Easing traffic jam | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, October 20, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, October 20, 2009

Easing traffic jam

An attempt to introduce new office timings to ease traffic congestion is a praiseworthy move by the authorities. However, we can only look at it as a minor measure since we would still have the same number of cars on the road, perhaps at different times.
Has anyone thought of the idea of 'car pooling' (sharing a single car by at least 3 people going on a similar route) to really reduce the number of vehicles on the roads?. In some countries, car pooling is promoted by employers and those taking part in this scheme are actually financially rewarded. Sometimes on motorways, there is a parallel fast lane, besides regular lanes which are earmarked only for cars carrying three passengers or more. Needles to say, those who use the fast lane reach their destination much quicker than those using the normal lanes.
In Dhaka city, the major offenders to traffic jams during mornings and afternoons are the English medium schools and we see that their timings have not really been affected much by the recent cabinet decision. Their start time has been set at between 7 and 8:30am and finish time from 1 to 2:30pm. This means that most schools will not have to change their current timings as almost all of them already operate within these hours, creating horrendous jams in areas like Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani, Uttara, Airport Road and other places.
What could have made more of an impact would have been if schools were asked to introduce a car pool system. It is often seen that several children live near each other, sometimes in the same apartment block. Car pooling is not a very savoury idea in our culture; indeed some parents might be too status conscious to allow their children to ride in others' cars, especially if they have three cars of their own!! But if this is done by a mandatory order from the school authorities, there would be about one-third or at best half of the total number of cars we see now, during school drop-off and pick-up hours.
A few years ago, I had approached a very big English-medium school with this car-pooling idea to be launched as a school project during the International Environment week. It could be seen as the students' own contribution to a) reducing resource depletion, b) cutting down on pollution, and c) reducing traffic jams on roads, particularly near their school. I had also suggested that if this was sensitively handled, it could come as an environment-friendly initiative from the students themselves. In this way they could proudly take ownership of the idea and be encouraged to become aware of such vital issues that threaten our environment. And simultaneously with school support, they could get around the inhibitions of parents who might oppose the idea - for whatever reasons. Of course the actual implementation would have to be carefully planned and implemented with all the stakeholders school, guardians, senior students, even the police. They could have been an example for other schools to follow. But all this was in vain. The authorities thought it was a wonderful idea but failed to do anything.
The idea of car pooling may be taken up by other people too, including government, non-government offices, organisations, and all kinds of work and study places.
Finally, let us move on to the issue of the public transport system. An efficient and reliable public transport system is an absolute necessity for any mega city. A large fleet of clean, modern and well-maintained buses is essential, especially those without a conductor who insists on standing on the footboard in the doorway so that he can brush against women passengers when they are getting on and off. We need buses that keep time, halt at marked stops and go through their routes at quick, regular intervals without taking excess passengers or having gladiator fights with other buses on the same route. If that should happen and it would certainly need much less investment or time than building flyovers and sky trains, I would be the first to leave my car behind at home!

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