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Monday, March 8, 2010

Edition11: Orange Flavor

It is a decade since the twenty-first century has set in and the decade witnessed an unprecedented growth on the city of Pune. This growth, unfortunately, has inflicted huge wounds on our traffic system. If roads are the lifeline of the development, smooth traffic is the bane of growth. Alas, we have yet to erect a sound and healthy bane in our city.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) took many a projects in the hand to build a working and efficient system of traffic. The aim was to provide convenient, cheap and efficient model of transport to a large public which is almost each hour required to tread from one part of the city to other. In some cases, it is out of the city limits. Actually, none of the project has yet become reality leaving Pune's transport problems to their original condition. In fact, they have worsened with time. There was an ambitious project called Sky Bus which even after seven years of time, is still a distant dreams. Bus Rapid Tranport System (BRTS), which was promised ot be boon for the thousands of commuters, turned out to be a big headache. Instead of providing remedies, it compounded the problems.
The number of Pune's motor vehicles has increased with a rate of 33% per year. Every day more than 400 vehicles are registered. Looking at the pathetic condition of our roads, it is evident that this rate of growth is simply unsustainable. Pune's roads, already heavily congested, will get totally clogged if the heavy reliance on the private vehicles is not reduced.
But administration is attempting to tackle this problem by opposite method. It is implementing costly schemes like road widening, flyovers, roads over hills and so on. It's a vicious cycle: this then creates the demand for yet more roads. This is but a facet of the many problem. Private vehicles accompany other problems like Air Pollution, which is already way past danger levels making the city among the most polluted in Asia. Road accidents will increase. The worst affected will be pedestrians and cyclists, for whom the city has already become unsafe. The quality of life in the city will also rapidly worsen, as open spaces, trees and gardens get used up to widen roads and build parking lots for cars.
In many European cities, the futility of schemes to widen roads and build flyovers has become evident. Planners have realized that the only solution to increasingly congested roads and worsening pollution levels is to reduce the number of private vehicles on city roads. This is done through bringing restrictions on private vehicles and at the same time improving public transport systems.
The Way Forward
All the roads in the city are gradually being choked. The correct remedy would be to take steps to reduce the traffic on the roads. That would also reduce air and noise pollution. Many NGOs have recommended step to be taken in the direction. They include:
1. Levying a heavy 'license fee' for cars, so that number of cars in the
city are checked. This fee should
be renewed every year.
2. Levying a congestion tax on private
vehicles driving in congested areas.
3. Banning car parking on the main
roads like Karve road, Bhandarkar
road, Prabhat road, Law College
road and Ganeshkhind Road.
Likewise, car parking be banned
on important roads in central Pune,
like Tilak Road and Maharana
Pratap Road.
4. Building of new flyovers and
building of roads on the hills
should be stopped.
When traffic police and PMC starts new scheme like making J M Road and F C Road one way for all vechicles, people oppose it because they see in it a ploy to allow free passage to private vehicles at the price of general convenience. NGOs also oppose schemes like erecting foot over bridge since the general experience shows that people hardly use it. As pointed out by Chandmal Parmar, whom we have interviewed in this issue, there is utter lack of consideration of pedestrians in the planning of traffic in our city. Take for instance, the case of road crossing. At each 200 metres, the elevated road crossing should be provided between dividers so that people can go from one side of road to others. We hardly see this being done here in city.
On this backdrop, the city of Pune is looking at Metro Rail project. Even though there are discrepancies in the project, it might ease some tension from other pubic transport systems. We must then welcome this metro, hoping that those discrepancies are taken care off.
Less Accidents This Year
377 Fatal accidents in 2009
458 Fatal Accidents in 2008
387 deaths in 2009
477 deaths in 2008
26,00,000 vehicles in city in 2009
23,53,441 vehicles in city in 2008
519 accidents in 2009
531 accidents in 2008
577 injured in accidents in 2009
531 injured in accidents in 2008
First time in many years the number of accidents has come down when compare to the number from previous year. This is a good news for the city.
According to Manoj Patil, deputy commissioner of poilice, "The department has compiled data about accident spots where highest numbers of accidents take place, cases registered and made an accident reporting system website containing data about accidents. This website is updated on a day-to-day basis. To smoothen the traffic flow, we closed 71 median punctures on city roads. We relocated 40 PMPML buses which were obstructing traffic."
The traffic police department made wearing seat belts compulsory since February 1, 2009. Since then, as many as 83,868 people were fined for violating this order till Dec. 09.

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