Reasons for Traffic Jam: An Observation
TRAFFIC jam is not a new phenomenon in Dhaka city - only getting acute of late. It has become a common scene in different parts of the city ever since migrations started from the rural areas. With the increase in number of migrants, the city experienced a huge rush of rickshaws and also motorized vehicles resulting in unexpected jam on the city roads.
Dhaka city's population growth rate was the fastest during the period 1961-74 when the then East Pakistan then Bangladesh experienced several disasters (Siddiqui, 1996). In recent years, the growth of Dhaka city has been the consequence of net migration beside other factors. The city could not cope with the influx of migrants from the rural areas as job opportunities and physical infrastructure did not grow in proportion. Most of the city-dwellers are from the lower middle income group and rickshaw is the most popular mode of transportation with them. People from the rural areas can at least expect to be gainfully employed by pulling rickshaws in the city, which they could rarely think of in their villages. In 1988, there were 220,000 rickshawpullers in Dhaka city for against 88,000 rickshaws (licensed and unlicensed) owned by 40,000 people (Islam, 1988). However, the present and exact number is not available.
There are a lot of reasons for traffic jam in Dhaka city, such as plying unusable and unfit transports, unskilled drivers, bad and narrow roads, inappropriate traffic system, and lack of proper training on traffic system, lack of awareness etc. Another important reason is that manually driven transports run alongside the high-power engine driven ones on all roads with a few exceptions. The number of traffic police is too small to control such a mixed traffic. Millions of man-hours are wasted due to traffic jam on the way.
The old part of the city, Maghbazar turn, Malibagh and Mouchak turn, Jatrabari area, Mirpur Road, Mirpur area, New Market area, Tejgaon turn, Gabtoli bus stand, Gulistan, Mohakhali and Hatirpool are known to be the most congested areas. In Dhaka city, roads are not wide enough and the existing number of roads is not adequate either. Inadequacy of bus services has encouraged proliferation of rickshaws which is the main reason for traffic jam.
It is found that if one bus of 80-seat capacity was introduced in the city, the need for more than 30 smoke-spewing autorickshows would diminish. Hence environment pollution would be reduced. If another bus of the same capacity is introduced the need for 50 rickshaws would diminish. Most rickshaws ply on the roads without legal documents.
In this observation, the cases of jam in narrow alleys have not been included. Magh Bazar, Malibagh, Bangla Motor, Jatrabari, New Market, Gulistan turns, and Mirpur circle ten, Saidabad area, Tejgaon turn were visited from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Twenty-three cases of jam were observed. When a long queue of rickshaws and automobiles was observed we immediately made our way to the front of the queue and tried to find the reasons for the jam.
With a few exceptions, signal lights were found to play a very insignificant role in directing vehicles due to police ineffectiveness and drivers' disregard for traffic regulations. Different reasons were observed from one jam area to another. Among them, obstruction of vehicles on the road during peak hours by policemen and altercations between drivers on the way were the highest (17 per cent), while absence and ineffectiveness of the police accounted for 12 per cent of the causes of jams.
Police were found ineffective when jams started. They, in most cases, allegedly and apparently remain busy in collecting tolls from heavily loaded trucks and other contractions.
Traffic jam on Tejgaon Sat Rasta Mor is caused due to structural reasons. There is a roundabout where seven roads meet. However, the islands on the roads have been built unnecessarily big occupying a large space of the busy roads. Trucks and containers are kept on the roads in such a way that these roads have virtually become depots for these vehicles. Bus drivers going to the airport, Gazipur and Joydevpur stop just on the turn to pick up passengers.
Reasons for traffic jam on the Mouchak turn is different from that of Tejgaon. Vehicles waiting in queue on Malibagh road to go to Rampura or Biswa Road block the entire roadway behind. Narrowness of the road seems to be the main cause of traffic jam in this area. Most often traffic police do not follow the signal light to direct vehicles, they are found puzzled. These reasons are almost same as in other jam cases in other areas.
Time factor is also responsible for traffic jam. City experiences less jam during holidays. Severity of jam increases from 8:15 a.m. and it continues till 10.00 p.m., while severity decreases to some extent between 11.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m.
But in the city cannot continue this way. The authorities must find a solution and now. Besides Government departments, the NGOs can also play a very important role in reducing the traffic jam that has been paralyzing the city life. They can approach the donors for seeking financial assistance in this regard. The government in collaboration with the NGOs might take the following steps as an initiative to eliminate traffic jam from the capital city.
• They can make some important and busy roads rickshaw free, and adequate bus service could be introduced there.
• They can arrange short course training programme for the traffic police on regular basis and recruit more traffic police. Expert consultants can be hired from abroad for a limited period for proper guidelines.
• NGOs can arrange short course training programme on traffic system for all kinds of drivers in phases. A compensation package should be arranged for the time taken from them for participating in the course.
• Leaflet containing the traffic system, traffic law, and punishment for law-breakers can be distributed widely.
• They can persuade the suffering public who may help build public opinion in favour of widening the roads.
• They can build fly-overs. Even the NGOs can themselves take the initiative to build fly-over in some particular turns. The cost can be recovered through collecting tolls from the users.
• Link roads can be made to divert traffic
• Campaign against rickshaw pulling to make them understand that rickshaw pulling destroys one's vital power and hasten death and for other viable occupation made available.
• Although it might sound impractical but not impossible to fix surveillance camera for proper monitoring of the traffic system, and take exemplary measures to tighten the traffic system on important roads. These cameras cover few miles on straight roads.
• They can build some dividers that can facilitate the vehicle to turn to left. This side is supposed to be kept always clear for the vehicle to take the turn.
With rise in living standard the number of vehicles will normally increase, but this increase should commensurate with the road space available. To reduce intolerable traffic jam in Dhaka city some recommendations have been made on the basis of observations:
• Check illegal rickshaws and motor cars.
• Oblige/compel untrained and novice drivers to refrain from plying on the roads.
• Check delivery of illegal driving licenses and fitness certificates.
• Check establishment of garment factories in the city heart and decentralize them in the peripheries
• Check vehicles to stop on busy turns for lifting passengers.
• Check illegal occupation of road space by rickshaws, trucks, hawkers and roadside shopowners.
• Repair roads as and when required, not keep it pending for even a week.
• Increase level of awareness about traffic law among the drivers as well as the common people, and
• Check traffic police and others concerned from being bribed by drivers.
In conclusion, one has to say that for a long-term effective solution of the menacing traffic problem, the rural-urban migration must be checked. The authorities must ponder over and find some viable alternatives for the migrants without losing much time.