This year the construction of metro rail in the city has added to the usual rush ahead of the Eid-ul Fitr. Traffic congestions spill onto other city roads, as two, out of four to six lanes, are occupied for constructing the 20-kilometre metro rail route.
Almost all motorised vehicles move at a very slow pace through the main metro rail corridor to and from Motijheel via Mirpur, Uttara, Gulshan and other areas of the city.
Commuters say they remain stranded in traffic jams for one to three hours every day during peak hours. They also have to suffer a lot on the way home after office hours.
This correspondent monitored the travel time on the city roads for two days recently and found that the vehicles were moving at a pace of four to six kilometres per hour.
It was also found that the vehicles remained stuck between traffic signals at different intersections and crossings.
According to transport engineers, the road mobility is best, when the vehicle-to-capacity ratio remains below 90 per cent. That means at least 10 per cent free-space on roads is needed to ensure the best level of mobility.
They say most of the city roads get saturated as the ratio crosses 100 per cent.
After the start of Ramadan, traffic congestions usually get worse due to internal migration as people including rickshaw-pullers come to Dhaka from different districts.
Jahan Ara, who regularly travels a short distance from Kamalapur Railway Station to Paltan Crossing, said it took an hour to reach her office. "We cannot even walk on the pavement as those are occupied by street vendors," she said.
Transport experts alleged that the authorities concerned focused their attention on mega projects and long-term solution but they did nothing to bring discipline on streets.
Moazzem Hossain, an expert in transportation engineering, said the authorities concerned could avoid worsening traffic situation only by focusing their attention on improving the bus operating system, signalling system, freeing roads and footpaths from illegal occupants, strengthening institutional capacity, etc.
"The government is taking up billion-dollar projects but does not pay attention to immediate solutions," Dr Moazzem, also a civil engineering professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), told the FE.
Prof M Shamsul Haque, an expert in transportation safety, said the city is facing 'unmanageable' traffic situation and saturated roads as land use development with traffic impact assessment (TIA) is ignored.
"This is a man-made problem and we are facing the music," Dr Haque said citing an example of allowing buildings without proper TIA and assessing the vehicle/capacity ratio during vehicle registration.
The BUET teacher also blamed the government for not strengthening the capacity of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, etc as regulatory authorities.
Like the central bank, he said, the regulatory authority must declare TIA policy every six months with necessary directions to keep the vehicle to capacity ratio under control.
According to a study conducted in line with the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) in 2015, Dhaka city generated 29.8 million trips daily increasing at a rate of 3.8 per cent.
The study conducted in 2014 also found roads saturated at some key points including Rokeya Sarani, Farmgate and Shahbagh.
The streets are occupied most by small vehicles instead of public transports. According to the BRTA, only 1.2 per cent out of 2.5 million registered vehicles are buses. Motorcycles are now 65 per cent of total vehicles, the experts said.
But the RSTP study projected an increase by 13 million trips in 2025 from the level in 2014 due to the population growth, increase in incomes and education facilities.
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