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Country needs traffic planning

July 10, 2014 - 1:14:53 am

One day, I decided to wander on the streets of Doha. It was 10am on a Sunday. This was why I expected the streets to be less crowded, thinking that students will be in schools and civil servants will be in their workplaces. I discovered, however, that I was daydreaming.

I stopped at the bus terminal near Doha Municipality (the terminal was closed days later). Here’s what I saw: There were a large number of buses at the terminal, but inside every bus there were three people at the most, driver included. Some private cars were waiting beside the Court of First Instance to offer rides to people, functioning as taxis. Karwa taxis were, meanwhile, hunting for passengers.

There was only one passenger in every private car. Expatriates who shamelessly jumped the queue by forcing their way ahead were driving most of the private cars. Motorcycles forced their way into the chaos created by the cars, making annoying sounds. Several cars got out of the side road near the Court of First Instance and unmindfully took a turn to the left. This was besides many other things I saw there.

The question that should be asked here is: Why were many workers outside their workplace at the time? Are they retired like me, especially the foreigners? Were all the foreigners at the time managers or agents whose work made it necessary for them to be in the street? Do not the foreigners who use private cars as taxis have other jobs with their sponsors?

Does it make economic sense to operate buses meant to carry 50 people when they carry only three? The most important question still is why does the government pay money — public money — to compensate Karwa for the losses it sustains while its cars keep roaming the streets empty? Now, is it not important for us to reconsider things, instead of leaving people to solve their problems themselves in the streets?

On July 10, 2013, the Traffic Department told representatives of driving schools that it would stop some categories of foreigners from obtaining driving licences. The department said by doing so it would reduce crowding on the streets.

Then, I told the traffic chief this would not solve the problem because it would make car agencies, parking lots and car service companies face problems. I said the decision would force them to reduce their activities and income, while it will not solve the main problem.

Shortly, companies found a way of getting around the rule and changed the profession of their expat employees to drivers so that they could get licences. The problem remains ten months after the announcement, in fact, it has worsened. This shows that we have a real issue on our streets and roads. This is particularly so because all solutions offered address only one side of the problem, which is not enough. That is why it is important for any solution to address all sides of the issue so that the problem can be tackled effectively.

Our government has spent billions of riyals to build the road network. Still, the strange thing is that whenever a new road is opened, it becomes crowded as if our government does not have a strategic traffic plan and that all its work is based on conjecture.

One ministry has, for example, given workers a survey to find out the means of solving the traffic problem in the towers area. This proves beyond reasonable doubt that we do not have any planning.

This also means that the millions of riyals spent on the creation of the Central Planning Office at the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning have been wasted. The office was set up in cooperation with a British consultancy firm. This also means that the salaries and bonuses given to road engineers and consultants at the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and at Ashghal are also wasted. We can also reach the conclusion that the Qatari engineers Association, which was founded in 2004, has not contributed in any manner to finding solutions to the problems faced by society.

The state has the ability to implement any system it wants, because it has the tools necessary for this, regardless of whether society likes it or not. When the government wanted to raise the price of diesel, it issued the decision and people woke up to face the new rates. This means that the government can also implement any traffic policy it wants.

Suggestions in this regard include:

1 –    Committing state agencies to ushering in buses for their workers. This will make these agencies ensure that their workers don’t leave work before company hours.

2 -    Committing schools to using public transport in ferrying students. 

3 -Workers – public and private sector employees– must go to work at different times of the day, while schoolchildren must also go to school at different times. Private sector workers, for example, can go to work from 9am and then leave work at 5.30pm.

4 -There must be a specific number of passengers on a private bus for this bus to start its journey, and violators must be held accountable.

5 -Cars entering specific places at certain times must be charged for doing this. This system is applied in a number of other countries. Citizens can be absolved of money paid in this regard.

All the above proposals are my own, but they do not mean that we should not conduct studies in order to find solutions for these problems.

Before I end this article, I need to say that the absence of traffic planning in this country has cost our government huge sums of money on the construction of roads and streets. Workplaces also sustained losses because of the failure of workers to arrive on time. Public funds are also lost in the form of subsidised fuel.