Both capital cities of the State have witnessed steep rise in the population over the years leading to their overcrowding. Along with that the number of vehicles whether of private sector or of the city transport segment, have also seen steep rise. Every year no fewer than 1.2 lakh vehicles are added to the existing number of vehicles. At the same time, no serious and result-oriented steps have been taken by the authorities to address multiple issues arising out of unprecedented traffic density in the two cities. Widening of the main avenues and streets has not been commensurate with the needs of the cities so as to meet the pressure on traffic. No serious thought has been given to providing parking slots either in the proximity of the markets or main office sites. Traffic culture has shown very little rather insignificant improvement both on the level of the commuters and pedestrians as well as the Traffic Department. By and large we may say that the signs of modernity in the context of city traffic remain much behind our expectations.
In a meeting with senior bureaucrats and traffic authorities, the Chief Minister reacted vigorously to the woes of city traffic and enunciated several issues pertaining to city traffic which she said needed to be addressed with all seriousness. Actually, there have to be short term and long term solutions to the crowded traffic scenario. In long term, widening of the main streets and their arteries, providing subways, streamlining of junctions in a manner that traffic jams are not allowed to happen and removing encroachments by vendors or by shopkeepers are among the short term measures. Building flyovers, by-passes, dismantling structure at critical points in the city, putting dividers and providing efficient and functional electric signalling system and raising multi-storeyed parking structures are included in long term measures. All this asks for comprehensive traffic planning and control and that will need time as well. The work on planning has to begin sooner or later as that is the first stage of streamlining the traffic.
Encroachment of footpaths and even of the road at some places is a chronic malaise which could not be cured fully despite several efforts by the concerned authorities including the traffic police. Obviously, the Government has to provide alternative sites to the street vendors if they are to be cleared from occupying street space. This also needs planning. It is all right that the Divisional Commissioners have been asked to find a permanent solution to this problem but the solution cannot come from one officer or one department. A mechanism has to be evolved which will frame definite policy of removing the street vendors and relocating them at some suitable place so that traffic jams on main streets are avoided. Registration of road vendors is important to keep a record so that their shifting to alternate place can be worked out.
Another subject that figured prominently in Chief Minister’s appraisal pertains to water transport in the Valley. The idea was mooted sometimes back and an experiment was also made. However, it seems that the scheme of water transport has not received the type of response expected by the planners. Nevertheless, the option needs to be experimented fully because there are fair chances that it may pick up provided water transport is made mechanised and speed and management are taken care of. The Transport Department can depute a team to study the system of water transport in some well-known cities of the country and conduct a study whether a modified scheme could become viable for the Valley transport particularly in Jhelum River.
Even regulating city traffic along progressive lines and catering to new colonies and habitats is also of much importance. As new habitats have developed in the peripheries of the two cities, their inhabitants need connectivity. The planners will have to give attention to this aspect as well. Evidently more than one terminus for the city bus service shall be needed.
In final analysis it is very encouraging that the Chief Minister has focused on this urgent phenomenon while chairing a high level meeting to consider ways and means of reducing crowding and traffic hassles in two capital cities of the State.