December 10, 2014

In a modern busy metropolis, traffic congestion is a major hurdle in our journey to create a Smart City that everyone is talking about. A congestion management plan must take into consideration all relevant factors like the ever-exploding vehicle population on the road, geometry of the city roads, travel needs of citizens, and the needs of various administering authorities having jurisdiction in parts or whole of the city.

No single approach can be best-suited for managing congestion. In event of mismatch or clash of jurisdictions, divergent or conflicting visions of the decision-making authorities, or ideological differences between and the availability and conditioning of external funds, a consensus-based approach scores over the conventional vision or plan-based approach, effective stakeholder-collaboration often delivers.

It is important to bear in mind that a consensus-based approach often leads to delay and inaction unless such consensus can be reached quickly and in a sustainable manner. By contrast, a plan-based approach is heavily dependent on professional planners, and the needs of some stakeholders including bureaucrats and politicians could have been missed or ignored. This approach is also subjective in that the absence from the office of the person with the vision could derail the process altogether.

A key enabler in a consensus-based approach is the formulation of the strategy through consensus, commitment and public support for a better understanding of congestion problems, and must lead to creation of innovative solutions with public support and acceptability. Taking concerns and objections of the public into account early in the implementation phase often proves cost-effective in the long run. Such an approach can effectively stem breakdowns in the process.
To be honest to ourselves, we must accept that there are no “miracle” solutions – long-term congestion outcomes will only be delivered through a well-framed process that addresses congestion in all its aspects at the metropolitan level in ways that include:
• Understanding what congestion is and how it affects the urban region.
• Developing and monitoring relevant congestion indicators.
• Releasing existing capacity or creating additional capacity using new infrastructure
• Managing demand for road and parking space consistent with a shared vision on how the city should develop.

The success or failure that cities experience in tackling congestion will ultimately depend on how well they organize themselves to carry out the task they set for themselves. The ability of policy makers and their collaborators to define correct objectives is thus fundamental for congestion management, and is a critical stepping stone for achieving a Smart City status

By Sudipto Chakarvaty

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