Goa has the highest vehicle density in the country, which stands at one vehicle per person. The State today roughly has over 16 lakh vehicles on its roads, with the number growing by the day. Despite this boom in vehicle population, the Goa government has visibly no tangible or long term plans how to control the parking and movement of vehicles within our city and towns.
The two low impact measures that have been implemented by the government are scrapping of government vehicles after 15 years and re-registration of private vehicles after 15 years with no stiff fees, and introduction of parking fees in Panjim and other towns which actually does not deter people from bringing their vehicles to the city and towns across Goa.
Four measures could be suggested to substantially reduce congestion in Panjim and the major towns of Mapusa, Margao, Ponda and Vasco.
The first is to ban delivery/supply vans from coming into the city and towns during peak hours, when traffic congestion becomes a dreaded daily reality. These essential vehicles, while vital for the functioning of our cities, can also be significant contributors to traffic congestion during peak hours.
In the larger public interest, delivery vans should be banned from entering the urban areas, just like trucks are banned between 7 am and 7 pm. Delivery vans, which often making frequent stops and block lanes, exacerbate this problem. Delivery vehicles should be given a regulated time to enter, say for instance before 9 am and after 7 pm. This will substantially reduce traffic congestion in the city and towns. The city and town businessmen will have to sacrifice in the interest of the larger public good by coming to the city or town early to offload the goods.
Secondly, urban parking can be a contentious issue, with limited spaces and high demand leading to frustration and inefficiency. One of the factors contributing to this problem is the presence of tourist taxis in unauthorised city and town parking lots. While taxis provide a valuable service, their unrestricted use of parking spaces can lead to chaos and inconvenience.
Therefore, the second major measure to decongest Panjim and the other major towns is banning tourist taxis from parking in the non designated city parking lots, except if they have brought tourists or locals for shopping in the city. It is often seen that public non designated parking lots are used by tourist taxis as ‘taxi stands’ to solicit customers.
Parking lots in the city and towns are often in high demand, and finding an available space can be a daily struggle for many commuters. When taxis occupy these spaces intended for public use, it exacerbates the parking crunch. There are a number of designated tourist taxis stands in the city. In addition to this, if they wish to park, they should park just outside the city and be available on call, which can be done with the help of the transport department.
The third major step which can have a substantial impact on city congestion is rapid mass transport system within the town or the city. The lifeblood of a thriving city is its mobility. It is imperative that we introduce an easy and rapid mass transit system. The fares charged by motorcycle taxis, yellow-black and tourist taxis to move within the city and towns are exorbitant compared to cities such as Mumbai. Despite much talk before the implementation of the Smart City Mission about introducing hop-on-hop-off mini buses, no mass rapid transport system has been introduced in Panjim or any other town.
In our pursuit of more sustainable and livable city and towns, introducing an easy and rapid mass transit system is a must. It has the potential to alleviate traffic congestion by discouraging private vehicles from the urban areas, besides other benefits.
The fourth major and indispensible step in decongesting the city and towns is to wake up the traffic police to do their designated duty on a daily basis. It is seen that during peak hours the traffic police are absent on the ground, especially at key congestion points, leading to frustration among vehicle users. They are prominently visible on certain days when VIPs visit the state or when they plan to impose fines on unsuspecting tourists. The department should recruit more personnel if required, but traffic police are the key people in ensuring decongestion of our city and towns.