TRAFFIC congestion is a persistent problem in the capital. According to a study of Accident Research Institute, as New Age in reported on Sunday, capital’s worsening traffic congestion is costing about 50 lakh working hours a day and Tk 35,000 crore annually in monetary terms. At peak hours, average speed of vehicles goes down to five kilometres an hour. In addition to the loss of productive hours, the uncontrolled traffic also causes noise pollution, tension, and stress and accelerates the ageing process. The unruly traffic is contributing to high number of road accidents, particularly pedestrians falling victims of traffic accidents in the city. Even walking in the capital is not safe anymore. ARI found that fatality in walking mode is 9.25 times higher than that of using rickshaw. The study clearly suggests that fragmented and unprofessional bus operators, illegal occupation of footpath and parking created a chaotic traffic system, but situation can be improved, the cost of traffic congestion can be minimised at least by 60 per cent with an effective traffic management system. It is undoubtedly the failure of all authorities concerned that they have for so long could not come up with an effective solution for this persistent problem.
Experts for long have been blaming the lack of coordination between different authorities and unprofessional bus operators for the traffic situation in Dhaka. To prove their point, ARI drew a comparison between traffic situation in Dhaka and Mumbai. According to this comparative analysis, in Dhaka, 6,000 buses and minibuses can cover only 30 lakh trips every day, whereas in Mumbai, 48 lakh trips are covered every day by 3,600 buses. In Mumbai, a relatively better traffic system improved the situation. Contrastingly, in the capital, most of the footpaths are illegally occupied and major roads are crowded with illegal parking during the peak hours. The automated traffic signal mechanism is not functioning as per the plan. The situation further aggravates as unscrupulous and profits seeking public transport operators using their political influence are allegedly sabotaging any government drives to streamline traffic operations. Experts also alleged that the cause of the problem and solution to it are all in plain sight, what is lacking is the political will of the authorities concerned.
Therefore, it is high time that the government considered the proposal of the expert community to develop and enforce an integrated urban transport infrastructure encompassing commuter train, footpath, bicycle route, rickshaw and other public transport to ease the traffic congestion. For a real change in the public transport system in the capital, the incumbents must also dismantle the unholy nexus formed involving profiteering bus operators and government officials responsible for maintaining traffic system in the capital. To take the government to task, civil society bodies must continue to work as pressure group and mobilise support for a cost effective and realistic solution for traffic congestion.
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