Traffic Management-Operational Puzzle

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 3478 , Published on 07 May 2011

 India is growing at a high growth rate. This high growth has created lot of job opportunities as well as generated lot of wealth for people of India. This is particularly true in big cities where lots of people have migrated in search of jobs and opportunities.  This boom in growth has brought along with itself, the menace of traffic jams and chaos on the road. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore are totally choked with traffic. As of Feb 2011, there are 892 cars per kilometer in Mumbai. Everyday there 400 new cars get registered in Mumbai. Ideally, there should be about 300 cars per kilometer with 20 per cent free space between two vehicles. All this facts suggests that if we do not manage this enormously growing traffic, one day entire city will be choked. Traffic congestion results in slow speeds, long trip times and increased vehicular queuing.  Add to it, the environmental damage it causes in terms of emissions.


So the biggest question is how we reduce the traffic on the roads of big cities.  Roads are free for usage at any point and there is little financial incentive for driver not to overuse them. The only way to reduce road congestion is through economic incentives and disincentives. 

Typical Traffic Scenario

Congestion can be reduced by either increasing the road capacity (supply) or by reducing the traffic (demand). 

Some of the supply side measures include

•  Adding more capacity at the bottlenecks like building bridges, flyovers.

•  Adding the road capacity by increasing number of lanes.

•  Creating new routes

•  Traffic management improvements like traffic reporting via radio, GPS, or through SMS to advise road users.

In most of the cities in India government has already taken supply side measures where new bridges and flyovers are being built to combat the increasing traffic congestion but it is not proving adequate to improve traffic conditions.

It is imperative for the government now to implement demand side measures to reduce traffic congestion. Following are some of the demand side measures.

•  Parking Restrictions: Making cost of owning a vehicle increase, by increasing the monetary and non-monetary costs of parking, introducing greater competition for limited city or road space.

•  Park and Ride facilities: Allowing parking at a distance and allowing continuation by public transport or ride sharing.

•  Road Pricing or Congestion Pricing: Charging money for access onto a road/specific area at certain times, congestion levels or for certain road users.  London, Singapore, Stockholm has already implemented congestion pricing where a certain area, such as the inner part of a congested city, is surrounded with a cordon into which entry with a car requires payment.

•  Number Plate Restrictions:  Restricting cars on the road based on days of the week as practiced in several large cities of the world such as Athens, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Beijing. For example, in Beijing cars with number plate ending in 1&6 are not allowed on Mondays, 2&7 are not allowed on Tuesdays and this goes on. There are no restrictions on weekends and public holidays. And the number plate restrictions are revised every three months. This reduces traffic on the road and compels people to use public transport. Or the other option is to buy multiple cars which not everyone can afford.

•  Number Plate Auctions: In city like Shanghai, government decides the quota of new registered cars every month. In order to buy a car, one should have the number plate. These number plates are auctioned every month. The number plate approximately comes to 30% of the car’s price which increases overall price of the car along with number plate. So luxury comes at a price and not everyone can afford high prices cars.

•  High Occupancy Vehicle Lane (HOV Lane): The central concept for HOV lanes is to move more people rather than more cars. Each vehicle that travels on an HOV lane must carry the minimum number of people posted at the entrance signs. Violators are subjected to heavy fines. HOV lane concept is widely used in United States.

It’s high time that India should implement one or more these demand side measures. In order to support these measures, the city should have good public transport. Delhi, Mumbai already had better public transport as compared to rest of the country. The revenue collected through such measures can be used to develop public transport.  These measures will not only require political will but acceptance from the general public also. It’s up to us to make people realize the importance of this.



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