No more sporadic effort to address city traffic chaos

THE government’s plan to reinstall sensor-based signals, which can assess queues of vehicles stuck in congestion and instantly feed the information into the automated control system at the crossing for systematic dispersal, at 70 points in the capital in its efforts to improve the city’s traffic management has raised questions. To this end, as New Age reported on Tuesday, it has already undertaken a pilot project to be implemented by the two city corporations and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, under which sensor-based automatic signal system is likely to come into operation in four crossings in December. If the 36.38-crore project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency becomes successful, as officials said, they will go for the full implementation of the integrated traffic management project. Many experts such as the director of the Accident Research Centre at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology are, however, reported to have opposed it as it will be a costly journey back to 2005 when the then Dhaka City Corporation installed a similar traffic management system in the 70 crossings of the capital at the cost of Tk 13 crore under a World Bank-funded project only for it to become ineffective soon.
Even officials doubted the efficacy of such signals in a metropolis with acute shortage of roads. Besides, the absence of a single government authority to handle the issue has complicated the problem as there is now virtually none to be held account for the traffic mismanagement in the capital. Successive government initiatives, costly but unrealistic, failed to improve the city’s chaotic traffic in the past 11 years. In 2014, timer countdown devices were installed in 70 crossings at the cost of more than Tk 96 lakh. Earlier, the government also installed 31 digital display boards at key points of the city spending Tk 27 crore. All these steps have already become mere show-pieces, waiting to be replaced with the new mechanism in question as the city traffic management has been done manually by the police for long. Allegations are there that the situation has enabled some unscrupulous officials belonging to different government agencies to sell the city traffic problem to their respective higher authorities in their own interests while there is a group of contractors enjoying the blessings of the government and desperate to anyhow make money cashing in on the situation, leaving city dwellers in the lurch.
According to a UNDP study conducted in 2015-16, traffic congestions in the city costs $4.6 billion a year in terms of lost time, waste of fuel, health consequences and other losses. It certainly reinforces the necessity for an early solution to the problem. But for this to happen, as experts suggested, the government should immediately come out of its ‘amateurish experiments’ on resolving the issue and adopt a holistic approach about it. Rights groups alongside city dwellers also need to raise their voice in this regard.

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