Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?

If there is a time in the day I’m sure to get flaming, it’s when I’m driving. I sometimes wonder how so many things can go wrong together when it comes to Indian traffic. I’m told Chennai is far better when it comes to traffic and driving sense than Bangalore and Hyderabad, but that doesn’t make things any better.

How can Indian cities be planned so poorly? Some would argue that our cities have always been there and roads can just not be widened, which is not a bad argument on the face of it, but that does not answer why even newer areas of all Indian cities are so badly choked.

Now, given the fact that roads can only be small, how can anybody [in the Government] take so long to build flyovers to reduce travel time?

It’s understandable that the people representing our Government are not so intelligent (to say the least), but how can so many of them be SO dumb? Let’s take just one example. I cross through a famously choked signal zone called Nandanam Signal in Mount Road (Anna Salai, for hardcore Dravidians) in Chennai. I spend about 20 minutes or whereabouts of it everyday crossing that junction. All other routes are worse off for my destination. Now, Mount Road happens to the largest and the most famous road in the city and this junction has been full of traffic for time immemorial (I would presume). Thousands of vehicles pass each day through this junction, the road can’t be widened, but there can surely be a fly-over to make things better. It’s not just the common people (like us) who suffer because of the jams here. The same dumbos in the Government who are supposed to decide get to travel through these same choked roads and signals. If that doesn’t give them reason enough to make everyone’s life a little better, I don’t know what will.

Coming back to the example, I just put one of the most primitive Return-on-Investment (ROI) models to calculate how much time it would take to recover the cost of the fly-over if one builds it in this signal. I’ve taken very basic assumptions, but the model still says that the money spent can be recovered via benefits in just about 100 days. And the fly-over stays for 30-40 years. Talk about the best returns!

Ok, if you are not able to widen roads or build flyovers, why not make things like Singapore? Tax vehicles like crazy to restrict vehicle purchase, and instead build a great public transport system. I can’t begin to think what the 1 lac car would do to Indian traffic. How can city ‘planners’ in India can’t think of just one of so many models that would work?

I know the Government is supposed to do ROI calculations when it comes to public projects, but whether that happens and whether people who are supposed to do that have-it-in-them to do it is anybody’s guess. For now, I’ll rest the case Good-bye.

Update 1: The parameters considered are too primitive and have only been taken for the sake of simplicity. There are different types of vehicles and different types of fuel. Some put off their engine, and some don't. And some of the problems because of traffic cannot be quantified - such as the number of lives lost because ambulances got stuck etc.

Update 2: Read Jam's take on this issue.

Update 3: Read Arun's take on this issue.

Courtesty: Quote


At Sunday, December 02, 2007 12:48:00 AM, Blogger Destination Infinity said...

Nice ROI Calculation. It is just that no one seems to be accountable in the govt depts. Some times they dont even know what accountability means. I dont blame the govt at all. It is because the public has let all this happen and have not demanded accountability from their nethas. This kind of public would definitely deserve only the govt which exists. Just imagine if the French govt officials (who are considered as one of the best in public admin) take over the city. What cooperation can they expect from public who are in every sense just like their nethas?

At Sunday, December 02, 2007 1:20:00 AM, Blogger q said...


Fuel consumption actually doubles when you idle your car for 1/3rd of your travel time.

You also lose 1 Kpl on average for every 1000 rpm extra (on average) you rev your car over the consumption of 1 litre.

India is still a low income country, viz. that it was much worse off 10 years back. No one designed roads to handle so many cars.

Also, politicans allowed squatters to set up tenetments (slums) on city land in exchange for votes over the years. The ill effects of this are being realised all across the country. This has resulted in roads that are especially bad, inconsitent in width and poorly planned.

If you notice carfeully, everything implemented betwen when the british left india to the turn of this millenium (2000) is rather inadequate to modern needs.

I guess the socialst era was seriously myopic to the needs of a modern India. Hopefully things will change drastically during our youth

At Sunday, December 02, 2007 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Infinity: You are right that there is no accountability, now what is surprising is we've been living in the same mess for 60 years post independence!

@Sachin: Hope. Yeah, that's the only thing we can afford to have now!

At Monday, December 03, 2007 2:16:00 PM, Blogger Jam said...

Hey there Govar,

Wanted to comment on this post, but ended up writing an entire post about this issue.

Would appreciate it if you could cross-link this post on your blog as well.


At Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with your post, machi. Jam's too, for that matter. Added a little gyaan of my own on this issue on my blog.

Let's see if we can get lots and lots of people to reflect this sentiment. Hopefully that will play a small part in bringing the much-needed change to the way the government works.

At Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:44:00 PM, Blogger i i said...

That was me, btw. Selected 'nickname' by mistake.

At Friday, December 07, 2007 2:31:00 PM, Blogger Shankar Anand said...

Interesting posts by you and your friends.

Just noticed this in one your comments on your friend's blog and couldn't help but comment on it.

"Plus I can take calls while driving."

I thought there was a safety measure/rule that one shouldn't use phones while driving? Bang!! There goes the rule straight out of the car's window.

"Plus, folks with half our brains in the developed world enjoy cars, why shouldn't we??"

It doesn't matter if they have half the brains. Most of them are blessed with more than 10 times the sq.ft space per person when compared to us. They have elected a much more efficient government to serve them. They are part of a much much more efficient system. Hence they can afford to enjoy cars as a direct or indirect result of all this. Damn, it is a vicious circle.

At Saturday, December 08, 2007 12:28:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Shankar: Yes, I do take a lot of calls while driving, but I use the hands-free. And there are other safe technologies to leverage on - like the BlueTooth! Regarding your second point, that people in the developed world have an efficient system, isn't that the point of this post? To make things a little more efficient so that we enjoy at least some bits of the quality of life that our western peers enjoy? I'm not asking for the same quality of life a person with similar IQ/EQ levels would enjoy, just may be a small bit of it. Is that too much? If so, so be it!

At Saturday, December 08, 2007 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Shankar Anand said...

I read this on another blog:

"Given the number of people who are able to drive a manual transmission with one hand on the gear lever and the other on the steering wheel, it's not steering with one hand that's the problem. It's being focused on a conversation that's not in the car with you that's the problem.

If you're having a conversation with someone who *is* in the car with you and you careen toward the embankment, your conversational partner will likely participate in freaking the hell out and do their best to convince you to get your butt back on the road. The same is not true of someone on the phone with you.

It doesn't matter whether the distraction is a phone, the kids in the back seat, the idiot on the call-in radio show or the ketchup falling out of the sandwich you're eating, anything that distracts you from paying *primary* attention to the act of driving is a risk to everyone anywhere near your car. And, if the source of distraction is somewhere else entirely, it's amplified."

At Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:02:00 AM, Blogger Shankar Anand said...

Regarding the other point, I agree with you. *We* must make the system more efficient so that we get to enjoy a bit of the quality of life of a citizen of a country with a better system.

At Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Shankar: Sure, am all for paying full attention to driving when it matters. There could be a lot of distractions. Frequent ones include others inside the car, listening to the tape, radio... an agitated mind, anything. And of course, not everybody can actually multiplex when it comes to driving. But my personal experience is that you could get into some calls if the traffic is not so bad. I mean, there are lot of times when you just cruise and you can it get into calls with minimum participation. And when it comes to a tight situation on the road, I always switch all attention to road and let the phone go. It's worked for me all these days (despite freaking out a lot of people who am conversing with), and let's hope it works well. I surely am not recommending calls while driving...


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