special report
Road rage

The news of the Punjab govenment’s recent plan of initiating remodelling around 20 roads of the city has come as a shock to the commuters who already spend hours on the  roads
By Waqar Gillani
“It took me more than an hour to reach Model Town from The Mall. Normally, it is a 20-minute drive,” says Asgher Ali, a resident of Model Town who works in the Mayo hospital.
Another commuter, Mrs Khan says, “It takes me a couple of hours to pick my children from school and drop them home. Traffic is shocking.”The CM’s obsession of remodelling Lahore’s road network has further added to the traffic mess of the city.


MOOD STREET
The bright, genuine, lively girl
By Noorzadeh S Raja
They say that to be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and not worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest. Arfa Karim Randhawa was certainly illustrious in her own right, making her mark in her short lifetime in whatever she did.

solutions
Stop designing the city for cars

— Ahmad Rafay Alam, environmental lawyer
By Xari Jalil
“In order to understand what needs to be done about traffic, it should be first understood where traffic comes from and why.
A very simple answer is that cars cause traffic. They cause traffic, congestion, air pollution and they kill people. If you want to get rid of traffic congestion, the answer is simple and intuitive: get rid of the cars. A doctor advising a patient with lung cancer will scarcely tell him he can continue smoking.

Load management
How to reduce the load of vehicles on roads
By Arshad Shafiq
If the number of vehicles keeps rising at this pace of 18 percent annually, the roads in Lahore, in the next five years will become inadequate for smooth traffic flow. So, the traffic planners and the concerned authorities need to come up with a plan on how to reduce the load of vehicles on roads.


 

special report
Road rage
The news of the Punjab govenment’s recent plan of initiating remodelling around 20 roads of the city has come as a shock to the commuters who already spend hours on the  roads
By Waqar Gillani

“It took me more than an hour to reach Model Town from The Mall. Normally, it is a 20-minute drive,” says Asgher Ali, a resident of Model Town who works in the Mayo hospital.

Another commuter, Mrs Khan says, “It takes me a couple of hours to pick my children from school and drop them home. Traffic is shocking.”The CM’s obsession of remodelling Lahore’s road network has further added to the traffic mess of the city.

According to the Punjab Excise and Taxation department figures, the total number of registered motor vehicles in Lahore is more than 3.5 million as compared to 1.2 million in 2005 and 0.5 million in 1998. “The number of motor vehicles is doubling after every five to seven years because there is no Master Plan of the city at work, except remodelling, rehabilitating and building underpasses and flyover,” says an official of the department.

The Punjab government, with the city administration’s help, has recently initiated a project of remodelling and rehabilitating around 20 roads of the city in need of desperate repair — to make the traffic smooth. The slow pace of work at these roads and some other construction projects of the government have further added to the traffic chaos.

These roads include Model Town Link Road, Abul Ispahani Road, Moulana Shabbir Usmani Road, Queens Road, Shalamar Link Road, Empress Road, Lytton Road, Circular Road and some others. “An amount of around Rs800 million is being spent on the repair and rehabilitation of the roads under this project to smooth traffic congestion,” says a city government official.

“The project is to upgrade the busy roads, remodel them, widen them and try to make the flow of traffic easy,” says Commissioner Lahore Jawad Rafique Malik, who approved the plan for remodelling 20 major roads in the city. He says, the remodelling work has already been started and the work will hopefully be complete by the beginning of March 2012.

“Around Rs330 million will be spent on the roads by the city district government while Rs450 million will be spent by the Traffic and Engineer Planning Agency (TEPA),” he says, adding, “We are trying to make them the best roads possible with marked lanes, vigilant traffic wardens, and more law abiding commuters.”

For the convenience of the commuters, Malik says, traffic diversion plans are being published in daily newspapers. Also, both sides of road rehabilitation and construction are also not being undertaken simultaneously. Yet, traffic remains deadlocked on these roads — “It seems the traffic situation will be worsening in the coming weeks as several road projects get underway,” says a traffic police official.

“There is already a traffic mess due to the ongoing construction of a flyover at the Muslim Town intersection on Ferozepur Road,” says a warden. The project is scheduled to be complete by March 23, on the Pakistan Day.

The city government officials say that the traffic situation on The Mall and Davis Road will get worse as work on new projects continues. The Mall has become busy because of the diversions from Ferozepur Road. Jail Road gets blocked when Lahore College and Kinnaird College close in the afternoon. Previously traffic was diverted at this time to Ferozepur Road, but is now directed to The Mall.

The routine traffic jams at The Mall and other nearby roads, especially Davis Road connecting The Mall to Lahore Press Club also cause trouble in the centre of the city. Muhammad Asif, who lives in Garhi Shahu, demands the government to specify a place in the city for such protesters and rallies so that the rest of the city should remain normal and traffic should go smooth and uninterrupted.

The city district administration authorities, mainly the police, uphold the peoples’ right to protest. For them, it is a policy issue. They are not even allowed to ‘touch’ a rally without permission — because of the possible political repercussions.

The government has also tasked the town municipal officers (TMOs) of nine towns of the city to remove encroachments on service roads and footpaths of 20 major roads. It is important, however, to point out that the government’s previous campaigns to remove encroachment from Lahore has failed.

“We need Master Plans, strong policies and political will to solve this traffic mess,” says Muhammad Aslam, a senior citizen and former government employee. Aslam adds that it is beyond his imagination how the remodelling of roads will smooth out the traffic — “Nothing will improve because the government is not paying attention to the main reasons: the speedily increasing population and the culture of a general disobedience and disrespect to law and rules.”

 

  MOOD STREET
The bright, genuine, lively girl
By Noorzadeh S Raja

They say that to be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and not worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest. Arfa Karim Randhawa was certainly illustrious in her own right, making her mark in her short lifetime in whatever she did.

I had the pleasure of meeting Arfa this year in my capacity as deputy head girl of my school to discuss the possibility of a collaborative event between the various Lahore Grammar School branches. From our very first meeting, it became evident that she was a hard-working, dedicated head girl with a real flair for teamwork. Her intelligent, insightful input and consideration for others’ views made her stand out.

Apart from these discussions, though, we had some personal conversations that I will always value. She was good-natured, had an amazing sense of humour and had a smile which would light up the room. Despite her long list of achievements, she was incredibly humble and down to earth. The fact that she was just like other people her age, sharing their concerns and worries about college applications and impending exams is what renders her untimely death unbelievable. The last time I talked to her, she spoke of planning to retake the SAT in order to improve her score. It is memories like these that make her demise so hard to grasp.

In school, she was friendly and caring towards her peers. An eager participant in parliamentary debating, she would often give her nervous juniors pep talks before major tournaments. In the classroom, she would amaze her peers and teachers with her thought-provoking questions. Arfa attended two schools in Lahore — Learning Alliance and LGS Paragon. After shifting to the latter, she continued to visit her old institution on a regular basis and sustained the bonds she had made there.

The fact that Arfa accomplished in such a short time what many achieve in years makes her an unparalleled source of inspiration to those who knew her, as well as to the entire youth of Pakistan. At the age of nine, she became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, after which she received a plethora of awards including the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal, Salaam Pakistan Youth Award, and the President’s Pride of Performance. Very few of us are fortunate enough to discover what we truly love early in life. Added to Arfa’s God-given genius and talent was an undying passion for computers and information technology. Her successes, which are a source of great pride and honour for Pakistan, were achieved through hard work and perseverance which makes her an example for all those who want to excel.

Arfa’s death has brought much grief to everyone who knew her. I consider myself very fortunate to have known the bright, genuine, lively person behind all the accolades and distinctions. She will remain in our hearts forever.

 

  solutions
Stop designing the city for cars
— Ahmad Rafay Alam, environmental lawyer
By Xari Jalil

“In order to understand what needs to be done about traffic, it should be first understood where traffic comes from and why.

A very simple answer is that cars cause traffic. They cause traffic, congestion, air pollution and they kill people. If you want to get rid of traffic congestion, the answer is simple and intuitive: get rid of the cars. A doctor advising a patient with lung cancer will scarcely tell him he can continue smoking.

But it’s not simple.

Automobile traffic is caused when people drive cars to get from A to B, to work, school, the market, to socialise, etc.

Congestion occurs when there are too many cars for the roads and intersections to handle. There are many other ways to get from A to B. One should be able to take a subway, tram, bus, taxi or rickshaw (public transport), one should be able to cycle or walk and, of course, one may use a car. The existence of these options plays an important part in where traffic comes from. If there are no alternatives to get from A to B except the car, there will be traffic.

To reduce traffic there needs to be serious investment in public transport that will give people the option of using alternative (and cheaper) forms of transport. Also important is that the public transportation system is efficient, safe, clean and respectful. Next time there is a traffic jam, the ratio of private cars to public transport vehicles should be calculated. This would probably come to about 50:50.

Other than the lack of transport options, automobile traffic occurs when there is a need to get from A to B. People fail to realise, but quite often, traffic is created when our cities are designed not for people but for cars. The DHA area has the highest number of cars per capita than anywhere else in the city. It is also a place where there are great distances between the simplest of conveniences. When you need a dozen eggs, you have to drive to the nearest store.

Why? Because our cities are designed by segregating land use (no commercial activity in a residential area). This segregation creates the need for trips. If a city were designed with shops, school, work and home close together — what planners call high-density mix-use — there will be little need to depend on motorised transport. One could walk to the shop, take a bus to school or work and a taxi to the cinema.

Can these things happen in Lahore? Of course they can. But first, we have to stop designing our cities for cars. Then we have to provide safe and efficient public transport. Then we need to start discouraging car dependency (higher parking rates, a better taxi service) and encouraging alternative forms of transport. All these measures, taken together, is how one can evolve a strategy, not just for clearing up traffic, but making the city more sustainable.”

 

Check VIP protocol movements
— Ajaz Anwar, artist/conservationist

The people must become better citizens in order to avoid serious traffic congestions. For example, there are traffic laws that must be obeyed, and followed. In a traffic jam, or if it is the peak of a rush hour there are cars crisscrossing each other as if they would make it easier for themselves to get out of the mess. In fact what actually happens is they get stuck further into the jam, and cause a negative fallback upon cars on other sides of the road.

The new traffic wardens are very good. They appear to be conscientious, and strict for law breakers, but it must be the public also who follows the rules.

Then there are VIP protocol movements which must be taken into check. The trend for these must be stopped. Neither are the citizens informed about these beforehand, nor are they well planned. Instead ordinary people are told to move to one side, not even bothering to understand that there may be an emergency situation for someone, and the VIP cars speed past.

Similarly, MPA and MNA bearing number plates, cars with press stickers and the like are also included in those who openly flout traffic rules, only because they belong to powerful circles. In fact I have usually even seen people who drive these cars, who probably are not the name bearers themselves. This is very wrong. So before we point to others, each should think about what he is doing wrong. This would definitely reduce the traffic blockades that happen so often in Lahore.

 

Cut down on cars
— Kamil Khan Mumtaz, architect

“Cut down on cars. That is the number one solution that pops into my mind. Where there are cars, there will be traffic. If there are 50 cars on one road, carrying one person each, will it not be better if there is one bus on that road carrying those 50 people all at the same time? Imagine how much reduction in the traffic there would be then.

All over the world cars are being discouraged. This is the new trend. There have been consultations and agreements where experts world over have decided that they will reduce the number of cars but this is not being done in Pakistan. Here the public transport is so bad, that people themselves never want to stop using their own cars. Despite the fact that there is a serious shortage of fuel, nothing is being done about this.

The next thing is connected directly with this issue: improve public transport. Once there is a better network of bus routes, more buses are introduced and public transport gives citizens cheaper and safer incentives to commute throughout the city, cars will become ‘out of fashion’ automatically.

Also, instead of continuing to make megalopolis cities like Lahore is at present, each city should be divided into small towns. At the moment Lahore has 14 towns, but there should be about 50 to 60 towns. These should have all kinds of incentives for the public, starting from employment, down to recreation, and also including schools, hospitals, shops, etc, so that people do not have to travel long distances to get things done. This is the only way in which traffic can be reduced.

 

Load management
How to reduce the load of vehicles on roads
By Arshad Shafiq

If the number of vehicles keeps rising at this pace of 18 percent annually, the roads in Lahore, in the next five years will become inadequate for smooth traffic flow. So, the traffic planners and the concerned authorities need to come up with a plan on how to reduce the load of vehicles on roads.

According to the Lahore Motor Vehicle Registering Authority statistics gathered by The News on Sunday, 238,790 vehicles of all kinds were registered in 2007, while in 2011 the authority registered 290,919 vehicles, which is an 18 percent increase in vehicles. We can project on the basis of this data that about 343,000 more vehicles will be registered four years later in 2015.

Interestingly, cars topped the list among the four-wheelers, leaving aside the case of motorcycles and scooters as they are not relevant to our topic at this point. While, 39,347 cars were registered in 2009, the number shot up to 51,852, indicating an increase of about 32 percent. By 2013 subsequently almost 12,505 more cars will be registered.

Why do the authorities not consider imposing certain effective and harmless restrictions in a bid to regulate traffic flow?

One such restriction is called the ‘odd-even bar under’ according to which on three days of the week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — only the odd-numbered motorcars, such as LEE-9335, LEV-6743, LER-1187, will be allowed to ply the roads; while on other days of the week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — the even-numbered private motorcars, such as LEN-7654, LEG-7868, LEK-8442, will be allowed to use the roads. And Sundays will be free of any restrictions. Traffic is already thin on the day.

The urgent need of the day is to reduce the load of motorcars on roads.

In countries like Japan a person cannot have a car unless he ensures the authority concerned that he or she has a proper garage to keep the car. In Singapore, only one car per family is permitted.

According to a survey conducted by TNS, on busy chowks and roundabouts like Chairing Cross and Club Chowk, ten out of twenty cars were found with only a driver and no passengers.

In order to reduce load of traffic on roads, the timings of educational institutions should be different from those of the government offices. There always remains great rush of vehicles during 7pm to 9pm due to the overlapping timings of offices and educational institutions. Similarly, there should be at least one hour difference in closing timings of schools, colleges and universities. This will reduce traffic load on roads and help avoid clogging.

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