Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Quiescent Traffic Managers

I have already driven the car that gives you driving directions to your desired destination with road descriptions. Feed the address and the car will take you to the destination. Future is coming when drivers will be able to look forward to receiving information on junction location, traffic jams, weather conditions and diversions. They will also be able to know about accidents, advice on speed including in-vehicle information on the current enforceable speed limit. The information will appear on a display controlled by switches on the steering wheel. Messages will be stored, so drivers can access the information they need at any time via the easy-to-use menu. It may be possible also to keep passengers informed about things like flight arrivals and departures, and connecting services.

The developed countries are refining their planning with time and making leaps into the future. Lucklessly, (mis)management of traffic in Pakistani cities has choked the roads, endangering lives of commuters. It seems as if our traffic managers have no role in planning or execution of programs and plans. Taking bribes from motorbike riders has turned out to be the most sacrosanct duty of the cops. The unplanned constructions and rampant encroachments have also suffocated the city’s roads. With overt and covert intentions both the traffic police and the municipal corporation have seemingly demonstrated their lack of skill and ability to handle the problem.

No innovative methods have ever been used in developing a unique approach to road traffic management and congestion control. And never any theoretical continuing research on the fundamental relationship of traffic flow and their interpretation under congested road conditions has been carried out.

Poor planning by the traffic police is causing enormous problems. Cars, motorbikes, cycles, animal drawn traffic and even the pedestrians have not been educated how to use road. In cities some roads have been divided into lanes (some with wrong marks though), the road users have not been told what do they signify.

Research and development on road traffic management methods maybe found physically, but not functionally. Consequently, there is no road traffic monitoring and surveillance, traffic accidents prevention, vehicle safety, road traffic planning and guidance, safety equipment and its inspection, and the application of the Hi—tech to traffic management.

The poor performance of Traffic Police illustrates that no training center for senior traffic management personnel is in place to introduce the modern traffic management theory and the advanced engineering technologies.

Also lacking is an integrated freeway traffic management system intended to improve safety, optimize the real capacity of the highway and provide a better level of service to motorists without the addition of more traffic lanes. This can be accomplished by faster detection and response to incidents on the highway and through balancing of traffic volumes between the highway and other viable alternate routes.

Planning should take account of the likely level of resources, such as improvements to infrastructure, traffic management measures such as reallocation of road space for cycles and motorcycles and realistic targets for growth in cycling. Priority should also be accorded to create an encroachment-free culture with particular priority given to the busiest and most important routes. It is unknown why our traffic managers rampantly neglect downtown and thickly populated areas. Consequently, no rule of law exists there. This doesn’t mean, however, that it exists elsewhere.

In the future more highly developed vehicle devices will open new perspectives for effective transportation and fleet management on the basis of the Toll System. The advantage of the system is by using automatic toll collection the user can settle the charge without having to stop. Modern technology redefines the world of mobility.

Increasing number of marriage palaces, commercial complexes, hotels, restaurants and other public places without parking facilities have added to the chaos. So, if the car owners park at roads, they are not responsible. After all they have to park somewhere, if not on road then where? The presence of fork lifters to move away such vehicles can be interesting scenes for foreign tourists but most dangerous to traffic. This also lay bare the weird policy planning and lacking integration.

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death by injury and the 9th leading cause of all deaths worldwide. Such injuries are projected to become the third leading cause of disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide by 2020, surpassed only by heart disease and major depression. Pakistan must also think about this serious problem.

Planning should use the tools of traffic management to improve the environment in towns and cities, by re-allocating road space and giving greater priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, thus creating better conditions for people to move around. It should introduce traffic regulation orders to restrict the use of vehicles - local pedestrian schemes or speed reduction initiatives.

Most roads are with no posted speed limits. Posting speed limits and strictly enforcing it will virtually stop overtaking. Thus, by reducing number of lanes for cars, a lane exclusively for cycles and motorcycles can be included. This will organize the traffic flow.

The dreadful driving of illiterate rickshaw, wagon, and truck drivers compel us to make the driving permits harder to get. Before allowing someone to drive, driving skills and knowledge about traffic rules must be ensured without any let-up.

The government should revitalize the Traffic Engineering Department for modernizing road traffic management, and to serve the functions of developing road traffic engineering technologies, training traffic management personnel, inspecting traffic safety equipment, and providing traffic management information.

Traffic awareness campaigns can play an important part in the proper use of road on sharing and yielding basis. The traffic managers should wake up for developing awareness campaigns at the local level, working jointly with neighboring local authorities and other interested parties as appropriate. Nevertheless, businesses, community, schools and hospitals also have a part to play in alerting people to the problems and the solutions. (