Traffic Congestion in Sri Lanka

The purpose of this report is to analyse the traffic problem in the Colombo city and to identify the causes of the problem and offer recommendations in improving the traffic system in order to have an effective traffic management in Sri Lanka. In this, the reason for traffic congestion and draw backs of the current system has been identified. A SWOT analysis has been done on the traffic board in order to assess the compatibility of the proposed system. The city of London in England has being selected as the benchmarking country due to its excellent traffic management and transport system.

The report provides short term and long term recommendations for the implementation of the most effective system which will help to reduce the Traffic congestion currently experienced in the city of Colombo. 1. Introduction Roads are extremely important for the large majority of Sri Lanka’s people who live in the villages – some 65 percent of the country’s population. They are often the only way for most rural people to reach essential services such as hospitals, schools, markets, and banks, which are mostly situated far from their villages.

Although Sri Lanka enjoys a higher road density than in many developing countries, the conditions and standards of the roads are inadequate to meet rapidly growing freight and passenger traffic. More than 50% of the national roads have poor or very poor surface condition and many are seriously congested. In spite of the substantial increase in traffic volume there have been insufficient investments for construction of new highways or widening and improving existing roads. Over the past decade the investment in the road sector has been mainly concentrated on the rehabilitation of the existing road network.

Traffic congestion is the build up of traffic preventing efficient movement and it is one of the most significant problems faced in modern cities today. In every developed city all over the world, it is a common site that vehicles queued up for hours during the rush hour periods. This wastes valuable time of the public, burns fuel unnecessarily, pollutes the environment and by all these effects a country’s development. 2. Discussion 1. Analysis of the current situation In Sri Lanka, all economic, administrative and commercial functions are concentrated in Colombo.

Furthermore Colombo is easily the largest city in the country and is offering better education and health facilities for the citizens. Furthermore it’s political and commercial significance results in a greater attraction of the city for people from the rest of the country further aggravating the traffic problem in the country’s capital. Though the number of people entering Colombo during the past decade had dropped, the number of vehicles has increased which shows that people have shifted from public transportation to public vehicles. According to estimates Colombo is attracting 1. million people on weekdays. These people are coming to the city for various purposes including employment, for commercial activities, attend educational institutions, attend medical requirements etc. Whilst 1. 1 million of the people arrive in Colombo using public transport the rest 500,000 people are using about 240,000 private vehicles. (http://www. buildsrilanka. com) This is in addition to the vehicles used by the Colombo’s residents most of whom are from the country’s richer community and most of the time can afford to have their own transport.

The recent reduction in import duties of vehicles will further increase the buying power of cars and will result in more vehicles being flooded to the Colombo city. 2. Gap Analysis Several reasons contribute to the current traffic problems in Colombo. This includes the huge number of vehicles entering Colombo, shortage of parking areas, Inadequate facilities for pedestrians, vehicles parked on busy roads even during the morning and afternoon rush hours and finally the fact of public transport facilities is far from being good etc.

All these factors contribute to the slowing down of the average speed of the vehicles travelling in Colombo and eventually slow down the speed of the economic growth of Sri Lanka. National highways, which are mostly two-lane, are unable to carry the current volume of mixed traffic (pedestrians, bikes, bullock-pulled-vehicles and motor vehicles). This, together with the lack of side lanes and paved shoulders, leads to uncontrolled development of roadsides and causes low travel speeds, poor level of service, and less long-distance traffic. 3. SWOT analysis Strengths Sri Lanka’s literacy rate is high compared to other Asian nations and it will be easy to introduce and implement traffic rules. ? More money can be invested as the expenditure on war, can be minimised now that the war is over. ? Sri Lanka has been identified as investment hub, so lot foreign investors are interested in investing in SL. ? One of the main objectives of the present government is to develop infrastructure Weaknesses ? Disobedient and careless drivers contributes to the traffic congestion. ? Inadequate public transport system to substitute the private transport. Lack of technology to implement new systems. ? Lack of regard for road rules culture (“self first” culture) ? Bribery and corruption ? Misallocation of funds ? Shortage of road space Opportunities ? Fewer vehicles on the road will increase the traffic speed. ? Bare lands can be used as car parks Threats ? Corruption by the law enforcement officers ? High level of Union intervention 4. Implications of Traffic congestion Due to the traffic congestion, the movement of vehicles in the Colombo have slowed down resulting in huge losses to businesses.

Slow movement of vehicles causes higher running costs for the driver and that is a loss to the national economy as well as the hours spent on the road could have being used for the development on the country. Road transportation in a developing country is considered a vital pre-requisite in economic development. Provision of reliable transport facility for easy mobility of people and goods stimulates economic growth. A recent survey has found that the loss to Sri Lankan economy due to traffic congestion in the Colombo city alone is more than Rs 30 billion per year. This is 2% of the value of entire economic activities in Colombo city. http://www. buildsrilanka. com) The loss to the economy includes fuel wastage and loss of labour. Air pollution is another effect of the traffic congestion. A good road transportation system in the capital will help to improve educational, health and social standards of the people. Also improved transport infrastructure will enhance communication facilities and improve economic and social standards of the people. [pic] 5. Steps taken by the government As mentioned earlier traffic congestion is always a huge problem for any government and it is obvious that the Sri Lankan government has taken steps to minimise the traffic congestion.

Out of these one of the important actions taken by the government is the introduction of the Motor traffic act which has helped to ease the traffic problem to some extent. Some amendments were done to this act and severe penalties were introduced in 2009. This was to bring down the level of accidents as well as vehicles that are not roadworthy entering the Colombo and other cities. 3. Benchmarking Congestion pricing a system successfully adopted by England will be proposed as a solution to the traffic congestion in Colombo. [pic] 1. What is Congestion Pricing?

This is a simple economic tool that will both help control congestion on a continuing basis and will also provide a regular, dedicated source of funds for public transportation subsidies. Its greatest proponent is Red Ken a former Labour Party Mayor of London. The congestion charging system that he put in place in 2003, amidst opposition reduced traffic by 20 percent. London no longer appears in the most congested lists. The purpose of congestion pricing is to use price to control congestion. Those who use roads at peak times have to pay for the privilege.

Charging brands can be introduced for peak and off peak hours like in Telecom. To use Galle Road from Ratmalana to the Fort Between 7 a. m. and 09 a. m. = 100 rupees Between 9 a. m. and 12 noon = 50 rupees. Between 8 p. m. and 07 a. m. = No charge The money can be invested in a fund for road development and subsidies for public transport; but its primary purpose is to make people take public transport or share vehicles and leave their cars at home, unless essential. Congestion pricing works best when a city has good, but underused, public transport. At the moment Colombo does not.

But that does not mean that congestion pricing cannot be used in Colombo. Public transport can be exempted from being charged, so it will be an encouragement for private bus operators and if they are also charged a fee they might take steps to charge it back to the passengers, eventually resulting in some of the passengers going back to driving their private vehicles. The mechanism for charging the congestion price in a way that does not cause additional congestion has to be implemented but congestion pricing will be unpopular at first and cannot be implemented in a matter of months.

The key to its success in Sri Lanka is that money that is raised is not wasted and that it is used to create immediately visible improvements in public transport. Also this technique requires the use of information and communication technologies. More than anything, this new policy instrument and its benefits have to be explained over and over again to the people. For that, we need a Red Ken. But it is interesting to see whether we can have a new mayor first and the new mayor will play the role of Red Ken and take Colombo to the same lengths that Red Ken has taken the London city to. . 2 How this will improve traffic movement in Colombo By adopting this strategy it can be expected that the private vehicles entering Colombo will reduce be to 125000 from 175000 by the end of next year. This will improve traffic speed by 50% and the impact of air pollution by half. [pic] 4. Action Plans Since more vehicles will be flooded in to the roads of Colombo in the coming years and the existing network is not even sufficient even to cater the current demands, upgrading, modernising and expanding the transport sector is a must. 4. Short-term measures: Short-term is regarded as a period of less than six (6) months. ? Both near-sides of main roads in many areas in Colombo city and suburbs are not built-up, not tarred and are not laid with pavements. Therefore, the natural tendency of the pedestrian is to walk on the tarred surface of the road, thereby restricting the area meant for vehicular traffic. During the rainy season, matters become worse as both sides of the roads get muddy e. g. High Level Road, Nugegoda-Nawala-Narahenpita Road, Colombo-Kandy Road, Nugegoda-Rajagiriya Road etc.

If action could be taken to build-up both sides of such roads and enclose those areas with bold white lines, the road area usable by vehicular traffic without let or hindrance can be increased. However, parking of motor vehicles should not be allowed in such restricted side-walks. ? Pedestrian crossings at regular intervals should be prominently marked and crossing of roads by pedestrians be permitted only at those points. Police should be directed to fine pedestrians who flout this rule. This step would remove one of the artificial impediments created for the free flow of vehicular traffic. All the roads should be properly done-up and maintained regularly devoid of pot-holes and other surface damages that hinder the fast free flow of vehicular traffic. This step will also prevent many road accidents caused due to the dilapidated conditions of the roads. ? The heaviest congestions are created at centre-points such as junctions and main cross-roads. This occurs because omnibuses and lorries haphazardly being parked for longer periods without observing any road rules whatsoever. Furthermore there are some busy roads in the city and suburbs where parking of vehicles on either side of the road in permitted.

This arrangement contributes to congestion thus becoming an impediment to the free flow of vehicular traffic. In order to overcome this problem, safe parking lots should be established at major points wherever extra bare land is available. ? The relevant authorities such as local government and Police must immediately remove all encroachments to the pavements by the shopkeepers and hawkers. This step will enable the pedestrians to freely utilize pavements, allowing more unrestricted road space for vehicular traffic. ? The presence of large container vehicles during the daytime between 6. 00 a. m. and 7. 0 p. m. on the already congested roads in the city and suburbs creates not only huge traffic jams but also causes severe accidents at overtaking. Steps have to be taken to prohibit this traffic from the Colombo metropolitan area during the above mentioned times. This is the usual practice followed by many countries in order to ease traffic congestion. ? There are many crossroads in the city and suburbs where no traffic signals are installed, resulting in unwanted traffic jams being formed causing delays. Hence, action must be taken to install traffic signals at all crossroads in the city and suburbs. 4. Long term strategies: Long term shall extend beyond a period of six months and go up to three years. ? All the roads in the city and suburbs should be planned in advance and constructed with a minimum number of curves, zigzags and detours, etc. , covering a shorter distance thus consuming less land space. Nevertheless, they should be wide enough to allow free flow of vehicular traffic. They must be constructed in such a manner (may be even concreted) requiring minimum regular maintenance and capable of withstanding the vagaries of nature. Wherever possible, more new wider roads should be constructed and use them only as one-way roads.

This step would ensure less traffic congestion on major roads and minimize the rate of road accidents. ? The Colombo city and suburbs becomes inundated during the rainy seasons in Sri Lanka constitutes another major reason for the traffic problem. Since rainy seasons seem to get prolonged annually in Sri Lanka, a permanent solution to this problem should be found. With a view to bring about an everlasting solution to this problem, more natural water receptacles and artificial built-in water receptacles in the city and suburbs should be constructed in order to hold excessive supply of water. Sky bridges can be constructed in the metropolitan areas in order to divert fast-moving motor traffic from already congested business centres. But it is assumed that these types of ventures will cost Sri Lanka a colossal amount of financial resources and it is not affordable. All capital cities in Indian states have sky bridges. In developed countries, when a bridge is planned to be built, its width is measured as nearly twice that of the existing road. Such pro-action is prevalent in those countries in contrast to Sri Lanka, where even the newly built bridges seem to be narrower than the existing road.

Some bridges constructed in Colombo and suburbs many years back create bottle-necks in the free-flow of vehicular traffic, because these bridges are narrower than the respective roads. 5. Conclusion In conclusion, improving the traffic congestion in Colombo is a part and parcel of the total nation economic and social development endeavours of the country. Even though the present traffic situation is accepted and taken for granted, little do we realize that it is one of the main causes to hinder the productivity and the level of efficiency of the country’s economic development.

Recommendations such as improving transport and infrastructure facilities and monitoring road rules and regulations are the main drives for change. Apart from this a change of mind set is also necessary to make this project a success. Unless these approaches are followed no future goliath or a patriot will be able turn this tide of destruction taking place at present in the name of development in all spheres. 6. 0 Recommendations After analysing the above facts it is highly recommended to carry out the following tasks in the near future. ? Build up both sides of the damaged roads and regularly maintained. Pedestrian crossings to be marked and strict action against pedestrians who disobey the road rules. ? Steps have to be taken to build parking lots to reduce vehicles parking on the sides of the main roads. ? Installing traffic lights at all the main junctions and regular maintenance of the existing ones. ? Improving the public transport system. Also the following is recommended as long term measures. ? All the roads in the city should be properly planned and should be wide enough for the free flow of vehicles. ? Sky bridges should be constructed in the city area. Proper drainage systems to be installed in the city and its suburbs.

6. References Transport Requirement for Colombo. [n. d]. Retrieved from buildsrilanka. com web site: http://www. buildsrilanka. com/cdp/17_Transport%20requirements%20for%20Colombo. htm Philips, R. (2006, August 27). The way out of traffic congestion is not Roadway but Railway. Sunday Observer. Retrieved from http://www. sundayobserver. lk/2006/08/27/fea07. asp Sri Lanka Police Service. [n. d. ]. Retrieved from Sri Lanka Police web site: http://www. police. lk/index. asp Easing the traffic congestion (2009 August), LMD, p. 67

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