Take the madness out of traffic with the help of effective traffic management

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Take the madness out of traffic

 Effective traffic management saves both time and precious lives. If it takes a movie to drive home this point, so be it.

I watch movies very rarely, but I recently saw Chennaiyil oru naal. The central point is that a journey from Chennai to Vellore --- which otherwise takes four hours thanks to Chennai city traffic --- takes only two hours because a life is to be saved.

The police commissioner, in the film, acts with alacrity and instructs all his officials to stop traffic along the route in Chennai for the two hours that the crucial journey takes.

After crossing many hurdles, when the vehicle nears Vellore, there is a very crowded slum to be negotiated. This place is notorious for its processions and barricades. But the travellers fall back on the histrionic skills of a (Malayalam) film star to get by. He impresses on the slum residents the terrible urgency of the situation.



If saving a single life can cause so many behavioural changes, what about saving hundreds of lives in a city by bringing about behavioural and logistical changes? We cannot stop the traffic everyday for two hours as in the film. We do not transport a heart everyday from city to city. However, we do have a large number of ambulances plying across our cities, which presumably care about lives. These lives are not that of film stars — they are that of common men and women who also need such life-saving care.

To provide such healthcare we need to regulate traffic in our cities in mission mode, identify the points of strength (arterial roads that can handle more traffic) and the weaknesses too.

The high-powered expert committee (HPEC) on urban infrastructure set up by the Government of India suggested intelligent transport systems and area traffic control for class 1A cities (those with population greater than 5 million).

 The HPEC cites the example of transport-led planning for regional growth -- the Nehru Outer Ring Road of Hyderabad, which is an eight-lane expressway (158 km long) encircling an area of 3,000 sq. km around Greater Hyderabad, for which large parcels of land outside the area of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation have been freed up for development. This has helped divert traffic from the city centre and decongested the ring road. Mobility can be greatly enhanced through such long-term measures and intelligent traffic management, and not just on a single day.


Online taxi rental companies such as TaxiforSure and Ola rely on traffic data collected by their vehicles to improve fleet management and customer services. They are now interacting with traffic police and transport departments to share their insights. If updated information is provided, traffic police can ensure smoother flow of traffic and reduce scope for snarls.



Slum residents can be persuaded to pay taxes, to finance the provision of roads, solid waste and sanitation in these areas.

Our studies on slums in Bangalore and Chennai showed that such residents contribute substantially to the economy of these cities in the form of payment of taxes, generation of income, and contributing to public governance and voice.

In our study comparing the metropolitan areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, we found that while Mumbai dominated in economic dimensions such as per capita disbursal of credit, earned higher revenues, and spent the highest on public services, Chennai was better able to provide services such as sanitation and solid waste management, compared with the other metropolitan areas.

Since movies are vehicles of social change, film producers should focus on urban development and public services, too.

Date of Article: 
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The Business Line