14 February 2013

Namibia: Traffic Congestion Overwhelms Windhoek

Traffic congestion in Windhoek has become a nightmare, especially at peak hours, causing motorists to drive up to an hour from Katutura to the city centre as opposed to 20 minutes under normal circumstances.

To be on time at work and to avoid traffic congestion, commuters are being forced to begin their morning trip an hour earlier.

The Windhoek Municipality said it is aware of the challenges faced by motorists in the city and particularly when using certain arterial roads coming in and out of Khomasdal.

Roads leading out of Katutura have similar congestion problems, as can be seen at peak hours when motorists drive bumper-to-bumper.

"We are certainly investigating ways of addressing this concern, and plans are underway with regard to traffic management, as we are equally looking at lasting solutions to this challenge. In the meantime we have traffic officers at different times assisting with the traffic flow, especially in the more congested areas," the municipality responded to New Era upon inquiry. According to the municipality, the number of motorists has increased in the city and as a result this puts tremendous pressure on the traffic flow.

"The City remains committed to address these concerns in the long run and it is busy with studies to develop a public transport plan for Windhoek," it said. There are approximately 130 000 vehicles registered in the Khomas Region. However, there are obviously a lot more other cars on the city's roads that are registered elsewhere. Hence, the vehicle population could be much higher than the municipality's estimate.

After battling the long slow, queues to come to work, Windhoek motorists still have to battle to find parking space.

The municipality admits that parking space in the city "is insufficient", especially within the Central Business District (CBD).

It however states that parking is only a problem at certain areas while others, for instance Wernhil Park, have adequate parking bays at present.

"However, the overall inadequate availability of parking in the City is affected by the ever increasing population," said the municipality.

According to statistics provided in 1990 the population was estimated at 46 000 but has currently grown to about 322 000.

"With that growth there has certainly been a dramatic increase in the vehicle population on the city's roads. These are some of the challenges that we continuously try to address," the municipality said.

The municipality further said it had not developed a significant number of parking areas as yet, but stated that its planning requirements necessitate any developers to dedicate certain portions for parking space. The municipality owns 40 percent of parking space in the City.

It said there is thus definitely a need to build more parking lots.

"We are pleased to see that companies in the CBD are taking up the challenge of providing more space on their properties for their customers," it noted.

Plans are underway to develop the CBD further as well as to look at alternative means of public transport in order to avoid more use of private vehicles.

Money that could be used to expand parking or any other needed services is used to repair damaged road infrastructure, the municipality said.

The municipality loses approximately N$400,000 to N$500,000 annually to fixing traffic lights alone, which are often vandalized besides being damaged in accidents.

"Nearly every weekend traffic light poles are either damaged or run over. Damage to road infrastructure occurs on a daily basis, ranging from minor road signs run over to barriers that need to be replaced," it added.

Such damages take up a big chunk of money that could have been used in other developmental areas, such as creating new parking space.

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