The Great Traffic Crawl: ‘The worst is almost over’

Seven to eight km of barricading will be moved inward before this monsoon. And eventually, if the Metro reduces traffic on Western Express Highway by even 20 per cent, motorists will experience relief, promises Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Amitesh Kumar

| Published: May 17, 2018 3:02:59 am
Amitesh Kumar at Idea Exchange 

Is the focus of the traffic police only on policing traffic violators rather than managing traffic?

The first and foremost task for us is the management and regulation of traffic. The second is prevention of accidents or maybe both parallelly, and then it’s the enforcement. Enforcement is only important because we have to create a level of deterrence. Educational awareness has to be coupled with some amount of enforcement where we are able to create deterrence. And that’s how we have made a rule that in the peak hours, constables or officers on the street will not indulge in enforcement.

How do you plan to handle the oncoming monsoon season with roads dug up for Metro construction?

I would say that the worst is almost getting over now because we just had a review meeting and now we are trying to take the Metro barricades inside. Wherever pillars have come up and girders have been put, we have now told them to take the barricades inside and even if any divider work has to be done, it can be done post-monsoon. But till that time they are already in the process of putting the barricades inside. Out of 17 kilometres of carriageway taken up, they have promised that by May 31, they would be able to take 7-8 kilometres of barricading inside. So now I would say that the worst is getting over.

Will you support the idea of congestion pricing for Mumbai?

I’ll not be able to give a view on that, but after the Metro you’ll have to take an overview as to what is going to be the situation in the next 10-15 years, in terms of once the coastal road comes up – both the phases – the Metro is totally operational, the trans-harbour line comes through. We’ll have to see what we can do in terms of parking space. We’re trying to convince the agencies involved and we need to have multilevel parking, we need to have more parking spaces, we need to create at least more than 1-1.5 lakh car parking spaces in maybe the next 5-10 years.

Secondly, we have to have some restrictions or some modality where the purchase of vehicles is controlled. If we have a very very efficient public transport system, that would motivate people to buy lesser vehicles. Number two, we are working out how we can improve last-mile connectivity because after the Metro, the issue would be about last-mile connectivity.

Do you think we can experiment with the odd-even formula?

At this stage we are not prepared to experiment with something like this. But there has to be a thought process and we are trying to study it. We have to provide an alternative to people. We have to take steps to de-congest traffic; odd-even is one, changing office timings is another step which we are studying and thinking about. So if we are supposed to do something that puts strain on the local trains, do you think the locals have the capacity to take it? So we have to look at the overall perspective and say today at this point, we are not in a position to experiment with anything like that, but we have to take steps for de-congesting traffic.

Finally I would say, for the delight of Mumbaikars, the moment even one stretch of Metro gets operational, it is going to be a huge relief. Ideally speaking, we need to reduce traffic on WEH, and our studies say that even if we reduce it by 20 per cent, it would sort out the issues to a very, very large extent, but how we can provide alternative routes is a question.

The WEH is a temporary congestion, the worst congestion phase is getting over – already I’d say that last month, the speed on WEH was 15 km/hr. It is an unofficial estimate taken from Ola and Uber cabs. It is now increasing to around 21-22 km/hr at the moment. From Kalanagar to Dahisar toll naka, you will notice 27 km will take around more than an hour.

Could you take us through how the e-challan system is faring?

It was a pilot project without any cost to the government at the moment and we have run it successfully in the last one year. We have generated approximately 20,00,000 challans through the e-challan devices. So, it certainly brought in more transparency and lesser allegations of corruption, so overall this system has now sustained itself. In the second part, we have integrated challans with 5,213 CCTVs installed under Mumbai City Surveillance Project.

In the last one year, I think we have generated something like 12,00,000 challans through the CCTV cameras. Recently we have started the Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. There are 50 of them activated since January and we have started it full-fledged from March. In March, we could generate something like 90,000 challans for violation of the speed limit at various stretches. So, overall our reach has increased.

In the last one year we have been able to generate around 35,00,000 challans through the e-challan, through the CCTV, etc. Earlier, this figure used to be 20-21 lakh, so our reach has increased. Finally the idea is not to increase the enforcement figures but to take it to a particular level where we are able to create enough deterrence among people that they should start voluntarily complying with rules.

At present 52 per cent of the challans have been paid. Earlier, when there used to be a manual system, 85-90 per cent of the challans used to be paid because they were paid on the spot. Today, although the figure is 52 per cent, the challan is going to stay in the system. Even if you don’t pay within six months, you don’t pay within a year, whenever you get caught you have those pending challans in the system and you will have to pay up at some stage. Finally we will integrate it with the RTO licencing system. We would actually ideally think of exploring possibilities of integrating it with the insurance agencies so that whenever they go to renew their insurance or if they put an insurance claim or wherever they interact with those agencies, they will have to pay.

What kind of emails do you receive from commuters?

I would say that 25-30 per cent of those would be about challans. People contest that the challan was inappropriate. We get a complaint that ‘I was traveling in a four-wheeler, how can you send me a challan for not wearing a helmet?’ It is because the image is of a motorcyclist not wearing a helmet, but even if one digit is punched in wrong then the challan goes to the four-wheeler guy. But we are able to immediately rectify it. The moment the mail comes, you have the image, you check up and you know if you’ve faltered, you immediately cancel it, tell them that you’ve cancelled it and generate the challan in the next guy’s number.

Of the rest, at least 50 per cent of those relate to daily commuting issues and we get a feel of what are the issues plaguing the minds of the commuters. You get a feel as to how the Western Express Highway is behaving, how the JVLR is behaving, how the Marine Drive is behaving.

How many black spots has the traffic police mapped in the city?

We have mapped 52 black spots. There are certain parameters on the basis of which we identify the black spots. We get into immediate short-term measures like increased enforcement around the premises of the black spots, and the target we have set for ourselves is that we should not let an accident happen at a black spot again.

We also have a committee comprising the traffic police and the planning agency concerned to assess what is the reason for an accident to happen there. Then there are mid-term solutions like a speedbreaker, or lighting or a signage within a month or so. And then we see whether the long-term engineering design has to change.

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