A panacea for traffic congestion?
BY DARSHANI ABEYRATHNA
The alarming traffic congestion has become a grave crisis for road users. The peak-time traffic congestion is a typical factor in contemporary cities. Commuters are disappointed by policymakers due to their incapability to take necessary action to ease congestion, which has become a major public policy challenge. Although governments will never be able to curb road congestion, if it could at least bring about a semblance of road discipline into the present system, this would be a preferred decision that a government could implement. According to research, Sri Lanka incurs a massive financial and man-hour loss due to traffic congestion. The reasons for the congestion could be poor city planning, insufficient traffic systems which lead to an immense waste of time. Traffic congestion on the streets of Colombo is getting worse by the day and the 'bus only lane' will help ease much of this problem.
The week long pilot-project of bus –priority lane was introduced for public transport services last week. Initially, a priority lane was allocated from the Rajagiriya junction to the Ayurveda junction. Since this is a new experience, it was said from the beginning that private vehicle drivers could be inconvenienced as a result. Certain Media have allocated pages and pages to discuss this problem. When new things are being done in a country, such problems occur. There were biting criticisms, filling pages of print media, saying that this was an imprudent move and traffic congestion had worsened.
After hearing many objections about the week-long pilot project of the bus-priority lanes, brought forward by general public the Ceylon Today journalists ventured out to talk to a cross section of society about the traffic congestion in the area.
One of the officers from Sri Lanka Police who wished to remain anonymous said to Ceylon Today that in order to further strengthen public transport and to implement strategies for that, the Transport Ministry, the Road Development Authority and the Police are now working together. Nothing good has ever been done in this country without criticisms or obstacles. That happens not only here but it is the nature of the world. During the past decade or so, 45% of State investments in our country were spent on building roadways. Roads were carpeted and Expressways were built. However, in general traffic congestion was not controlled by that. The reason was because together with expressways, urbanized development did not take place which gives rise to a formal system of transport. Similarly public transport was not strengthened either.
In order to implement such things in other countries in the world, strict rules and regulations and severe actions were taken. For instance, in countries like Singapore, the more you travel inwards into the city large sums of money have to be paid as taxes.
That is how the use of private vehicles has been controlled. What we expect through self-discipline, by allowing a majority through environmental friendliness, and room for public transport services in an effective and democratic manner.
Our traffic police and intellectuals, who implemented this, today have provided a practical answer. The alarming traffic congestion is a serious problem for road users. The peak-time traffic congestion is an inherent factor in modern cities."
Sudath Jayalal (A Driver)
"When talking about this place being only for Rajagiriya buses, what I feel is that when people have to cross the road it is a difficulty that they face. I see that there being no white line (pedestrian crossing) is a very big shortcoming."
Nishantha (A conductor)
"To be honest our eyes are mainly on the daily income. On the very first day this new project was implemented, Inspectors are checking the tickets. A ticket has been made compulsory for those travelling in private buses. When such a pilot project is being implemented, such things happening are an inconvenience for passengers in my opinion. As a whole, as a conductor I strongly believe the fact that this is going to be a great initiative."
Lasanthi (private sector worker)
"As commuters, the bus halt being set up on parliament road for those travelling to Rajagiriya is an inconvenience. If the road remained as it was previously we could have done our work properly – that is shopping at the super markets and vegetable shops, since everything is there. It is easy for us and we could have done our work as usual. On a special note if there is a bus halt near the Rajagiriya Church it would be a good thing. Not having a Bus shelter to avoid rain or sun is a big shortcoming."
W.D. Hemachandra (A retired worker of Ministry of Health)
"I appreciate the good things done by the government but criticize their faults as well. A bus lane would be a good idea if there were four lanes of traffic. The issue is that there are only two lanes on the Rajagiriya road and now one lane has been fully taken for the buses, this will clearly increase traffic congestion."
Shelton Silva (A retired government sector worker)
"What we ask everyone is not to submit relentless criticisms. We have to find a correct solution for problems like these. When approximately 100 buses carry commuters close to four to five thousand within an hour, about two to three thousand motor vehicles carry a lesser number of people. Then, what is important here is to whom priority should be given. We can see that the buses have been more effective by today. We should take future action according to the results received."
Viraj Hettige (Country manager of a Buying Office)
"According to my point of view I think that a part of the private vehicles should be encouraged to use the Cotta Road in order to lessen the difficulties caused to private vehicles by the pilot project. None of us are jumping for joy onto buses. Unfortunately, now we have to pick the best of unpleasant choices. As a senior citizen of the country, I implore that the members of Parliament should not to be puppets and simply approve what was proposed by the government."
"My ideas are not biased. To be honest with you, nobody likes sitting in traffic. We try to find the best ways to avoid traffic, in our routine travel to work, daily, so that we don't get late to work. As I feel the present government also will keep repeating what the then government was doing. Therefore I do not want to comment on this new project as well."
Prof. Amal Kumarage Department of Transport & Logistics Management, University of Moratuwa,
The week-long pilot-project of bus –priority lane will enable vehicles to travel about 23 kmph faster than today's crawling speed of between nine kmph, resulting in immense convenience for school children, office workers and hospital visitors.
During the pilot project we observed that from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. which are peak hours, about 118 buses travel carrying 4,720 commuters. 2,176 Private vehicles including cars, vans and tuk-tuks were on the roads at the same time and they carried 3,264 passengers. These figures make it clear that more passengers travelled in buses than in private vehicles. In my opinion, traffic congestion on roads decreases when more people travel by bus.
What is being done is a project which is an experiment for a week. No decision has been made whether this project will be implemented further or not.
(PIX BY SAJEEWA CHINTHAKA)
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