THE failure to effectively run the automated traffic signal system set up in Dhaka earlier is worrying. The authorities have recently spent millions on projects to automate traffic signalling but almost nothing improved as the traffic in the city is still administered with manual signals while traffic in no other major city in the world is manually governed because of the risks and hazards of manual signalling. Manual traffic management is said to be a reason for the increase of accidents that claim many lives every year. The failure to automate the signal system has also contributed by a large measure to the unbearably slow traffic in the capital. It comes, therefore, as no surprise when the World Traffic Index 2020, published by the largest user-contributed database Numbeo, ranks Dhaka in the 11th position in terms of worst traffic management among 228 cities. It is also not surprising to note what a 2017 World Bank study reveals that the average traffic speed in the capital dropped in 10 years, from 21 kilometres an hour to 7 kilometres, slightly above the average walking speed.
All this points not only to the sorry state that Dhaka’s traffic is mired in but also to the lack of concerted efforts to formulate and implement any effective traffic management policy. Different authorities such as the city authorities, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority appear to have failed to put in coordinated efforts to automate the signal system and ease traffic congestion. Automated traffic signals were installed in 70 major crossings in the city at a cost of Tk 13 crore under the World Bank-funded Dhaka Urban Transport Project in 2005 and the signals went out of order within a few years for lack of maintenance. The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority is, as New Age reported on Saturday, now implementing the pilot Dhaka Integrated Traffic Management Project at a cost of Tk 50 crore which, as the implementing agency says, would install an intelligent transport system using CCTV cameras, ultrasonic vehicle detectors and image detectors to count the number of vehicles and pedestrians on a 300-metre stretch in crossings in four directions to pave the way for automated signals. Road transport experts, however, doubt if the project would work and they described it as an isolated initiative.
The government, the city authorities and other agencies concerned must, therefore, work out a comprehensive, effective plan to automate traffic signalling and put the installed automated signal system to its proper use. The government must also realise that a failed traffic system pushes Dhaka towards becoming an unliveable, unsafe city.
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