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On The Rough Road To Decongest Mumbai

In city bustling with 18 million people and with an equally startling number of vehicles registered every year,the solution to the ever-worsening traffic congestion,according to the state government at least,is to build sea links,flyovers and other ambitious mega projects.

Written by Swapnil Rawal |
May 11, 2009 11:18:48 pm

Traffic management with simple,low-cost solutions is possible,says Ashok Datar

In city bustling with 18 million people and with an equally startling number of vehicles registered every year,the solution to the ever-worsening traffic congestion,according to the state government at least,is to build sea links,flyovers and other ambitious mega projects. But for city-based transportation expert Ashok Datar,one solution to the mammoth task lies in simple,disciplined traffic management,with minimal investment.

With an aim to make the authorities more accountable and to insist that they take up traffic management schemes,Datar,of the Mumbai Environmental Social Network,has launched a website mesn.org to address Mumbai’s most challenging issue. “Since government officials don’t analyse the situations and look for simple,achievable solutions,we have to make them accountable as it is our money that is invested in projects,” Datar says. He adds,“I fail to understand why the authorities don’t adopt simple traffic management means to resolve the congestion in various areas in the city instead of investing crores of rupees in mega projects,which take years to come through and fail to solve the problem.”

The Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN) is an NGO focused on providing discipline and governance-oriented information and solutions to the growing traffic congestion. According to him,growing traffic congestion and deteriorating services for commuters is not an issue for coffee table discussion any more. The traffic jams are spreading across the city and the concept of peak hours has given way to slow-moving traffic throughout the day on the main arterial roads,he points out. Hundreds of crores are spent every year for widening roads and adding new flyovers but traffic jams persist.

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“We want to inform and engage Mumbaikars about this issue. While implementing rail projects,we should focus on collection of ‘intelligent information’ on traffic and transportation in Mumbai,undertake projects in traffic management through governance and focus on parking management,which is ignored in Mumbai,” he adds.

For Datar,who has been in the city since the last 35 years,the passion to learn about traffic management began soon after he arrived in Mumbai from New Delhi. “I was paid quite well by the standards of that time,with a car at my disposal,but I used public transport to commute,” he recalls. Datar,a management graduate from Stanford University,had been nurturing this passion for traffic management even while working with multinational finance firms. “Even then I used to believe that parking on streets should not be free despite the vehicle density being very low then. And I still advocate higher parking fees in the city,” he states.

Datar,along with a small team,has highlighted certain solutions with unique concepts and designs with close coordination with traffic police and municipal authorities. “Some concepts we used as per the issue and area range from lane management,use of space under the flyovers,carving out bus lanes wherever possible,even under constraints,dedicated right turn lanes at junctions to reduce conflict and improve throughput,use of videography to compare the “Before” and “After” situations,” he says. He adds that solutions based on these concepts are being implemented at Mahim,Haji Ali,proposed under the Vakola flyover as well as traffic junctions at Chembur Naka,Prateeksha Nagar and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

But the road to decongest Mumbai hasn’t been smooth for him. “We constantly compile data from RTI applications. We suggest concepts but they are not implemented easily. It is only after repeated efforts that they get convinced,” he says.

The website also encourages citizen’s participation with a system to write in to Datar regarding issues or suggesting low-cost solutions.

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