Commuter hell

Ahmed Shatil Alam reveals the various new spots of the city where tailbacks have become a regular scenario over the past five to six years

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Following the formal inauguration of the eight kilometres long Malibagh-Mouchak flyover on October 27, the citizens of Dhaka, particularly the residents of those areas adjacent to the mega project, were pinning their hopes on the flyover to get some relief from traffic congestion. Although the Tk 1,327.4 crore worth flyover has eased traffic congestion for some areas of the city, there has been some criticism from commuters as traffic signals on the flyover has led to further congestion in surrounding areas.

Besides these, commuters complained about a number of fairly new spots where traffic congestion has become staple over the past five to six years in the city. There are various reasons behind congestions at these spots, further aggravating tailbacks in a city that is already wasting thousands of hours stuck on the streets every month.

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While talking to New Age Xtra, several commuters who used to commute between Farmgate and Bangla Motor said that starting from October 27 the traffic condition has worsened.

‘I have to do office on Friday,’ says Maruf Hasan, an employee of a private company in Moghbazar. ‘It used to take me around 30 minutes to reach my office from my home in Mirpur area…but last Friday it took me just 40 minutes to pass Farmgate and Karwan Bazaar intersection,’ he recalls. He shared that over the last few days, following the official launch of the flyover, the traffic load has increased in the route.

While speaking about the issue, Dhaka Metropolitan Police additional commissioner (traffic) Mosleh Uddin Ahmed also said that due to the flyover, more vehicles are moving through these areas leading to more traffic on the Karwan Bazar and Bangla Motor zones.

As the flyover has two tails, in front of Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel and Eskaton road, more vehicles are moving through the two intersections than earlier slowing down traffic speed on the route and leading to traffic congestion, he explains.

Transport workers and drivers also shared the same observations about the traffic congestion in the area with New Age Xtra. ‘Usually, even in the weekday and during peak hours, it took me around 15-20 minutes to go from Farmgate to Bangla Motor. But now it takes double the time,’ says Manik Mia, a driver of Labbayek Paribahan.

In this regard, BUET professor Mohammad Shamsul Haque says that in Dhaka traffic congestion is intensifying rather than decreasing due to the ‘untimely’ steps being taken by the government. ‘The steps like flyovers, road diversions etc should have been applied 30 years back…these have failed entirely and are actually increasing rather than curbing tailbacks,’ he says.

On the flyover, a car can avoid three to four intersections, thus helping it to move faster. But as soon as the vehicle reaches the tail it slows down leading to more pressure on that intersection. This is the case of Karwan Bazar and Bangla Motor intersections, he says.

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Citizens of Dhaka also shared their experiences on some comparatively new points in Dhaka streets where traffic congestion was rare even five to six years back. Citizens of Uttara, Mohammadpur, Shyamoli, Mirpur 12, Malibagh railgate and other areas have shared that there are plenty of spots in these areas where traffic seems to be present throughout the day.

Tarek Ahmed, a regular user of Pathao who resides in Uttara, shared that during his school life over the past five to seven years, he had not faced any traffic at the Hazarat Shahjalal International Airport intersection. ‘But since 2013, we have been facing traffic congestion even on holidays,’ he says.

‘Earlier it took us barely few minutes to cross the signal of the intersection. But it takes at least 20 minutes on average and sometimes more to cross this area,’ he says.

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There was a time when the spacious Mirpur road was known as a ‘no traffic congestion area’. But due to several points, Mohammadpur and Shyamoli has now become two of worst traffic-stricken areas, even during midnight.

Many citizens from these areas shared that due to the ever growing pressure of vehicles and some new interventions by the authority, the traffic congestion at Asad Gate, College Gate and Shyamoli intersection has become regular phenomenon, shares Tanvir Shuvo, a resident of Shyamoli.

Few years back, DMP traffic division sealed off the right turn from Shyamoli Shishu Mela to Agargaon and diverted the route to Kallyanpur, to curb the traffic congestion. Unfortunately now the traffic congestion has simply shifted to Shyamoli intersection.

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It used to take any vehicle few minutes to cross Shyamoli intersection five years earlier, says a resident of Shyamoli. ‘Now, moving through the intersection in less than 20 minutes is considered nothing short of a miracle,’ she says.

The traffic congestion in these areas can linger till midnight after starting early in the morning around seven in the morning, says Mizanur Rahman, a shopkeeper in the Shyamoli bus stand area. He also shares that potholes and dilapidated state of the Mirpur road also slows down vehicles on this route.

One of the latest addition to this is Mirpur 12 and Mirpur Purobi Cinema Hall intersection, where traffic congestions has only recently become a regular feature.

Commuters of the streets shared that after the opening of roads towards Radisson Hotel via Mirpur DOHS and Kalshi, vehicular movement has significantly increased and become intolerable. Buses usually stop at undesignated spots of the road to pick up passengers creating tailbacks, says a resident of the area.

On the other hand, the Malibagh Rail Gate area intersection have been facing traffic congestion since the Malibagh-Mouchak flyover project was initiated around 2011. The area is also facing moderate to severe traffic congestion after the inaugural of the flyover nearby, last week.

A recent World Bank survey revealed that over the past 10 years, average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21 km per hour to 7 km per hour, only slightly above the average walking speed. The study also stated that congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million working hours per day.

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Over last 17 years, in Dhaka a total of seven flyovers were made costing a total amount of Tk 5,000 crore. But unfortunately the traffic congestion has not decreased at all.

According to Japan International Cooperation Agency’S (JICA) website, currently Dhaka’s population density is 44,000 per square metre and its road ratio is a mere 6 per cent. Stating the fact that annual economic loss because of traffic congestion is said to be as large as Tk 200 billion, equivalent to 1.5 percent of GDP or 17 per cent of tax revenue, the website also states, ‘ time lost on roads due to traffic jam is enormous and undoubtedly a big bottleneck for socio-economic development’.

Terming the decisions of traffic management as stopgap measures, road transport expert Shamsul Haque says that the situation would worsen every passing day, leading to more areas having such ‘traffic congestion spots’, until a comprehensive decision is not taken with public transport as the priority.

Mosleh Uddin Ahmed pointed the finger at the buses making unauthorized stoppages, rickshaws, jaywalkers on streets, road encroacher street vendors, etc. as the main reasons for traffic congestion in Dhaka city.