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Friday , 19 April 2024

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: The Need for Traffic Management and Engineering

Traffic Management Issues

To combat this situation, an organised traffic management focus with the following components can be brought in;

1. Develop Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Standards for India (Current IRC standards are very old and do not reflect the current needs).

2. Make traffic safety component mandatory as a part of the new road development projects.

3. Institute active traffic congestion management to match traffic demand and supply.

4. Recognise environmental implications of surface traffic.

5. Devise infrastructure operational efficiency in lane management.

6. Ensure organised maintenance for infrastructure and work zone management.

7. Improve KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) in the area of traffic engineering management with capacity building mechanism for all municipal organisations.

8. Establish traffic management centres or traffic management canters (TMCs), with Traffic Engineers as a responsible unit.

9. Establish proper coordination among police and transportation agencies and private sector operators.

10. Concentrate on driver training, pedestrian awareness of road-safety, and right-of-way education.

11. Enforce rules, regulations and laws affecting people-roads-vehicles-interfaces.

12. Upgrade Motor Vehicle Act and address the issues of non-motorised traffic.

13. Ratify UN Convention on Traffic Control Devices (TCDS). It will help India’s National standards that are uniformly and consistently applied in all road works.

Traffic Engineering Practice

The following steps will guide initial set-up for a traffic management practice suitable for use in a developing country such as India:

Develop Agency Mission-Objectives-Tasks

• What is the purpose of the agency? Its existence must have a mission.

• What are the objectives

• How will these objectives be carried out

• What are its tasks and assignments


• Develop clear understanding of the traffic engineering concepts (relationships between traffic demand, supply, capacity, flow and vehicle characteristics, roadway design, etc.).

• Deploy technology to improve the operational efficiency of surface transportation (rapid and efficient movement of people and goods).

• Feasibility studies must be conducted and data collection, research and development of newer approaches and methods to improve operations must be carried out. That must be followed by evaluation programmes to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Organisational Set Up

• Develop an organisational set-up to support traffic engineering activities (mission of an agency, objectives and responsibilities).

• Set up traffic engineering centres in metropolitan areas (in the US, such centres are called-Traffic Management centres-TMCs).

Modernise Tasks Management

• Constantly improve traffic safety measures, initiate proper driver education, conduct public outreach and provide information and initiate programmes on traffic engineering education.

• Initiate road-patrols for enforcement of traffic laws, regulations and parking rules.

• Initiate traffic incident management programme in urban areas.

• Institute preventative and response maintenance programmes to keep highway and other facilities at appropriate operational levels and safeguard initial investments.

Need for Understanding Road Environment

Road design and road safety are typically stated as two separate activities, often handled by separate organisations without proper coordination and that alone contributes to a large proportion of poor state of road safety as no single organisation takes the responsibility seriously.

For example, in Asia, police organisations manage day-to-day traffic while the transportation agencies supervise road activities for design and construction. In developed counties, typically all traffic and road management functions reside under transportation agencies while only law enforcement functions are performed by police. Thus, there is a gross disconnect when it comes to road environment and vulnerable road users who are major victims of poor handling of the road functions as shown in Figure 6. Road design safety audits during road construction projects are rarely conducted as a checklist for defects, constraints, potential hazards and obstructions to motion and sight. Horizontal and vertical design features and hydrology are often not up to the published design standards and become a major operation and maintenance issue later.

Road Safety Framework

There is a definite need to develop a suitable framework for each country to deal with road safety to minimise road crashes. The isolated steps that are typically pronounced or taken on papers are not expected to be effective and a comprehensive approach may be needed to develop counter measures-a mechanism to remove ill-effects of poor road safety. For example, the practice of using small pebbles to divide directional traffic during construction work in cities causes accidents and needs to be forbidden.

As shown in figure 7, the road environment is interfaced with other elements to form a safe transportation service.

Recognising the range of challenges faced by the developing countries, policy makers are urged to recognise key issues and address the following questions to resolve some of the traffic engineering framework issues discussed in this article:

1. How can we develop professional “Traffic Engineers” to take charge and meet our current and future traffic needs?

2. While we are increasing the transportation capacity, what steps should we take to make transportation safer? Shouldn’t we develop a road safety plan which has a priority, authority and mandate to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities in the country?

3. How do we improve institutional coordination to help us manage transportation infrastructure, including devices in different jurisdictions?

4. How do we accommodate mixed traffic specific to developing nations’ conditions?

5. What lessons can we draw from the experiences and practices of the developed nations?

6. How do we create a capacity building programme that is organic and driven by local needs and developed for mixed traffic needs?

7. How best can we provide input to GOI in devising an effective traffic engineering policy?

These and other related challenges will require a series of well-coordinated steps designed to tackle specific issues within traffic management and road safety framework.

Raman K Patel, PhD., P.E.
Urban ITS Center
Polytechnic Institute of New York University, New York


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