Check before you hit the road

Ahmed Shatil Alam and Md Amjad Hossain reveal how Traffic Alert, a page on Facebook, has become a free source of traffic information for commuters of Dhaka city

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If all Dhaka citizens were asked about the ‘biggest problem’ in their daily lives, a majority of them are likely to mention the traffic congestion in the city. The problem is no longer a weekday issue, rather tailbacks occur even during holidays. At times, commuters end up spending two hours on the road to cover a distance that is less than 20 minutes during normal traffic conditions.

For the last few years, citizens started their journey at least an hour to three hours earlier before they need to reach their destination. In recent times, even this problem cannot help the commuters. When all of their efforts are going in vain, a facebook-based platform has emerged with an aim to help people save time on the roads. The facebook group, Traffic Alert, was initiated in 2014. It has been helping people to make better decisions at choosing routes and roads to commute faster.

While talking to New Age Xtra, Nazir Chowdhury, a member of the group, shared that this group has eased his daily travel from his resident in Uttara to Karwan Bazaar area. Almost everyday before leaving his home, he posts on this group asking about the traffic condition on the routes he can take. ‘I can receive first hand information along with pictures and videos,’ he said. ‘This makes commute much easy for me,’ he added.

Meanwhile, Tasnia Ahmed Karim, another member, said ‘Given the current condition of Dhaka roads, this is the only source for us to know the actual condition of roads.’ ‘Sometimes we get stuck on roads due to VIP movement or any natural causes like heavy rain. But it can be avoided if we see some posts on the congestion in Traffic Alert,’ she added.

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The Facebook based group has around 76,000 members. It was initiated by a North South University student Safaat Nabil. About the name of the group, Safaat said, ‘This is the first name that came to my mind. And the name ‘Traffic Alert’ is very catchy that people can also remember very easily.’

Claiming it as a medium of awareness, Safaat said, ‘If there is any incident on the road like an accident, fire, picketing or any other unexpected events, then the members post about it on Traffic Alert and then it is spread by other members.’

With the increase in popularity of the group, on an average near about 1000 request comes in everyday to join the group, informed Safaat.

Besides him, three others maintain the group. They are: Nusrat Zahin, Sabrina Yeasmin and Tarin Yeasmin, who are also studying at NSU.

The admins mentioned that they do not add people randomly in the group. There are some rules and regulations. Such as, to be a member of this group one has to answer some questions. If the answers are relevant then he or she will be accepted.

Like other groups that work for the people by serving information, they try to not add any fake profile and remove members from the group if there is any irrelevant post or unaccepted comments from such users.

While sharing the future plan of Traffic Alert, Safaat said, ‘I want to make the group more user-friendly. I want people to understand better about traffic because people don’t follow rules on the road, which is the prime reason behind traffic congestion.’

He also informed that in the future they are planning to organise some awareness campaigns and programmes to raise awareness against traffic congestion and how to battle it.