritize public transport. The latter is very important since it provides an incentive to the public travelling by private vehicles to switch to public transport. BRT is also a more viable solution since it can be brought into existence with minimum gestation period and less amount of capital involvement as compared to the Metro Rails and Monorails. Plus, BRT corridors offer flexibility since a normal vehicle can also run on that track, when required, hence can be helpful in providing a faster track to Ambulances, Fire trucks and School Buses. But I will also state that the current BRT system has some faults which need to be worked upon before this system is applied elsewhere in the country.
What do you have to say?
(For more links on the same topic, check here)
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Do share your views on the same and suggestions if you have any.