In this news report published in The Hindu on the traffic issues in the city, CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments “The proposed command and control centre for traffic management remains in the discussion stage while confusion prevails over whether the proposed Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority or the police would call the shots when it comes to traffic management. It is high time we adopted a completely automated system, “.
Traffic enforcement officers have to deal with absence of adequate parking spaces and huge traffic jams in the city
The cops attached to Traffic East police station had a sleepless night on July 4, thanks to a midnight offer by a mall at Edappally.
With the promise of fashionable gadgets up for grabs at half the price, people thronged the mall at the busy Edappally junction. With the motorists parking their vehicles at all available spaces outside the mall, traffic cops had their hands full during the odd hours when they should otherwise have been sleeping peacefully back in their homes.
“We went around sticking receipts for unauthorised parking for what seemed like an eternity,” said V.S. Sreekumar, a civil police officer at Edappally traffic station.
Absence of adequate parking spaces and the problematic traffic scene in the city emerge as recurring issues for traffic enforcement officials.
So acute has the problem become that officials are often forced to go slow on unauthorised parking.
“We can tell the offenders not to park at a particular point and slap them with a fine. But then we should be able to tell them where they can park, which is not always possible owing to the shortage of parking spaces,” said Traffic East Inspector Aneesh Joy.
Near High Court
The parking blues manifest in the heart of the city, especially along the road winding in front of the High Court, where vehicles could be seen parked chock-a-block, posing a headache to traffic enforcement officials.
“The stretch is full of vehicles, mostly belonging to lawyers, even before traffic cops turn up for duty around 8 a.m. The lawyers don’t care to move the vehicles even when we approach them,” said a traffic cop on condition of anonymity.
Kerala Police Officers Association district secretary N.V. Nishad said it was surprising that the Bar Council had not even bothered to discuss the traffic issue caused due to indiscriminate parking.
How widely prevalent parking violation is in the city can be gauged from the fact that Edappally Traffic West station alone slaps fine on 4,000 in a month for obstructive parking while it is the major charge in 1,500 cases registered in Traffic East station for traffic offences. It clearly indicates that the fine varying between ₹100 and ₹500 hardly serves as a deterrent.
Work on flyovers
Multiplying the traffic woes of the city manifold is the closure of Palarivattom flyover for repair works and the ongoing construction of Vyttila and Kundannoor flyovers. “The potholed and narrow road between Palarivattom Junction and Bypass Junction has emerged the biggest casualty of the closure of the flyover. When the traffic at the bypass signal junction gets held up there is a cascading effect leading to traffic snarls up to the Palarivattom Junction,” said Saju Paul, sub inspector, Traffic East.
When traffic cops are not available during peak hours, often vehicle drivers and members of the public take the initiative to ease the traffic.
“One of the biggest challenges when it comes to traffic management is the almost daily addition to the traffic hotspots needing to be manned. Even the opening of a new shop could make a particular stretch congested while the manpower remains limited to meet this ever increasing demand,” said Mr. Nishad.
Traffic West station, covering areas including Palluruthy and Mattancherry, has around 80 officers while the East station that covers areas including Thripunithura has around 120. Both the stations account for the service of around 220 home guards in total.
“Timely intervention facilitating smooth traffic and avoiding unnecessary accidents is not forthcoming on the part of the government. Marking of pedestrian crossings, timely maintenance of traffic signals are small things that could make a difference,” said Manoj P. Nair, district secretary, Kerala Home Guards Welfare Association.
Footpaths, bus bays
The police observed that while footpaths alongside the road in the North Overbridge-Edappally Toll got widened in the wake of Kochi metro, it has effectively reduced the width of the road. “The absence of bus bays means that when a bus stops along this busy stretch, it holds up other buses behind it hampering the smooth progression of traffic. Frequent and unscientific U-turns also add to the problem,” said Mr. Paul.
Traffic enforcement officials were critical of agencies such as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Public Works Department (PWD) and the Kerala Water Authority (KWA), which they held responsible for the sorry state of many roads. They cited the example of the potholed Ponnurunni underpass, which has made it out of bounds for heavy vehicles.
“The Thevara Ferry Road was dug up for laying pipeline months ago but had not been restored, leading to traffic congestion in the area,” said Traffic West Inspector P.H. Ibrahim.
The city, which once had 99 cameras for aiding traffic management does not have a single one operational as cable networks have been disrupted due to Kochi metro works and flyover works. Efforts are on to restore them besides increasing their numbers.
“The proposed command and control centre for traffic management remains in the discussion stage while confusion prevails over whether the proposed Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority or the police would call the shots when it comes to traffic management. It is high time we adopted a completely automated system,” said D. Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research.
The ongoing construction works of Vyttila and Kundannoor flyovers and the Kochi metro works have taken the traffic woes from the city heartland to Thripunithura as well. Narrow and potholed roads remain the grouse of areas within Thripunithura traffic station limits.
The police in association with the local residents had concreted a few such bad stretches by sourcing the surplus concrete mixture from various firms.
“Thripunithura has a daily carrying capacity of just around 40,000 vehicles while around 1.20 lakh vehicles pass through the area. With the ongoing construction flyover works, vehicles bound for Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta pass through the town adding to the traffic congestion,” said Thripunithura traffic Inspector Y. Nizamudeen.
Thripunithura Joint Regional Transport Officer T.R. Jerson said the absence of a road parallel to the Maradu-Kundannoor Road meant that motorists and enforcement officials alike would have to put up with difficulties till the construction of the flyovers and the metro was completed.
The traffic congestion along BOT Bridge during peak morning hours has emerged as a traffic challenge in Mattancherry traffic station limits. “The free left at the BOT Junction has been left redundant owing to the traffic snarl along the bridge. A solution to this problem is to switch the traffic signal system to manual mode during the peak hours giving preference to vehicles bound for Kochi city,” said Mattancherry Joint Regional Transport Officer Joby Cherian.
Ernakulam District Residents Associations’ Apex Council president Rangadasa Prabhu demanded deployment of traffic wardens at all important junctions to facilitate smooth traffic.