Ad­dress­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion

Agreed, there are var­i­ous press­ing is­sues on the na­tional agenda – and the daily heavy traf­fic con­ges­tion is one of them. The neg­a­tive im­pact as a re­sult of the daily traf­fic jams should be of con­cern to all.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The var­i­ous pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing those floated by the Na­tion­al­ist Party, should be looked into, con­sid­ered and fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies com­mis­sioned. There is no shame in the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion tak­ing on board pro­pos­als from other in­ter­ested quar­ters in­clud­ing, but not ex­clu­sively, from the Op­po­si­tion. It is time to look for short-term so­lu­tions to ease the heavy traf­fic con­ges­tion which mo­torists have to bear on a daily ba­sis, un­til an ef­fi­cient vi­able pub­lic trans­port sys­tem is in place and run­ning smoothly.

Over the past fifty/sixty years, Malta has achieved eco­nomic and so­cial suc­cess on many fronts. But Malta’s eco­nomic and so­cial suc­cesses have also cre­ated new chal­lenges, which were not al­ways ad­dressed ad­e­quately. The traf­fic con­ges­tion is partly caused by our own eco­nomic suc­cess.

In the past three/four decades, the tra­di­tional model of the fam­i­lies changed. With more fe­males en­ter­ing the labour mar­ket, the se­cond car be­came a ne­ces­sity in most fam­i­lies, not least to take chil­dren at­tend­ing var­i­ous ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter school­ing hours.

Con­cur­rently, Malta went through an in­tense re­struc­tur­ing process, where thou­sands of low-skilled jobs were sub­sti­tuted with more val­ueadded and lu­cra­tive em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. With in­creased in­come at their dis­posal, more peo­ple sought to pur­chase a car and aban­don pub­lic trans­port com­pletely, which was not re­spond­ing ad­e­quately to the needs of a mod­ern so­ci­ety.

Cur­rently, only the priv­i­leged few go through heavy traf­fic con­ges­tion by the sound of po­lice mo­tor­cy­cle sirens. Mind you, that is the way it should be. But then it is also their re­spon­si­bil­ity to take all rea­son­able mea­sures to ad­dress an is­sue which is im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on peo­ple’s qual­ity of life. And no one be­grudges the fact that, sim­i­larly, am­bu­lances, fire-en­gines and po­lice ve­hi­cles also have the priv­i­lege to over­take and com­mand a right of way even in heavy traf­fic con­ges­tion. Af­ter all, their mis­sion is to re­spond to emer­gen­cies.

In­deed, Joe Mizzi, Min­is­ter for Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture, is per­fectly right in coun­selling peo­ple to leave early from home to their des­ti­na­tions and use the ferry from Cot­ton­era to Val­letta to avoid traf­fic jams, since there is no magic wand to make cars van­ish from our heav­ily con­gested roads. But there are a wide range of pro­pos­als which can com­bat traf­fic con­ges­tions. Some may be ex­pen­sive to im­ple­ment in the short term, but vi­able in the long term. Do­ing close to noth­ing is cer­tainly not an op­tion.

Here I take the lib­erty to make some pro­pos­als which, if prop­erly im­ple­mented, should ease traf­fic con­ges­tion, re­store com­pet­i­tive­ness, re­duce fuel con­sump­tion, cut on costs to fill the fuel tank, lessen the loss of time and de­lays, limit the pol­luted air we breathe and re­duce stress.

So far, most of the long-term pro­pos­als floated will cost the tax­payer mil­lions of euro and, by our tra­di­tional stan­dards, projects are hardly ever fin­ished within the promised dead­lines. Here are some sug­ges­tions:

Pub­lic trans­port is free of charge dur­ing rush hours.

Fam­i­lies own­ing two cars should be en­cour­aged to use one car. In re­turn, no li­cence fees are paid for both cars, if one is not in use. This can per­haps be im­ple­mented on a monthly ba­sis. The use of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy should fa­cil­i­tate this pro­posal.

Ma­jor road works in non­res­i­den­tial ar­eas is un­der­taken dur­ing all hours of the day, in­clud­ing the silent hours.

Land­scap­ing and wa­ter­ing of plants in pub­lic spa­ces and round­abouts is done dur­ing the silent hours.

Garbage col­lec­tion is done dur­ing the silent hours.

A troop of war­dens and po­lice of­fi­cers are po­si­tioned at cru­cial bot­tle­necks on ar­te­rial roads to as­sist and di­rect mo­torists dur­ing rush hours.

Other road works are not car­ried done dur­ing the early morn­ing or evening rush hours un­less in an emer­gency.

Pri­vate com­pa­nies are en­cour­aged to of­fer trans­port to their em­ploy­ees; in re­turn, com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing this ser­vice re­ceive a yearly tax re­bate equiv­a­lent to the cost in­curred.

Gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties and pub­lic en­ti­ties em­ploy­ees, and civil servants re­ceive free pub­lic trans­port tick­ets.

Work­ers opt­ing to pool for taxi ser­vice to and back from are re­funded in cash to the amount of half of the yearly ex­pen­di­ture in­curred.

Stu­dents pool­ing to and from their in­sti­tu­tion re­ceive an al­lowance in ad­di­tion to their stipend.

All pro­pos­als should come into ef­fect for a de­fined pe­riod of time and will be with­drawn once a long-term traf­fic strat­egy is agreed upon, and is up and run­ning.

No doubt, there is a mon­e­tary out­lay to each of the pro­pos­als above. How­ever, no cos­metic mea­sures will ad­dress the prob­lem of traf­fic con­ges­tion. Tak­ing the nec­es­sary mea­sures with­out fur­ther de­lay will work out cheaper in the long term and re­store Malta’s com­pet­i­tive­ness.

And per­haps save some souls too!

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Tues­day 11 Oc­to­ber 2016

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