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Going nowhere fast

  • Published at 06:04 pm June 2nd, 2019

Technology and data can help us ease our traffic congestion

The hyper-magnetic attraction towards Dhaka has reached its hysterical maxima, making it even more densely populated than ever. Apart from the VIPs with special protocols, it would be a daunting task to single out a person who hasn’t suffered from the burning heat wave while stuck in the agonizing traffic jam of beautiful Dhaka.

In the holy month of Ramadan, the unbearable heat, coupled with more exorbitant traffic than usual, during peak hours prompted a Supreme Court lawyer to file a writ petition with the High Court of Bangladesh, questioning the legality of the total failure of authorities in mitigating the everlasting issue of traffic jam in the capital. 

Every day, people lose, on average, two to threes hours of productive time due to the gridlock. The writ petition makes perfect sense if you aren’t one of the VIPs.

To date, there are seven flyovers connecting various zones of the city, which were built between 2004-2019, targeting the problem of traffic jam. 

According to data from the World Bank, the average traffic speed dropped by approximately 66.67% from 21kmph to 7kmph -- which is the average walking speed for humans.

Since numbers don’t lie, there should have been slight improvements in mitigating the pain of the city dwellers for the huge chunk of money spent in building infrastructure, promoting traffic rules and regulations, and enforcing traffic laws. 

But it is no simple task to force millions of people to respect the law if they don’t understand that respecting the law will be beneficial for society overall. Faced with this seemingly unsolvable problem, government agencies and stakeholders concerned are debating on how to best tackle it.

The seven flyovers will be acting as a catalyst in controlling, rerouting, and properly optimizing traffic flow, but the existing, traditional methods of traffic management, survey, and optimization lack real-time traffic data.

The traditional method of fixed installations to study the density of traffic provides a single point for collecting data, which can be called “fixed data” at only a certain point, as beyond this point there is nothing.

It is impossible to embed some sorts of sensor at every centimetre of every road which can give us insights to better tailor Bangladesh’s traffic management policies in generating an effective solution.

For traffic “optimization” and “management,” a collaboration between public, private, and third-party bodies must be a top priority, even though it is apparent the infrastructure needed for the country is growing at a sound rate. 

When real-time floating data will be in the hands of the authorities at the click of a button, only then will it be much easier for them to generate “special routes” during rush hours.

The technology that Bangladesh currently has can enable the authorities to collect floating data. A traffic monitoring system consisting of a floating vehicle equipped with a mobile telecommunication system, central processing facilities, and an “in-car” unit can easily be implemented within a short span of time. 

Once the floating car with its real-time data collection technology is travelling through the roads, it will be easier for the authorities to study the intensity, time, and location of traffic, among many other variables required, for properly optimizing the traffic system. 

It is possible to build different models for different peak hours to reroute traffic. It will enable government agencies, and most importantly the people, to make the most out of all the flyovers and other infrastructure projects that are currently being planned.

The technical challenge that may arise is the lack of “human capacity” in quickly implementing such a solution. 

But it is not rocket science to connect the satellite to a ground station, and then, in a similar way as how “Blockchain” operates, Bangladesh’s first satellite can become a whole new service provider that the authorities hadn’t thought of before.

It is high time the authorities take quick actions regarding a solution to our traffic woes. 

Anwar Shadat Jihan is an Aerospace Engineering Consultant, Wichita, Kansas.

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