Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The fakeness (stupidity?) of the Vyttila junction traffic arrangement

By D Dhanuraj*

In the last few weeks, experiments with the Vyttila junction traffic arrangement have grown to the level of utter chaos and stupidity. It is no surprise as the busiest junction in Kerala never received the attention it deserves. Often, it tends to fall in prey for the ad-hoc arrangements suggested by non- experts reflecting the total failure of the administrative system. With the experiments continue, the citizens have a tough time crossing the Vyttila junction.

I am not sure how these latest changes have been arrived at. Media reports that a sitting judge has a say in the most recent changes. It exposes the lack of robust mechanisms and capacity build up for a major element like public transport in a city like Kochi. How come a judge or a police officer could usurp the role of a public transport expert? How do they arrive at the decision and what data they have to conclude? Did they conduct any simulation exercises before they implemented their decision? As far as I know about the city traffic and transport management system, it lacks the authentic data and updated information till recently. Even the biggest investments in Kochi’s public transport sector lacked the updated information on the commuters’ volume and their whereabouts. Again, it is not surprising as there too many cooks to spoil the party.

I would not have been alive to write this blog if I didn’t have that miraculous escape at the U-Turn (on the way from Elamkulam to Tripunithura) on the other day. The issue at the U-Turn on the northern side of Vyttila is that it conjoins S A Road, Palarivattom – Thammanam road and Subhash Chandra Bose Road. U-turn, in fact, cramps the line traffic. On the southern side, U-Turn is ahead of the junction that gives enough lead time for the traffic from Tripunithura to ease down. But there again, the lack of turning radius and curvature stops the vehicles from Aroor side abruptly that adds chaos to the whole lane traffic from there onwards heading Palarivattom. Now the situation is grimmer with the vehicles are caught up in the traffic jam starting from Thycoodam underpass onwards. Assess the oil burnt out in the vehicles joining from the different routes compared to the one-way traffic in the earlier version. Who cares and who is benefited?

The other impact of the traffic jam at the Vyttila junction are the implications it has on the other roads connecting Vyttila. Held up in a traffic jam at Vyttila, both private and public vehicles tend to increase their speed once they emerge out of the Kochi city to compensate the time they have already in the traffic jam. It leads to increase in the accidents and casualties in the other outskirts of Kochi. It is common practice in this part of the world to alter the traffic management arrangements every time when a new police officer or a district collector assumes office in the city. They fail to understand that even altering or shifting busy traffic from one end of the road to another end will have socio-economic impacts. Fake arrangements will not stand the test of the times and more importantly will make the commuters unsafe on the roads.

*D Dhanuraj is Chairman of CPPR. Views expressed by the authors are personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Paradise Road

By Ananthitha A*
Bad roads, bad roads, bad roads everywhere. Out of the 15 km from my home to office, at least 2 km is fully damaged with gutters, potholes and cracks, 12 km is partially damaged and the rest 1 km an assurance to the believe the myth that, ‘roads in Kerala can be in good condition’.
Who is responsible for the horrible state of our roads?
They blame many. They blame the rain. They say, the torrential rains in Kerala weaken the bond between the tar/bitumen and stone. They say the rains hinder the repair works also and thus the roads are all and more damaged by rains.
They blame the trees on road sides. To add to the cruelties of this villain rain, the drainage less roads have big trees on roadsides at many places. The dripping rainwater from trees is poison to the tar, killing it drop by drop!
They blame the sun. They say, the scorching heat of the sun melt the tar and ruin our roads.
They blame the wind. They say, the winds blow away the stones leaving the sticky tar.
They blame the speeding vehicles and their rubber tyres. They blame the unruly drivers.
Oh God! So many to be blamed.
So, how can we protect and save our roads? You mean, we should avoid all the culprits from road? Yes. Keep away, the rain, the sun, the winds, the trees and most importantly, the vehicles with their drivers from our delicate roads.  Then what are the roads meant for?
That’s true. Then is tar/bitumen the culprit? “During the early and mid-20th century when town gas was produced, coal tar was a readily available by product and extensively used as the binder for road aggregates”, says Wikipedia. So, isn’t it time to move ahead?
It is heard that in Netherlands, there are roads made for absorbing the rainwater which thus allows for recharging the groundwater. So rain should not be a villain to our roads too!
Many cities in the developed world encourage the planting of trees along public streets.  Healthy tree-lined streets are a key component of the ‘Urban Forest’, states the ‘Urban Forest Plan’ of San Francisco.  ‘The Urban Forest Plan’ provides a strategy to create a more sustainable urban forest and a truly green city. So street trees should not be villains to our roads too!
“A solar roadway is a modular system of specially engineered solar panels that can be walked and driven upon. Missouri's Department of Transportation is aiming to install a test version of the startup's solar road tiles in a sidewalk at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway”. How can we now call sun a villain to roads?
There are researches going on trying to understand whether, the road transport pressure can be used to generate electricity. Yes, the speed and brakes are not villains too.
So, what is our choice? To be part of the blame game and suffer silently/violently in these bad roads? Or start petitions in change.org asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to start funding some road research in India? Or become Anniyan and solve all our road woes on our own?

 *Ananthitha A, Environmental Engineer, Ultra-Tech, Environmental Consultancy and Laboratory. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not reflect that of CPPR.