Need More Traffic Management

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See this, Mumbaikars and think again if you want your city to be another Shanghai. For crying out loud, more flyovers will not help. They just make people buy more cars and negate the advantage. If you don’t believe me, read Gary Becker’s opinion. The Texas Transportation Institute (a block down the street from my college) estimated that the extra time and fuel spent in driving as a result of traffic congestion in 1994 was worth over $75 billion and might have already toped $150 billion [prediction for 2005]. Is economics the answer, like it usually is? A fee for driving into central London reduced the traffic inflow by 20%. People took to public transit that was widely available, carpooled or explored other means of joint transportation. All vehicles entering Manhattan already pay stiff tolls at the bridges but are those toll charges enough to deter people from driving in.

One of the biggest changes I saw during my visit to India was the horrific increase in traffic and to make it worse, it was unruly traffic compounded by Neanderthal behavior. I was informed that suddenly many cars have hit the streets due to a booming economy and ease of loan availability; especially for two-wheelers. At the same time, we are fully aware of the lack of any strictness in conducting driving road tests, if at all they are conducted, for obtaining a license to drive. We condemn the rash driving habits of film stars but forget the thousands of other incidents that never make it to the newspapers. First of all, the solution to traffic management is to inculcate a sense of responsibility and association with the fact that driving is not a right but in fact a privilege (printing it on the back of the licenses probably isn’t enough).

The problem with implementing economic disincentives for traffic management is that those that can afford to pay can easily get around the system. For every solution, there is a counter-argument of infringing on individual behavior but as Becker explains, a driver does not consider the effect of his driving on the other users of the road, but only on himself. It is a classic negative externality.

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