Saturday, August 1, 2009

Crowded Chennai roads - why not government do something about it?

Imagine a place sprinkled with 100s of ants, flies, cockroaches, dogs, buffaloes, and huge elephants. The traffic situation in Chennai looks equally awful. During the peak hour you can see pedestrians getting stranded... surrounded by 2 wheelers, autos, cars, vans, and big buses. There is no patience, there is no tolerance and there is no respect for life. Everyone wants to go first. Traffic rules are just buried into the books. Policemen are helpless. In this part of the world, violations have become the NORM, obeying has become an EXCEPTION. Why not government do something about it?

Traveling by bus is really a pain. The frequency of the bus is poor or the buses are heavily crowded. You should know the knack of getting in & out of a crowded bus. Otherwise, your life would be tough. When people get a descent income, they buy a two wheeler. Moreover, there is lots of financing/credit facilities that make owning a vehicle easy. The result - two wheeler traffic has exploded in the last 10 years. The peak hour traffic moves inch by inch. Politicians don't see the pain themselves because when a politician goes on the road, the traffic is blocked/cleared so that the politician's vehicle can cruise through.

My common sense tells me that increasing the number of buses or trains would solve the problem. However, I don't see that happening. Also, roads have to be expanded. We moved into the Choolaimedu area 25 years back. The Nelson Manickam Road & Nungambakkam subway which catered to the traffic then, hasn't increased in width. But the number of people using that road has. What happens to the tax that folks pay when they purchase new vehicles? I could see some flyovers sprouting across the city. But, isn't that a workaround? Why are we not doing anything to address the root cause of the problem? A few summer showers make the roads nasty. There is stagnant water everywhere. I'm afraid how the winter is going to be. I still feel that the public transportation system has to grow in order to control the traffic in our roads. People (at least the middle & lower class) buy their vehicles because public transportation options are not convenient.

I'm not sure why government hasn't thought about privatising the current public transport system. I agree that the fares would go up, if the transport system is privatised. But, people paying high price for gas & vehicle maintenance wouldn't hesitate to pay a few Rs extra for a convenient ride.

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