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