Dhaka city reels from traffic mess, as two city corporations are running without any traffic engineers (TEs) responsible for road and signal design, and other remedial acts.
According to transport experts, most traffic infrastructure is now being built based on short-term manual data, which are unscientific and full of errors because of the absence of TEs.
The result is blindingly obvious. The traffic problem is getting worse despite the investment of billions of dollars, they said.
A distinct lack of TEs is leading to less road functionality too, the experts observed.
Road functionality means movement of passengers and goods from one point to another safely, efficiently and comfortably.
For this, it is mandatory to assess some parameters by TEs and then they will make decisions on traffic management or solutions. The parameters are traffic volume, speed and reasons of delay.
The experts said it was unfortunate that not a single traffic signal proved functional in Dhaka while police were operating the signals by waving hands.
Noted transport expert Prof Shamsul Hoque said as per the Traffic Engineering Handbook, the minimum ratio of TEs to the population of a city should be 1:25000.
In view of that, at least 600 traffic engineers should be there for Dhaka city, he told the FE.
Prof Hoque said 10-12 civil engineers were trained as TEs as the World Bank in a 1998 project pro forma stipulated that traffic engineering department be created before its funding.
Those trained under the development project were finally made managers, not the practising TEs.
In Dhaka's two city corporations, people from other engineering disciplines like mechanical engineering are doing the job of traffic engineers.
"The position of TEs has not been recognised institutionally mainly due to a trend of over-dependence on foreign consultants who are not familiar with Bangladesh's traffic problems," Prof Hoque cited.
"That's why, no solution comes to any help here."
Terming TEs 'doctors' of roads, he said the way Bangladesh was developing transport infrastructure, it must develop human resources for the sector as in Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.
"…Without investing in HR development and creation of more specialised people for transport sector, there will be infrastructure but not sustainable," he added.
Civil engineering professor Hadiuzzaman of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology said traffic engineering is taught at every engineering university where civil engineering is taught.
But there was no scope for these students to practise, he told the FE.
"A TE's key function is to design, optimise and implement a traffic signal which is not possible here," Prof Hadiuzzaman mentioned.
"Then TEs are responsible for safe and comfortable movement of passengers and goods from one point to another. Thirdly, they are responsible for geometric design of a road based on long-term historical data which is collected by sensors."
Any transport infrastructure is designed and implemented here based on two-three hours or a day's manually monitored data where there is much room for error and no scope to rectify mistakes.
"There must be underground sensors to collect data on road parameters like traffic volume, average speed and delay time," Prof Hadiuzzaman said.
"Such long-time historical data analysis helps a TE strengthen road design and avoid errors… Most traffic infrastructure is failing for lack of proper digital data."
The civil engineer said there was no safety audit manual for Dhaka city which was making the roads more risky for commuters.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) traffic engineer Anisur Rahman said there was no right person at the city corporations' traffic engineering departments. The state of others outside Dhaka was worse.
The DTCA has three TEs--senior traffic engineer, traffic engineer and assistant traffic engineer, he disclosed.
TEs are responsible for road design, sign, signal, marking, median opening, closing for specific roads and street light operation, said Mr Anis.
The policy had not been developed to employ TEs in the sector. Some TEs were working as consultants. It was not possible to design a project without TEs, he commented.
"We see signal system fail in Bangladesh due to timing change, update based on time-to-time data on traffic volume and road characteristics which should be analysed and decided by TEs." "Now, the police are doing the job of managing roads and traffic," Mr Anis concluded.
When contacted, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "It is urgent to have TEs in our team. I want to hire them." "When we will recruit engineers, we will attach priority to TEs," he added,