Monday, June 15, 2015

You are not stuck in traffic, you are ‘the traffic’ that you resent so much!

A bus full of people reduces about 50-80 vehicles from roads. A train coach will reduce about 100 vehicles if it reaches where the need is. 

"A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation."

You are not stuck in traffic, you ARE the traffic!’ – Originally a slogan from Copenhagen to promote sustainable means of transport has become a timely reminder for many city planners and administrators in the 21st Century. It is quite self-sympathising and self-deluding to believe that ‘I am stuck in traffic’ – as if there is a larger conspiracy to do so. Smart motorists realise that they are also contributor to the problem of traffic and they cannot get away by putting the blame on others for driving just like them. Recently I have been guilty of adding one more car in the city by buying one. The more I drive the car, the more I realise how I am contributing to the problem.
When you are a car driver, you would like wider roads and less traffic coming your way. Wider roads, free parking and smoother functioning of traffic coupled with lack of efficient public transport compel a lot of people to take up driving. Yet we have a very low car ownership in the country compared to many industrialised countries. For example, the US have about 750 cars per thousand people and we have not even reached about 100 motor vehicles per thousand people. In short, motor vehicles will be growing at unprecedented rates and we will have to learn to deal with this problem like other countries.
Cities around the world are realising that unlimited supply of wider roads and flyovers is not possible. These conventional solutions of keep building ‘roads over roads’ are not economically or environmentally sustainable. By building a maze of flyovers and by allowing relentless traffic, Delhi has attracted the worst air pollution, unsafe roads and never-ending traffic. Besides, who likes to live in a city, which has a jumble of flyovers on every junction but hardly any sight of greens! Even car drivers are not happy with these solutions because they neither get wide roads nor smoothly operated traffic. As new owners add more and more vehicles, the once-upon-a-time nice roads to drive on get congested.
Many cities have realised that they need to make ‘life-style changes’ to solve the problem of their clogged arteries and some by-passes here and they will not help in the long run. As Petro Gustavo - the mayor of Bogota famously said, “A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” Promoting public transport and making it so efficient and affordable that a majority uses it is a challenge worth taking up.
A bus full of people reduces about 50-80 vehicles from the roads. A metro train coach will reduce about 100 vehicles provided it reaches where the need is. Many vehicle drivers will not mind walking short distances or taking public transport provided there are better facilities. Cities in Gujarat have surely made a good beginning in these directions compared to many other Indian cities but they will need to do much more. Over the last few years, the awareness amongst the citizens about the benefits of public transport is growing. This needs to be now backed up with the adequate investments, long-term plans and efficient implementation. Good governance gives us possibilities of being a solution to the problem and not only the contributors. Hope, we get our due!

(15th June, 2015: DNA Ahmedabad edition, Cities Supplement, Page 5)

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