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Decongesting Traffic in Mumbai

In a city that’s bustling with over 18 million people, Mumbai, the financial capital of India is more populated than likes Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Washington DC all put together. To manage mobility within the city is a huge task on the administration that is grappling with traffic congestion and health hazzards from pollution. The article attempts to provide a solution to the evergrowing traffic congestion problems for Mumbai.

In a city that’s bustling with over 18 million people, Mumbai, the financial capital of India is more populated than countries like Greece, Netherlands, Belgium or the Portugal or for that matter cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Washington DC  all put together.  Add to this the growing number of immigrants and the pressure on transportation systems, travelling 8 miles within the city could just take as much time as to travel from Hartford to New York by road (117 miles).

The city has one of the most sophisticated public transportation system with a network of railways, public bus, public transportation systems like rickshaws, taxis, radio cabs but all these put together do not quite meet the growing appetite for mobility within the city. Anybody who has travelled to the city would notice that following traffic rules and lane discipline is optional and those who exercise the option only double their time in reaching their destination.

What then is the solution for a city like Mumbai to manage the growing pressure on transportation? Should it follow London and create a congestion charging system, or follow Singapore’s policies of odd and even numbered cars on the road? I have attempted to put down some ideas which when implemented as a whole could be the key to getting ready for tomorrow if not improving the status of the city.

To start with let’s explore the key causes of traffic congestion in Mumbai

  • Increasing private vehicles & rickshaws
  • Jaywalking/Cattle & Stray dogs
  • Vehicle Breakdown
  • Accidents
  • Potholes/ Under Construction activities & repairs
  • Parking
  • Lack of Driving Discipline

The Solution

Managing traffic in Mumbai rests on four pillars – Infrastructure, Policies, Transport Solutions and Law Enforcement. These when implemented in a phased wise manner could help us take the bull by the horns

Stage 1 onwards

Timeframe: <2 yrs

Infrastructure

  • Pipelines dig-outs should be parallel to the roads on footpath with collapsible flooring options
  • Station Roads to be one way roads.
  • Separate lanes for two-wheelers

Policies

  • Create one-way traffic routes and avoid cross-roads on busy lanes.
  • All road maintenance and repair work to be done only at night time

Transport Solutions

  • Increase BEST buses (AC & Non-AC) and routes, make them direct to take the shortest route.  This will be a substitute for cars. Also increases buses on point to point services.
  • Rickshaw stands at designated areas and call-for-rickshaw facility

Traffic Management Enforcement

  • Implement a pre-paid transponder + cash toll collection based congestion charge(with auto debit facility) for vehicles (including auto/taxi) entering CBDs during peak hours. This is however not a long term solution as there will still be congestion at entry points*
  • All entry & exit points points to SEEPZ, Nariman Point, Dadar, Bandra (W) and BKC (detailed below). This should be a significant amount.
  • Enforce lane driving
  • Towing vans at regular intervals.
  • Stopping on busy lanes to attract a fine. Have specific points for stopping

Stage 2

Timeline: 2-5 years

Infrastructure

  • Vertical Parking lots in CBDs and key roads like link rd, linking rd, LBS, DN Rd etc
  • Introduce subways for key crossing joints and make jaywalking a punishable offence.

Policies

  • Penalize transportation trucks on busy lanes during peak hours and discount off-peak hour travel
  • Put a corruption check system in place for misuse of fines by law keepers

Transport Solutions

  • Metro rail services and AC train coach service on Western  and Central Railway

Traffic Management Enforcement

  • Put in place the State Vehicle Records system and  enforce uniform script and style for number plates
  • Activate camera based system for tracking vehicles stopping on a busy lane over a period of time. Cross check fine collected. This will ensure minimizing of corruption in the system

Stage 3

Timeline: 5-10 years

Infrastructure

  • System of Highways and cross link highways with four-lane roads. One way bridges wherever possible.

Transport Solutions

  • Integrated fleet management for all public transport – rail, bus and taxi

Traffic Management Enforcement

  • Move to a transponder + GPS based billing and payment system. Have separate lanes for vehicles registered in another state on a toll based system

Alternative transportation systems are a pre-requisite to decongest Mumbai. Without that any congestion charge /tax system will only result in an almost inelastic demand for private cars transportation. Any system without the alternative transport solutions will not result in a substantial reduction in traffic.

The congestion charge system like the one in London is levied to dissuade citizens from using private cars and shift to public transport. The congestion charge system like the camera based system may not work in the Mumbai scenario for lack of a computerized vehicle record system, bumper to bumper driving and influx of nationally registered vehicles.

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