Most Mumbai citizens will tell you that commuting to and from work by road is one of the most stressful experiences of living in this city. For a sustainable solution to our traffic woes, all stakeholders involved need to their bit and, need to do it in a coordinated manner. So to ease the traffic crisis, here are some of the suggestions and ideas I have come up with for each stakeholder.
Mumbai Traffic Police: Rush hours should be given the same prep and execution as a politician’s visit. A recce should be done two hours before rush hours (morning and evening) to check that potential bottle necks are cleared. Heavy vehicles, garbage trucks etc. should be off the roads. The Traffic Police should invest in two to four helicopters for aerial views of the city to identify and clear road blocks in coordination with traffic teams on the ground.
Traffic Police need to work in tandem with the BMC to “widen” roads by clearing debris (including “orphaned” vehicles), removing vendors and towing illegally parked vehicles. When road work is to be done the BMC should get a buy-in from the Traffic Police at least two weeks in advance so that the Traffic Police are able to prepare for it by informing commuters and planning traffic divergence and re-routing.
Traffic Control Rooms: I’m presuming these exist in some shape or form in the city. They need to develop a relationship of trust with commuters. Avenues of communication while on the road via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and phone lines will make it easy for commuters to interact with the control room. When a commuter contacts Mumbai Police instead of the Traffic Police, they shouldn’t be instructed to call another number (I’ve seen this happen on Twitter). The information should be passed on. When a complaint is dealt with, e.g. a bottleneck has been cleared, the control room should inform commuters. If commuters trust that the traffic control rooms work effectively they will participate willingly in improving the traffic situation.
The BMC: I should mention the impact of potholes on traffic congestion, but too much has already been said about it so I will sidestep that landmine and move on. The BMC should regularly check their garbage trucks for road worthiness to prevent breakdowns during rush hour. To reduce traffic congestion caused by garbage trucks, collection should be done overnight, or between 5 to 8 am, 1 to 4 pm and 9 pm to 12 midnight. Better still, to do away with mounds of garbage and garbage receptacles on the roads, housing societies and slums residents should be taught to compost and grow their own community gardens of fruits and vegetables (which itself is an incentive to segregate and compost).
Businesses: Companies should consider starting their business hours earlier, the further south they are, e.g. South Mumbai hours could be 7 am to 3 pm, Central Mumbai 8 am to 4 pm, western and eastern suburbs 9 am to 5 pm, so on and so forth. The same could apply, as appropriate, to businesses in Navi Mumbai. Of course businesses also need to understand that starting earlier doesn’t mean keeping employees working till later. If they haven’t already realised it, having employees working beyond business hours results in additional costs to the company – one way or another.
Commuters: They need to assess the traffic situation before they leave their homes for work, so that they manage their expectations as to the time it will take them to travel to and from work. It makes for a stress-free ride and lowers blood pressure. Whether they are car-owners or they use public transport, they should use the technology at their disposal (Google maps, Twitter updates) every day, to make a choice about the best route they can take to work. It will help decongest traffic on all routes. Like the BMC, commuters too should check their vehicles regularly for road-worthiness. And lastly, they should follow basic traffic rules and not contribute to the problem.
All Stakeholders need to realise if we are stuck with our traffic woes (figuratively, not literally), we need to do things differently to see improvements. Deeply entrenched and complicated problems like this one are resolved with a change in mind-set and habits. Stakeholders need to get real and honest with themselves: What goes around comes around. If you believe that other stakeholders’ actions are responsible for your “traffic experiences”, it’s also true that your actions are responsible for other stakeholders’ traffic experiences.