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Misplaced traffic priorities

Saturday, November 05, 2011

MUMBAI’S traffic is clearly mismanaged, that we all know. Primarily, the reason behind this is that the city lacks a well thought out and documented ‘traffic policy’. 

And in its absence what is thrust upon the general public are ad-hoc measures, lack of co-ordination and misplaced priorities: Its consequence is chaos on the roads.

Take this for example: The cops give greater priority to catching and penalizing offenders rather than ensuring the smooth flow of traffic. You will therefore see a number of constables with perhaps an officer in tow in most places keeping an eye only to get the offender. In the bargain it does not matter if the traffic behind slows or even comes to a standstill. Worldwide, at least in leading cities, the priority is different. It is to ensure that the traffic flows smoothly. As for offenders, their vehicle number is taken and they are penalized later.

Then it’s about the ad hoc allocation of ‘pay parking’ on main and arterial roads. Double parking is another major issue and defeats all purposes of the road widening exercises undertaken in the recent years. Perhaps, a proper traffic policy’ which includes stricter penalties for traffic offenders would just be what the city needs.

And while we are at it, let’s take a look at the insensitivity of the department. For the last two days, a large number of constables, along with a towing van, stand outside the Saifee Hospital. The exercise is to ensure that nobody parks in front of the hospital. Incidentally, this bit of road is wider and the place was used for parking of bikes and cars mostly by patients’ relatives. Either way, with trees on part of the road, that bit was not used as carriageway. However, this little convenience in moments of distress has been taken away from them.

We have no complaint, if the decision was taken to ensure smooth flow of traffic across the stretch between Charni Road and Churchgate. But just a furlong away, cars of commercial complexes remain parked and that continues in major patches right up to the Income Tax head quarters. To add to this, between the Marine Lines stretch and IT Bhavan, half the area is allotted for ‘pay and park’. Here also drivers brazenly double park, converting the three-lane stretch into just one. On the opposite side, and bang near a traffic chowkie, tempos and gas distributing trucks merrily occupy or rather block road space. Yet the cops don’t seem to care.

Then why the priority outside the hospital?

Incidentally, the entire stretch outside the Charni Road station, which till recently had signs of No Parking after 3 pm, has suddenly seen the timing being changed.

Now you can park there between 15 and 20 hours, meaning between 3pm and 8 pm. Incidentally, the earlier intention was to ensure smooth north bound flow during the peak hours of the evening. Certainly, this is going to create more chaos that may stretch right up to Churchgate.

Wonder who takes such strategic and occasionally stupid decisions in the department.

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