As gov­ern­ment strug­gles to solve traf­fic prob­lem, so­cial part­ners step in with so­lu­tions

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri

The coun­try has so far been un­able to ef­fec­tively ad­dress the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion but in­ter­est­ing, and some­times rad­i­cal, pro­pos­als be­ing put for­ward by the so­cial part­ners might just do the trick.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent asked seven so­cial part­ners for their take on the traf­fic is­sue as part of a bud­get fea­ture that is be­ing pub­lished to­day (pages 6 and 7).

The Malta Union of Teach­ers has come up with one of the more in­ter­est­ing pro­pos­als – the oper­a­tion of light car fer­ries in the Grand Har­bour and in Marsamx­ett Har­bour. Pres­i­dent Kevin Bonello said two or three quick, 30-car fer­ries op­er­at­ing in these har­bours could serve as an al­ter­na­tive to the Dock 7 route (now closed) and as an al­ter­na­tive to the con­ges­tion in Msida.

Mr Bonello also pro­posed ban­ning heavy and large com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, as well as horse-drawn car­riages, from the roads dur­ing peak hours.

He also sug­gests that sec­ondary school stu­dents should be given free bus passes to go to school on pub­lic trans­port. “This would re­duce the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the road, re­duce the un­nec­es­sary wait­ing time of kids at schools be­cause their trans­port ar­rives early (or late) to pick up other chil­dren from other schools, and most of all it would elim­i­nate unchecked bul­ly­ing on school trans­port since on pub­lic buses there are cam­eras and other lay peo­ple.”

Mr Bonello also ar­gues that there are too many traf­fic lights on ma­jor roads. “The coun­try has al­ways cho­sen the least ex­pen­sive op­tion of in­stalling traf­fic lights from wher­ever there is an ac­ci­dent or wher­ever peo­ple like to cross the road, rather than build­ing over­head bridges. In Bir id-De­heb, for ex­am­ple, there are two sets of pel­i­can lights within just 20 me­tres of each other, and both of them are de­signed for peo­ple who cross the road kneel­ing down. War­dens should not only check seat­belts, park­ing and car driv­ers but they should also be em­pow­ered to be vig­i­lant with pedes­tri­ans.”

GRTU CEO Abi­gail Psaila Mamo sug­gests that gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees should make use of or­ga­nized trans­port to go to work. She ad­vo­cates the use of Pri­vate Col­lec­tive Trans­port, say­ing that school trans­port should be free for all and call­ing for in­cen­tives for em­ploy­ers to or­ga­nize col­lec­tive trans­port for their work­ers.

Mrs Psaila Mamo is also call­ing for an en­force­ment over­haul. “Lo­cal War­dens and TM Of­fi­cials

need to be brought hand-in-hand with traf­fic po­lice. The aim of giv­ing out fines needs to be com­pletely and ir­re­versibly re­placed with co­or­di­nat­ing and as­sist­ing traf­fic at all times but more surely dur­ing peak traf­fic. Emer­gency teams need to be closer to peak ar­eas to im­me­di­ately ad­dress any traf­fic col­li­sions with min­i­mum im­pact on the flow of traf­fic. Smart ap­pli­ca­tion of in­tel­li­gent trans­port sys­tems such as traf­fic lights and screens which are cur­rently ei­ther un­der­utilised, used to fine, or de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rather than sup­port­ing traf­fic, need to be en­hanced and adapted to sup­port and man­age traf­fic flows.

She is also call­ing on the au­thor­i­ties to set up a Cri­sis Traf­fic Team which needs to “take im­me­di­ate ac­tion, mon­i­tor daily if need be, im­ple­ment de­ci­sions and re­view de­ci­sions ac­cord­ing to traf­fic im­pact and sit­u­a­tion.”

A change in at­ti­tude by the au­thor­i­ties when un­der­tak­ing big projects is also needed. “Projects with na­tional im­pact such as the Kap­para Junc­tion Pro­ject need to have works un­der­taken roundthe-clock with­out fur­ther ex­cuses. This pro­ject is a ma­jor bur­den on traf­fic and ev­ery hour wasted from its com­ple­tion is a dis­ser­vice to the coun­try. There is so much work that can be un­der­taken dur­ing the night and week­ends to re­duce the over­all de­tailed pro­ject time-plan.”

At­ti­tude changes are also re­quired with re­gard to work prac­tices. “We need a shift to­wards stag­ger­ing hours, on­line ser­vices, work-from-home and flex­itime. The gov­ern­ment has to lead by ex­am­ple. De­part­ments across the board need to im­mi­nently adapt a work-from-home ap­proach dur­ing spe­cific hours and stag­ger­ing work­ing times of em­ploy­ees. It can­not be sus­tain­able for ev­ery­one to drive to­wards Val­letta at the same time be­cause this is what has al­ways been done.”

The GRTU CEO also in­sists that road works and par­tial or full road clo­sures should not be per­mit­ted dur­ing peak hours.

She also calls for the im­me­di­ate im­ple­men­ta­tion of Car Parks/Park and Ride op­tions. “GRTU has been push­ing for un­der-utilised ar­eas to be used as park-and-ride zones of­fer­ing key park­ing ar­eas and shut­tle ser­vice to­wards hub ar­eas, such as the Gżira Sta­dium. Car Park devel­op­ment needs to be in­cen­tivised and given pri­or­ity and Plan­ning Au­thor­ity level.”

Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent An­ton Borg said there need to be fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies on al­ter­na­tive modes of trans­port and more short-term mea­sures in terms of in­cen­tivis­ing the use of pub­lic trans­port, sea trans­port and car shar­ing.

There should be more on­line ser­vices and schools should be in­cen­tivised to of­fer ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties on their premises. There should also be na­tional dis­cus­sions to stag­ger open­ing hours within the pub­lic ser­vice.

MHRA Pres­i­dent Tony Zahra said it was doubt­ful whether pour­ing more money into in­fra­struc­ture would solve the prob­lem, as there are sim­ply too many ve­hi­cles on the road. “We need to have a mass pub­lic trans­port sys­tem that works. But that might also re­quire tak­ing pri­vate ve­hi­cles off the road. Is this gov­ern­ment or any gov­ern­ment will­ing to take un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions? Is the pop­u­la­tion at large ready for chang­ing their way of mo­bil­ity?”

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