4 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Wholesome Decongestion Solutions Elude Council

HARARE City Council still struggles in implementing wholesome traffic decongestion solutions.

The city now has over a million vehicles calling for the city fathers to be more proactive. This has led to calls for the introduction of modern decongesting mechanisms like subways, freeways, raised motorways at major intersections and even one-way thoroughfares leading in and out the CBD.

Congestion during peak hours is experienced along Seke Road, the stretch from the flyover up to Arcadia.

There is also congestion along Mutare Road up to the intersection with Chiremba Road during the same period.

City spokesman Mr Leslie Gwindi said the solution rests with funding.

He said there was need to build shopping malls away from the CBD as well as fruit and vegetable markets in areas that discourage driving through the CBD.

"We need a radical departure. We need to expand outside the city centre. We cannot continue building in the city centre. All new buildings should be outside," he said.

Expanding the existing roads, he said, was not feasible because of the attendant costs.

"We will have to destroy a number of buildings and pay compensation. We do not have that kind of money," he said.

Mr Gwindi said congestion along Seke Road was due to high volumes of traffic from Chitungwiza and the industrial sites.

"There is also heavy traffic flow along Robert Mugabe Way from Epworth, Ruwa, Msasa industrial area and the other eastern suburbs," he said.

Motorists who flout traffic regulations compound the problem.

These block lanes to pick and drop passengers.

Kombis and pirate taxis also inhibit smooth traffic flows as the drivers park their vehicles on undesignated pick-up and drop-off points.

While the introduction of one-way lanes improved traffic flow by removing conflict points on the roads, some one-way streets still congest during certain times of the day, especially when it rains.

Urban planner Mr Percy Toriro said in cases where a one way street is supposed to open up four or five lanes, two or more lanes would be blocked by motorists who double park.

"To get the most out of the one way streets, authorities must be strict with the enforcement of road regulations," he said.

He suggested increasing speed limits on selected roads.

"The current snail speed of 70-80km per hour on most major roads causes unnecessary bottlenecks," he said.

"We must now develop an integrated urban transport system that includes railways and interchanges."

Suggestions to use by-passes have been made. For example, vehicles from the west en-route the eastern parts of the city or beyond do not have to come through the CBD but can use a bypass.

Banning heavy vehicles from using the CBD could also help. Heavy vehicles can only be allowed during off peak hours when they deliver goods to shops and offices.

Others have said increasing on street parking space in the CBD and parkades could also reduce congestion.

Mr Toriro said that the city has failed to manage its road system.

"The absence of a reliable mass transport system that carries many people at the same time has contributed to congestion," he said.

He suggested that Harare should instead promote the use of conventional buses and ban or reduce reliance on 16-seater commuter omnibuses.

"In addition to that there must be time tabled buses that enable users to plan their journeys to and from work, school or hospitals," he said.

Another solution lies in the development of an urban rail system and the rapid commuter transportation system.

He said the construction of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Expressway and its diversion of traffic from the city centre was one such solution.

The road is taking long to be completed.

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