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Wednesday , 15 May 2024

Interview with: Sanjay Arora, “We will record a 20% increase in fines this year”

One of the basic problems today is that all our roads are running above their capacities. There is no space to take an additional lane for diversion. It’s very easy to say that where there is a road block, you have to divert the traffic on another road, but that another road should be partially free to take this load. The fact is that all the roads have crossed the saturation level. So any diversion works only for 10-15 minutes. The second issue is that each event brings congestion – an accident, a bus break down, the clearing of garbage by a stationary garbage truck, a clogged sewage or the repair of a street light. And to avoid this event, there is no space on the road. So in a city like Chennai where, on every road, at least three such events take place every hour, every half an hour or every twenty minutes, the police has to shift from automatic mode to manual mode to control traffic.

Along with city-based NGO Chennai City Connect and Institution for Transportation and Development (ITDP) of the US, the Chennai police is demarcating areas for street parking, taking public opinion on identifying parking areas. Drawing inspiration from “Park(ing) Day”, an idea that was initiated in San Francisco six years ago, we have identified roads where parking remained a problem

So once you have connectivity between the junction and the control room, I can do away with the physical manning of a junction which can still be controlled on a manual mode from the control room itself. I can save on manpower and the time in terms of clearing obstructions and encroachments between the junctions. A new control room building will also be ready very soon.

You introduced ‘SMS Alert System’ in August. How has the response been?

Both SMS and our Facebook site are working very well — not only in terms of giving updates on traffic but also in terms of receiving people’s feedback, their anger, their frustration and their suggestions. We already have around 15,000 subscribers for the SMS facility.

Chennai has its own ‘traffic character’.

Each road, like every person, has its own character. Each road itself behaves in a different fashion. We have divided Chennai into four traffic districts, each with different characters like North Chennai faces a lot of container traffic for the port – heavy lorry traffic. The East is the heart of the city, so the nature of the roads and the nature of vehicles plying on them is totally different. South has a mixture of everything. So, our districts have different types of problems. Now Metro will be bringing in a different nature of traffic flow and different issues of parking.

Coming to parking…

Like any another Indian city, Chennai also has acute shortage of parking space. So we are looking at it from both ways – off street parking as well as on street parking. We keep experimenting with on street parking in conjunction with the Corporation. There are two aspects to traffic management. The long term one would require policy changes, large scale projects and infrastructure development. But the short term management would be in terms of better utilisation of existing road space whether it is encroached or otherwise. Primarily the traffic police, on a day-to-day level, are working on the short term solutions – effective and better utilisation of available road space. And we are the people who recommend the long term solution.

You are making parking management plans by taking public opinion.

Along with city-based NGO Chennai City Connect and Institution for Transportation and Development (ITDP) of the US, the Chennai police is demarcating areas for street parking, taking public opinion on identifying parking areas. Drawing inspiration from “Park(ing) Day”, an idea that was initiated in San Francisco six years ago, we have identified roads where parking remained a problem.

In the US, it was the reversed process. They used the parking spaces for parks. They claimed that was the better utilisation of the available space as per the requirement of the citizens. Later, over the years, different cities have taken this concept in different fashion but have kept the basic theme in mind – that whatever space is available in the city, it should be best utilised for the citizens. We decided that whatever space was available would be utilised for vehicle parking. We asked all our officers to go in search of parking spaces. We found that there were broad roads which had a number of trees – nobody went between the trees on those roads. Since that space was being wasted, we designed parking between the trees. Like this, we have found a number of parking places on the roads where on one side we can provide two wheeler parking and the other side can be kept open for traffic. This was brought to our notice by City Connect. The NGO works with us towards giving solutions and bringing to our notice various standards to be followed.

Handling road accidents must be a challenge.

We have ‘108 ambulance’ service. 108 is the phone number, so we call the service 108 ambulances. The service operates really very fast and free of cost. Chennai has a unique feature unlike many other cities – the accident investigation is carried out by the regular police stations. We have dedicated 16 police stations in the City working under the traffic police to only road accident investigation and documentation for various claims and benefits.

The accidents after drunk driving are not very high here. We do regular checks, specially on weekends and after festivals. The distinct feature of our road accidents is that most of the accident victims are pedestrians. Then come the two wheeler riders. 76% of our vehicles are two wheelers. So, it is understandable that the maximum number of both – the victims and the offenders – is that of two wheeler riders, mainly between 20-45 years of age.

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