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The Financial Express

Dealing with traffic gridlocks in city


Dealing with traffic gridlocks in city

Traffic congestion in Dhaka city has long been taking a heavy toll on five sectors. These are working hour loss, additional fuel consumption, pavement damage, accident during peak hour, and environmental impact, thus causing a daily loss of Tk 1.53 billion.

The amount of annual economic loss has been estimated to be at Tk 560 billion.

Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has estimated the economic loss soon after withdrawal of the Covid-induced lockdown when people started coming out of their home.

Although educational institutions, hostels, halls and many offices are still closed, Dhaka is reeling from nagging congestion like the normal time.

ARI estimated Tk 370 billion annual economic loss due to traffic congestion in Dhaka in 2018.

According to an ARI study, two new sectors have been incorporated in the last year's calculation - pavement damage, and accidents at junctions during peak hours.

Earlier, three sectors were considered for estimating the congestion-related loss - cut in working hour, extra fuel consumption, and environmental impact.

In 2020, the number of trips was reduced due to the Covid pandemic. Trip was reduced by 44 per cent for those who used to go to office five days a week, while it had dropped by 68 per cent for those who used to go to office three or four days a week. But Dhaka has returned to gridlock from lockdown.

In the 2020 estimation, the average cost of per working hour has been estimated at Tk 70. The study has calculated 25 million trips generated daily in Dhaka, 60 per cent of which are working trips.

The average speed of vehicles in the city has declined to 6.5 kilometres per hour, which will further drop to four km per hour by next three years, if this situation continues.

According to an estimate, people waste 19 million working hours per day, whose economic value is Tk 1.37 billion. As per findings of the World Bank, the average speed situation in Dhaka city is alarming. The more the speed reduces, the higher the loss becomes.

The study also found that 40 per cent additional fuel is burned during traffic congestion. The economic value of this additional fuel is Tk 42 million.

The economic value of environmental impact due to congestion, which increases air pollution and causes people's death by various respiratory diseases, is Tk 87 million.

It was found during the research that 40 per cent accidents occur at the junctions during peak hours, as everybody wants to cross the signal hurriedly.

Of those accidents, police personnel keep the record of fatalities and injuries only, although property damage should also be considered along with those.

In the research, only fatal and serious accidents have been considered, whose economic value is Tk 16 million per day. The amount would have been much higher, if actual information could be made available.

According to normal practice, pavement damage due to traffic congestion is considered globally for calculation. It was found that resilient modulus of the pavement lifecycle reduces by 30 per cent when loading time (pulse width) becomes longer on roads. The economic value of the pavement damage is Tk 0.82 million daily on the 200 km major arterial roads in the city.

The road network in the city is around 3,000 km. But ARI research has considered 200 km of major roads, where vehicles from different districts ply with heavy load.

Dhaka experienced a traffic congestion trend during the Covid outbreak, which was quite opposite to that of many other congestion-prone cities across the world.

 In 2020, the number of trips reduced due to the Covid pandemic.

The average speed of vehicles in the city has declined to 6.5 kilometres per hour, which will further drop to four km per hour by next three years, if this situation continues.

As per the World Bank, the average speed situation in Dhaka city is alarming. The more the speed reduces, the higher the loss becomes. The study also found that 40 per cent additional fuel is burned during traffic congestion. The economic value of this additional fuel is Tk 42 million.

According to analysts, traffic gridlock causes economic losses by eating up travel time and burning of excess fuel. It also causes environmental damage and road accidents.

Experts blamed lack of transport infrastructure, poor traffic management, illegal car parking, too little footpath and pedestrians' facility and absence of separate lane for bus for the city's nagging traffic jam. The mixed traffic flow of motorised and non-motorised vehicles on the road is also a contributing factor.

To reduce congestion and thus economic losses, public transport systems, especially bus services, must be improved by allocating a separate lane for passenger bus in the capital.

Indeed, an overwhelming number of recklessly driven public transports are contributing to the intense traffic jams and the lack of road safety. Successive governments had taken up a number of short-term plans like the construction of overpasses and underpasses for vehicles, connecting roads, bypasses, and east-west roads, but a few of those initiatives were implemented so far.

Over the years efforts have been made for the improvement of traffic management. Unfortunately, many of such initiatives went in vain. In spite of launching synchronised signal system, the traffic police are seen controlling traffic signal of busy intersections manually.

Urgent attention should also be given to effective control of the movement of buses in and around the metropolis. Bus stoppages do need to be moved away from all traffic intersections. There has to be an effective end to random stopping along busy streets blocking smooth passage of other vehicles, as well. There is no doubt that such a problem is also contributing to severe traffic jam.

The government needs to consider enhancing the road networking capacity of the city. All other measures are also called for, in order to effectively deal with the situation. Given the will, it is certainly not impossible to make a considerable difference to the currently prevailing acute state of traffic jam.

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