February 28, 2018
Most of us motorists, except for those who have escaped to the country, are all exposed, virtually on a daily basis, to the ravages of heavy city traffic. It is stressful to say the least. How does one deal with heavy city traffic?
Cape Town has beaten Johannesburg and is reported to be South Africa’s most congested city with Johannesburg coming in second place. Third place is East London, which is then followed by Pretoria and then Durban. Overall though on the world list Cape Town comes in at 33rd place, whereas the City of Gold (Johannesburg) is sitting at 44th.
There is a two-pronged approach to dealing with heavy traffic – the first one involves traffic authorities, whilst the second one the motorists themselves.
Traffic authorities study traffic data that is supplied to them by various monitoring systems situated around the city. The studying of such data sets provides traffic authorities with a reasonable picture of the current traffic densities or volumes occurring at various times and places. They can see at what rate it is worsening and when it is reducing. Traffic authorities can plan how to reduce traffic volumes or increase traffic flows by creating additional road infrastructure with the data and in response to the seriously congested areas that reveal themselves. One way that they can do this is by increasing lanes in certain sections which could improve traffic flow.
Let us have a look at how heavy, congested traffic is managed in South Africa’s most populated city, Johannesburg. Over recent years, congestion in Johannesburg has decreased and this is partially due to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). With this Project, the infrastructure capacity of various freeways in Johannesburg was considerably improved. Other improvements included Open Road Tolling (ORT) which is the new e-toll system. Many ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) were started on several freeways, as well as Freeway Management Systems (FMS). A centralised Transport Management Centre (TMC) assists in early incident detection and corresponding response systems.
An Intelligent Transport System (ITS) is an advanced technological application to improve transport systems as well as traffic management. In other words, transport co-ordination in a city would be managed ‘smarter’. With ITS, information and communication technologies are used in transport, involving road infrastructure, vehicles and motorists. The whole idea of ITS is to render transport considerably more efficient.
ITS South Africa represents the private and public sectors. It is made up of Government, as well as various agencies, manufacturers, consultants, service providers, and all those using ITS technology. The aims of ITSA are to keep those involved with ITS updated with technological advancements, as well as provide people-friendly ITS solutions for improved traffic flow in our busy cities.
A freeway management system or FMS involves the use of strategically-placed CCTV cameras on a city’s major freeways providing real-time traffic information to a central traffic management centre (TMC). This monitoring system helps response teams to get to various crash sites as quickly as possible.
An excellent example of how to reduce traffic volume in cities and on highways would be the Gautrain project that connects Pretoria with Johannesburg. This high speed commuter passenger train service began with one route in 2010, just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. More routes were established in 2011 and 2012. Park-and-ride infrastructure as well as bus services to and from the stations all help tremendously in reducing traffic congestion in these major cities. According to 2016 figures, people using the Gautrain in one day totalled between 62 000 to 65 000. The worse congestion on roads becomes, the greater the numbers of commuters using the Gautrain should become. Imagine each of those 62 000 to 65 000 commuters potentially used to drive a car, but are now no longer flooding Pretoria / Johannesburg and its surrounding highways because of the Gautrain. It is estimated that 18.5 million commuters will make use of the Gautrain from 2016 – 2021.
How about lift clubs or car-pooling? Using lift clubs can reduce traffic congestion significantly. However, remember that a lift club is an informal arrangement between several people, so make sure about insurance should the car providing you with a lift is involved in a crash.
A traffic app called Waze is highly acclaimed for providing motorists with up-to-date traffic data about bad traffic flows. Actually, widespread use of such apps would discourage motorists from using roads already seriously congested.
Tuning in to the radio before going to work in your car may well save you hours of standing still on the freeway. Just one collision blocking two lanes could cause terrible congestion.
We are thankful to the traffic authorities for continuously trying to mitigate traffic congestion, but ultimately, we as motorists also have a job to do. Why not try and catch the Gautrain, or participate in a lift club? If you can’t do that, at least use a traffic app on your cell phone.