The traffic police and TEPA begin work on fixing 135 bottlenecks in Lahore. This is expected to reduce traffic congestion which has been a perennial issue for commuters in the city
Every morning, Muhammad Salman, who works in a media house, begins his commute from Faisal Town to his workplace near Laxmi Chowk in the heart of Lahore. “The clock is my relentless adversary; every passing minute counts,” he says.
On his way to the office and back home in the evening, Salman has to navigate a major bottleneck at Mozang Chowk. It wastes a lot of his time. “My old Mehran [car] has suffered lots of scratches, thanks to the traffic snarl-ups,” he adds ruefully. “Even more frustrating is the incessant honking of horns and motorists, especially motorbikes, changing lanes without a care.”
Over the past few decades, Lahore has seen a lot of overhead bridges, underpasses and signal-free corridors come up, but there’s no end to traffic congestion. In order to ease the problem, the city traffic police and the Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency recently identified 135 problem areas in the 21-odd traffic sectors of the city. The idea is to fix these bottlenecks and make traffic smoother. An amount of Rs 120 million has been allocated for the task by the Lahore Development Authority.
The problem areas include Garhi Shahu, McLeod Road, Mughalpura, Mall-III, Lorry Adda, Shahdara, Wahdat Road, Ichhra, Mozang, Niaz Baig, Gulberg Main Market, Model Town, Township, Green Town, Kot Lakhpat, Kahna, Raiwind, Nawankot, Kotwali, Cantt and Mall-II.
The TEPA chief engineer, Iqrar Hussain, says, the plan is to start with small changes like adding U-turns and marking the lanes properly. These changes will help the traffic to move smoothly, reduce congestion and air pollution, and save time, energy and money.
“There are 34 traffic sectors in the city. 21 of those have serious traffic issues,” he tells TNS.
Hussain also talks of plans to “fix issues with the shape of the roads. For example, the Begum Kot chowk is always a bottleneck by virtue of how it’s built. By fixing such issues, we hope to make Lahore a better place for drivers.”
Qaswar Abbas, a graduate in town planning from the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, says that around the world experts look at traffic jams as among the “nine major issues with infrastructure that cause delays, accidents and stress, and cost a lot of money. This is a serious problem, especially in developing countries like Pakistan and it’s going to get worse if we don’t manage it properly.”
Earlier, in accordance with a proposal approved by the LDA, the Lahore traffic police, aiming to combat smog, presented a detailed report on areas where traffic jams and bottlenecks routinely occur in Lahore.
The TEPA chief says the Authority’s design teams together with city traffic police officials inspected all the 34 traffic sectors of the city for several weeks before proposing interventions at the 135 locations. To put these recommendations into action, the TEPA developed a plan initially budgeted at Rs 300 million but later rationalised to Rs 120 million. The proposal outlines major tasks, including the closure of unnecessary road cuts and centre medians at 21 critical points. Additional actions involve redesigning intersections, extending centre medians, creating U-turn opportunities, installing missing curve stones, cat-eye markers and providing concrete barriers, among other measures.
City Traffic Officer Captain Mustansar Feroze (retired) is the brain behind this initiative. He is said to have relied not only on his observations but especially on reports from the Safe City Authority and feedback from field staff regarding persistent traffic issues. According to him, the surveys revealed three primary causes of traffic bottlenecks: chronic encroachments, persistent illegal parking and long-standing one-way traffic arrangements.
Feroze says that while the TEPA will address the technical aspects, the traffic police will play a key role in eliminating bottlenecks by deploying the resources where needed. He also expresses the hope that once the bottlenecks are removed, the city roads will become more user-friendly.
Meanwhile, motorists like Muhammad Salman continue to contend with the Mozang bottleneck on a daily basis, eagerly anticipating the potential transformation that the proposed plan may bring to alleviate the chaos on city roads.
The writer is a media veteran interested in politics, consumer rights and entrepreneurship