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Traffic jamming commuters daily
Studies have been done, solutions have been offered and the authorities have promised over and over again that T&T’s chronic traffic woes will soon come to an end. However, all those plans and promises have brought no relief to the thousands of drivers and commuters who have, over the past few days, been suffering through more severe traffic gridlock than ever.
This predictable worsening of the situation at the height of the Carnival season underscores the woeful inadequacy of T&T’s roadways, which cannot accommodate huge volumes of traffic. The situation is caused by an absence of an efficient public transport system, weak traffic management systems and non-existent law enforcement. At peak times there are more than 30,000 vehicles per hour on the main roads and highways—three times the limit at which a mass transit system should be introduced.
In these circumstances, the Government must, as a matter or urgency, ensure that more public transportation infrastructure is put in place, or revitalised. Before the election of 2010, feasibility and engineering design works were completed for a rapid railway system to operate separate and apart from the congested road network. However, that plan was shelved by the People’s Partnership, which claimed some $500 million has been wasted on the project which it deemed unfeasible.
Three years later, apart from the controversial San Fernando to Point Fortin highway project, there are no initiatives in sight to ease the growing traffic congestion. In any case, building an adequate road system and highway infrastructure to catch up with the drastic increase in the number of cars on the road is at best a long-term measure which is not likely to offer more than partial relief. Geographical and physical limitations mean that highways alone cannot solve the problem.
The other option for taking thousands of commuters off the roads, particularly at peak traffic times, is the water-taxi service. But even there, the plan is to scale back, even shelve, rather than expand. Sailings between Port-of-Spain and San Fernando have been reduced and the Government will not be adding Point Fortin and other routes to the service. The argument is that the water-taxi service is heavily subsidised and is not economically viable.
However, the reality is that T&T’s inefficient and ineffective traffic system takes a toll on economic activity, productivity and efficiency well above and beyond the cost of operating an efficient public transport system. Introducing rapid transit would effectively reduce—perhaps even eliminate—traffic congestion, since between 600 and 800 passengers could be accommodated in a single train and hundreds more on motor ferries, replacing the hundreds of cars, maxi taxis and buses needed to transport that number of people on congested roadways.
On an average working day, 500,000 or more people from all parts of the country enter and exit Port-of-Spain. That convergence creates a daily bottleneck in the capital alone and the situation is not much better in major towns across the country. By providing rail and sea transport systems, these hundreds of thousands of people and their cars can be taken off the roadways.
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