Published:  12:56 AM, 22 May 2022

Traffic management in Dhaka should be further modernized

Nothing seems to have worked with the capital's traffic signal system even after spending Tk 119 crore over the last 15 years. Its method of controlling traffic flow on the roads remains as primitive as ever, with traffic policemen jumping right in front of running cars and using their hands to direct vehicular movement. Even ropes, cones and bamboo fences are used to control the extremely disorderly city traffic.

Dhaka ranked 10th in terms of poor traffic management among 228 cities in the World Traffic Index 2020, and to substantiate the veracity of the ranking, one only needs to go out in a motorized vehicle during office hours. Almost every working day, city roads get clogged by thousands of vehicles of every description from dawn to dusk. According to Buet's Accident Research Institute (ARI), in 2021, the country lost an estimated Tk 55,685 crore because of traffic congestion in Dhaka city.

Over the last 15 years, the government has spent Tk 119 crore to upgrade Dhaka's traffic signal system. The plan involved some ambitious experiments to modernize the capital's traffic control system, including digitizing signal lights and installing timer countdown and digital display boards in some major intersections.

But nothing seems to have worked, as traffic in the city of more than 1.5 crore people remains as chaotic. In some cases, it has turned worse as traffic cops reverted to the old system of manual control, using their stretched hands to control vehicular movement.

It is no surprise that urban transport experts blame an unworkable traffic management system and unrealistic projects for the situation. They also point to impractical permits given to new vehicles that are way beyond the road capacity, contributing to the traffic congestion. Poor road conditions, defective public transport, jaywalking and movement of non-motorized vehicles also contribute to worsening the tailback. The following remarks by BUET experts are quite telling: "We are allowing vehicles without considering the road capacity. No signal system will work with this existing pressure of vehicles. We must think of striking a balance between road capacity and number of vehicles."

In their bid to modernize the capital's traffic control system, a number of ambitious projects have been undertaken over the past decades, including digitizing signal lights, installing countdown timers and digital display boards installed at some major intersections. But experts say that in many cases, projects were taken up without considering the rising number of vehicles and overall road conditions. Also, the system was initiated based on a flawed plan, without taking traffic volume and speed into consideration. As a result, after expensive trials and errors, officials of the two city corporations and the traffic police department were forced to ditch the new signal systems and return to manual traffic management. We urge the traffic management authorities to find a system that really works for our fast-growing capital.

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