Pune traffic and roads

The situation: I happen to run into a number of people who complain about Pune’s traffic situation (“Pune in the Fast lane? No way!” – Times of India). The roads are bad, pot-holed and congested to no end. I understand their frustration. I categorize most folks into 3. Those who want to do something about it, those who don’t care about it much and finally, those who just want to leave the city and its problems behind.

I intend to get in touch with friends and citizens of the city interested in solving this issue. The idea is to try to come up with an overview of any long-term plans in the pipeline relevant authorities (Central Institute of Road Transit?) might have, analyze them for deficiencies. If there isn’t such a plan, then we need to make sure the authorities sit up and take notice. Perhaps if the situation were to remain in constant public focus, a lot more resources would be devoted to solving the issue.

The cause: I came across this article on Suresh Kalmadi’s web-site (“Dealing with Pune’s sloow traffic“) that stated the following reasons for poor/congested traffic flow:

  1. Heavy vehicles using the city as a transit point, they usually slow down and congest traffic.
  2. Inadequate parking infrastructure.
  3. Enroachments on footpaths, poor pedestrian discipline.

It appears that the focus has been to build wider roads, build highways that bypass the city entirely and to enforce better discipline (I don’t see much of that claimed enforcement around these parts). The current approach has helped alleviate the conditions, but it appears that the growth in traffic originating within the city will easily outpace both road-widening attempts, flyovers and other attempts to improve the city’s existing roads.Somehow, parking infrastructure has been neglected entirely, people are still allowed park along most roads, even those that are critical arteries for the city. The roads are also in very poor shape and probably cost the authorities a fortune to maintain, aggravating delays and congestion.

I am of the opinion that Pune’s roads have been stretched far and wide enough.

Some Internet aware organizations exist that also want to solve the problem. Their focus lies with self-discipline, observing traffic rules, minimizing pollution by making sure vehicles are tuned and so on (Save Pune Traffic). While road discipline is important, I don’t think one can ignore the core problem – the existing infrastructure cannot support the volume of traffic.

Initial thoughts: Cheap Mass transit, rail, below ground maybe. I think Pune Municipal transport buses are also a big part of the problem. Get the citizens off the roads, off their two wheelers, out of their rickshaws and onto tracks on trains or trams. The idea is to maintain the trip between any two points within the core city area to within 10 minutes by rail. Important areas would include, main-City, Nal-stop, parts of Cantonment, Shivajinagar, Deccan, University and other congested areas.

At first, the idea seems to be an expensive proposition. Rail will also never be able to rival PMT’s extensive service coverage of popular destinations and the accessibility of PMT bus stops. Building a rail network will probably take ages while Pune traffic will continue to congest, pollute, delay and harm citizens. Despite the negatives, I think that a radical change in mass transit is necessary to ensure that the city’s growth does not outstrip its existing transport infrastructure.

Perhaps this idea has already been discussed and labeled as not feasible. But the need still remains. A long-term solution is needed that moves massive number of people efficiently and beats the use of surface roads. If you have any feedback or relevant information, I would look forward to hearing from you.