Friday, January 30, 2009

Signal JAM

Signal JAM
Innovations in managing junctions are under way, but responsible driving is really the key to unlock our gridlocks
R Krishna Kumar | TNN

Bangalore: As rush hour gets redefined at traffic signals across Bangalore, the traffic police department is investing funds and thought in innovative projects. The hitch, according to experts, is that the realization of these projects depends heavily on spacing of signals, effective enforcement and importantly, responsible practices of the motorists.
Bangalore has about 38,000 junctions, of which more than 5,000 are considered ‘problematic’. As part of B-TRAC 2010, 150 signals have been proposed in addition to the existing 260-plus signals.
According to M N Sreehari, traffic and transportation expert and adviser to the government, spacing of traffic signals has been an area of concern for years.
“The B-TRAC projects can make a positive difference to the city’s traffic situation. But greater care has to be taken in the manner in which these new signals are spaced. In many areas, traffic pile-ups are the result of signals located within short distances,’’ says Sreehari.
The flurry of signals and subsequent pileups have also impacted the enforcement of traffic rules. While there are many unmanned signals in the city, where rushing motorists often create logjams, key signals in bustling areas are manned by three or four traffic constables. A case in contrast is the junction near Honeywell, on Bannerghatta Road, with the Ring Road-Sarjapur Road Junction (near St John’s Hospital in Madiwala).
The first — where traffic from residential areas near Vijaya Bank enclave merges with the bustling Bannerghatta Road — doesn’t have a constable stationed all through the day and whenever he is off duty, there are signal violations. At the second junction, especially during morning and evening peak hours, it takes three or four constables to keep the rush in check.
Bangalore has around 2,000 traffic constables, a figure well short of the booming city’s requirement. According to traffic police sources, many ambitious plans are on fast track. But on the ground, the force is grappling with the rush and traffic rule violators. “At least twice during the shift, I have to deal with an offender. When I’m dealing with the violator, other motorists see an opportunity and jump the signal,’’ says a traffic constable who mans a signal in J P Nagar 2nd Phase.
Traffic Engineers and Safety Trainers (TEST), that conducts educative sessions on traffic awareness in the city, has been dealing with this tendency to violate rules on the road. For a city where conversations are increasingly centred on its traffic snarls, Bangalore has not quite opened up to innovations like civilian traffic wardens and the ‘Yield’ concept — put in place at the Windsor Manor bridge rotary — either. The signal-less rotary still requires constables to man the traffic, beating the purpose of the voluntary yield-and-makeway concept.
38,000 Junctions 5,000 Problem points 265 Signals 150 Signals in the pipeline 2,000 Traffic constables
Closely erected signals impact monitoring
Traffic violators an increasing problem
The traffic policemen, even while struggling with the rush, have something going for them in the proposed intelligent transportation system. Under the area traffic control model, the traffic volume in different directions can be predicted at the traffic signals. A variable message system is also on the anvil, indicating at the signals the expected time to reach various destinations.


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