Solutions needed to tackle traffic woes
While it is convenient to lament on the quantity of vehicles on our nation’s roadways, many self-made experts ultimately suggest that the solution is to magically remove the excess vehicles, whatever that amount might be, or build roads “like mad” and “poof!” all our traffic woes will disappear.
I would hasten to beg the e ditor to dig deeper, past the Opinion in the Business Express of October 2 and treat with the cause(s) and not just the symptoms. Efforts to only deal with the issue by widening roads and cutting cars would be short-lived and futile if the factors that “drive” the demand are not addressed.
What do we do if for example, the CRH-UBH Interchange is completed, but traffic jams become worse at nearby towns of Aranguez, Barataria, Mt Hope/Valsayn and Curepe? Many have discussed the traffic situation and implemented short term solutions, such as improvisation of the road infrastructure and import restrictions on vehicles, yet the problem continues to deteriorate. Why?
Why is it that we have to travel cross-country every day to the cities and industrial estates to work, lined up like sheep in a traffic jam that starts from Port of Spain all the way past Chaguanas?
In 2006 I had estimated that due to traffic congestion and associated delays, at least $207 million of productive work and 23 million hours of family time were lost per year in Trinidad.
Let us look carefully at the situation. Since the development of industrial estates (e.g. Point Lisas, Trincity), the centralisation of both public and private sectors within the city of Port of Spain, the deficiencies of government district offices and institutions, and the lure of a city life and urbanised living to young adults, and poor road maintenance, issues of congestion and dangerous drivers on our roads and highways are a constant woe.
To make the situation worse, inadequate and unreliable public transport has forced workers to choose between paying exorbitant rents for accommodation closer to the city, or buying a vehicle to commute and spending part of their lives in a traffic jam.
It is for these reasons above that the demand for vehicles has turned into desperation, and cannot be solely attributed to claims of “high liquidity” and a “healthy economy”. A “cursory look” at the proliferation of derelicts, un-roadworthy, and poorly maintained vehicles driven by the poor and under employed (who have no other alternative) disproves such claims.
I say we need to start thinking about and implementing long term solutions. We need to create or re-engineer communities with localised and self-sustaining economies so that people from say, a rural district of Rio Claro, or in a properly planned housing development that incorporated mixed uses, can seek gainful and fulfilling careers within their community and not have to travel everyday to Port of Spain to work.
We need to decentralise public services to the districts so that one need not go to Port of Spain or San Fernando to get a birth certificate or file a tax return.
We need to develop solutions towards mass public transport within and between cities with proper supporting infrastructure and maintenance management.
It is sad to see respectable people turning into animals, rushing and fighting in the rain for a seat on a maxi; or loose valuable family time waiting for a bus. Terminals should be safe and accessible with a comfortable environment. A reliable public transport system should have an economic advantage and convenience over vehicle ownership or “PH” taxis.