Anyone that knows anything about air traffic control knows that one of the most important aspects is communication.
Teams of people need to work together to ensure a successful takeoff or landing. This is because the process of air traffic control is an uphill battle in the dark. One slight mistake and the results are catastrophic.
Similarly, the breakdown in communication and its impact were exhibited recently by the mammoth traffic jam that was witnessed in Kampala. Road users had to wait more than three hours to travel distances of 10 kilometers or less. The frustration, lost time, wastage of fuel, etc, are the results of something avoidable.
A World Bank study says such traffic jams are costing Uganda over $800m (over Shs 2.8 trillion) in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is unfortunate that a minister considers this a tourist attraction.
Road traffic control, if poorly managed, can have disastrous results. As such, all stakeholders need to take due care as they carry out their responsibilities and work as a team. Teamwork is a necessity, considering the variables and the number of stakeholders involved. Through careful research, planning and regulation, we are able to find lasting solutions.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) needs to constitute a research and development unit dedicated to research, planning and regulation. The team of professionals should constitute engineers, planners, architects and economists.
They could partner the academia, traffic police and other stakeholders with the aim of comprehensively planning for the current and future needs of the city. Information can be collected from different stakeholders and this can be used by the unit to plan accordingly.
A Traffic Monitoring System (TMS) may be used to provide data and analysis to help traffic managers, road maintenance contractors and even road users make informed judgments and better decisions especially where you have a mixed traffic flow.
This system, linked with appropriately-placed CCTV cameras, will provide valuable information for the planners. It’s these systems and plans that would guide the budgeting processes and dialog with different financiers. Without appropriate planning, we will forever experience the motorcycle (boda boda) menace on our streets.
The grand plans of flyovers, bus lanes and so on are welcome and appreciated. We risk transferring the traffic congestion nightmare to the flyovers if appropriate information is not analyzed and applied.
Some decisions shouldn’t be made without appropriate consultation. We have seen scenarios where road separations are constructed only to be dismantled a week later because they were either not necessary or they were causing more congestion.
This obvious wastage can easily be avoided. We still have the recurrent street parking problem that appears convenient since it generates income. However, appropriate multistoried parking (precast structure or steel structure) presents an opportunity to do away with street parking in the central business district once and for all.
The high cost of parking may prohibit users from bringing vehicles into the city and this is another bonus that serves to decongest the city.
Traffic officers take the whole day, physically on the road. They have and can collect data about traffic flow at different times of the day. They can collect raw data for analysis before decisions can be made.
They can advise about adjustments to be made to improve existing systems. Their role should not be to indefinitely override existing systems. This may be done as a stopgap measure before sustainable solutions can be granted.
Adherence enforcement will always be required and expected of the traffic police. This is because of the obvious indiscipline by road users. The punishments should be severe and deterrent and should apply to everyone (including police cars, army vehicles and ‘ministers’).
Road users on their side need to be disciplined. Traffic police needs to intervene to change the wrong culture entrenched in our minds.
KCCA has taken an effort to put up infrastructure, redesign road directions, put up signposts, all in a bid to improve the road-user experience. This is appreciated but it can’t happen in a silo and without appropriate planning. The implementation may be painful in the short-run but it will definitely pay off in the long-run.
The author is a mechanical engineer and director, Aquila Investments.