Published On: Wed, Apr 5th, 2017

Road to frustration

There is no quick-fix formula to do away with traffic jams in Srinagar. Among many others things, it depends on the layout of the city which, in our case, poses the biggest hurdle, Suhail Ahmad writes.

How often have you felt like pulling your hair out while stuck in traffic? Well, if you travel in Srinagar, it is more likely to be a frequent experience. We all get the daily dose of this frustration caused by long and frequent traffic jams. If you are travelling in your own car, you also have to contend with sky-high petrol prices while trudging along. This is in addition to the high maintenance costs of the vehicle inflicted by mercilessly potholed roads that are akin to minefields. No wonder, some commuters spare no expletives to vent their frustration. It is just so easy to lose your calm in the city traffic. You are not only cramped for a room; you also have to bear ear-splitting honking, dust and smoke all around. As the horns blare and exhaust gases fills the lungs, it doesn’t take much time to bring tempers to a breaking point. 

 

There is no end in sight to this problem. Even if the present width of roads is doubled, there will just not be enough space for ensuring smooth flow of traffic. As the traffic increases exponentially, the roads appear narrower with each passing day. Even as many road-widening projects are underway, they are unlikely to address the problem of traffic jams unless the number of vehicles does not increase further, which is impossible. 

 

The surge in the number of vehicles is also accompanied with the increase in the number of traffic violations like wrong parking. According to one official estimate, there are over three lakh vehicles registered in Srinagar city alone and during the peak tourist season, the number touches six lakh vehicles every day. To manage such a huge number of vehicles is a herculean task in itself and expecting traffic police to do it all on its own is not fair. 

 

Navigating the claustrophobic roads can spoil your mood on any good day as you get hemmed in from every direction. The toughest test for your patience comes in the morning and evening rush hours. The frustration often leads to aggressive driving which in turn triggers road rage incidents. 

 

Many a times, besides causing inconvenience, traffic jams can prove fatal in cases of medical emergencies. How often have we watched an ambulance stuck in the traffic? It’s such a helpless situation that the ambulance siren sounds more like death shrieks. 

 

Some experts suggest that encouraging people to use public transport can lessen the burden on the roads and decrease traffic jams. They believe it is also a good way to avoid behind-the-wheel frustration and preserve a lot of time that might otherwise be spent stuck in traffic. But the problem is that commuting in a bus can be equally bad if not worse in Srinagar. The public transport system in the city is perhaps the worst among the states. 

 

The agony of being caught in traffic is universal. Some years back, Forbes.com carried a report about ‘Cities With The Most Frustrated Motorists’ in the United States. According to the report, though only 28 percent of its residents drive to work, New York City tops the list of cities with the most frustrated drivers, thanks to an average 59 hours stuck in traffic per commuter. Chicago came in second while San Francisco was deemed the third most frustrating city in which to drive. Though no formal survey has been carried out as such to find out how many hours commuters spend stuck in traffic on average in Srinagar, but one can imagine what the figures would be like. 

 

There is no quick-fix formula to do away with traffic jams. Among many others things, it depends on the layout of the city, which in our case poses the biggest hurdle. Srinagar is surely one of the most badly planned cities. Even if a road has to be widened by a few feet, entire blocks of houses and shops have to be demolished. This incurs more financial burden on the expansion projects in terms of compensation for the affected parties. Keeping the city centre or other congestion-prone areas out-of-bound for traffic is realistically not possible. Flyovers and piece-meal diversions may serve the purpose for some time, but for the long run, there is simply no alternative to wider roads. In case of our city, securing more space for roads would mean massive demolition drive and reconstruction work which is not possible unless the entire population is shifted to some other place. To say that the prospects of streamlined and congestion-free traffic system in Srinagar are bleak would be an understatement. 

The author can be reached at suhaillife@gmail.com

 

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Suhail Ahmad

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