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The Financial Express

Traffic gridlock causes huge financial losses


Traffic gridlock causes huge financial losses

Traffic congestion in the capital causes a loss of about $1.68 billion a year, according to a high official of the Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB).

At a recent seminar on Modernisation of Bus Transport in Dhaka, he said annual loss caused by traffic congestion in Dhaka city is approximately $1.68 billion.

Traffic gridlock causes economic losses by eating up travel time and burning of excess fuel. It also causes environmental damage and road accidents. 

Many analysts blamed lack of transport infrastructure, poor traffic management, illegal car parking, too little footpath and pedestrians' facility and absence of separate lane for bus for the city's nagging traffic jam.

The mixed traffic flow of motorised and non-motorised vehicles on the same lane also contributed to the traffic mess.

To reduce congestion and thus economic losses, public transport systems, especially bus services, must be improved by allocating a separate lane for passenger bus in the capital.

There is a need for separate lanes for bus. Presently, some 7,000 buses carry about 2.5 milliom commuters daily. But these buses often compete with each other creating severe jam. The competition is fierce, as the number of bus owners is very high.

However, analysts say public traffic system in Dhaka will improve significantly if competition between bus operators is reduced by merging of bus companies.

In fact, a strong regulatory body and coordinated implementation efforts are expected to relieve commuters from traffic mess.

Traffic congestion in Dhaka has long been taking heavy toll in five sectors including working hour loss, additional fuel consumption, pavement damage, accident during peak hours, and environment impact, thus causing a daily loss of Tk 1.53 billion.

The amount of annual economic loss has been estimated to be Tk 560 billion.

Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has estimated the economic loss soon after withdrawal of the Covid-induced lockdown when people started to come out of their home.

Although educational institutions, hostels, student hostels and many offices are still closed, Dhaka is rstilleelingfrom nagging congestion like the normal time. ARI estimated Tk 370 billion annual economic loss due to traffic congestion in Dhaka in 2018.

Earlier, three sectors were considered for estimating the congestion-related loss - cut in working hour, extra fuel consumption, and environmental impact.

In 2020, the number of trip has reduced due to the Covid pandemic. Trip has reduced by 44 per cent for those who used to go to office five days a week, while it has dropped by 68 per cent for those who used to go to office three or four days a week. But Dhaka has returned to gridlock from lockdown.

In the 2020 estimation, the average per working hour cost has been estimated at Tk 70. A study calculated 25 million trips generated daily in Dhaka, 60 per cent of which are working trips.

The average speed of vehicles in the city has declined to 6.5 kilometres per hour, which will further drop to four km per hour by next three years, if this situation continues.

The study estimated that people waste 19 million working hours per day, whose economic value is Tk 1.37 billion. As per the World Bank, the average speed situation in Dhaka city is alarming. The more the speed reduces, the higher the loss becomes.

The study also found that 40 per cent additional fuel is burned during traffic congestion. The economic value of this additional fuel is Tk 42 million.

The economic value of environmental impact due to congestion, which increases air pollution and causes people's death by various respiratory diseases, is Tk 87 million.

It was found during the research that 40 per cent accidents occur at the junctions during peak hours, as everybody wants to cross the signal hurriedly.  In the research, only fatal and serious accidents have been considered, whose economic value is Tk 16 million per day. The amount would have been much higher, if there were actual information.

It was found from the police records that on an average 80 fatalities and 40 injuries occur during peak hours at the intersections of Dhaka city. Pavement damage due to traffic congestion is considered globally for calculation.

It was found that resilient modulus of the pavement lifecycle reduces by 30 per cent when loading time becomes longer on roads. The economic value of the pavement damage is Tk 0.82 million daily on the 200 km major arterial roads in the city. Dhaka experienced a traffic congestion trend during the Covid outbreak, whereas the trend was quite opposite in  many other congestion-prone cities across the world.

The research has identified five reasons why the economic loss due to traffic congestion has increased even during the Covid pandemic time in 2020.

Two new sectors have been considered. Average speed limit is reducing in Dhaka, while daily trip demand is increasing with new employment generation. Side friction of roads has increased as the BRT and MRT works are reducing speed limit and creating congestion. Random road digging for installation, repair, maintenance and transfer of gas, water, sewerage, phone and other utility lines has also increased significantly.

Many residents in Dhaka often lack access to basic services and in the last 10 years, average traffic speed has dropped from 21 km to 7 km (hour), only slightly above the average walking speed, said a new World Bank (WB) analysis.

It said Dhaka's urban development has not kept up with the city's rapid growth, resulting in a messy and uneven urbanization process and lack of adequate planning. It has led to poor liveability and vulnerability to floods and earthquakes.

The population in Dhaka is increasing fast and it will have more than 30 million people by 2030. The government has taken up a plan to reorganize all service-providing organizations to meet the increasing civic amenities in the future, he added.

According to the WB analysis, 36 per cent of the country's urban population live in greater Dhaka which has become one of the world's most densely populated cities. To achieve its vision of becoming an upper-middle income country by its 50th birthday, Bangladesh must manage Dhaka's urban growth, it said.

This includes taking full advantage of East Dhaka - where there is ample availability of land near the core of the city - to increase the city's economic opportunities and liveability, says a new World Bank analysis.

Based on current trends, Dhaka will have more than 35 million people by 2035. A productive and liveable city of this scale can make enormous contributions to its citizens and the economy.

However, Dhaka must seize the opportunity to properly plan, coordinate, and invest for the future to achieve its full potential. As Bangladesh's long-term development partner, the World Bank looks forward to supporting the city's ambitious transformation.

With proper planning and implementation, East Dhaka can become a vibrant pole of activities with higher value added, while helping ease density and congestion in the rest of the city.

However, if not managed properly, the rapid and unplanned urbanisation of East Dhaka will make congestion and liveability worse and expose more people to the risks of floods and earthquakes.

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