By K.L.Tariang

 The Shillong Times recently reported of a traffic snarl  in the city which hit a 108 ambulance service carrying  a seriously ill patient. There could be other such  instances which  might not have  been reported. While it would be  fortunate when  with  police assistance  one can    maneuver  through the dense traffic jams during  emergency situations of whatever sort  but at times traffic is completely clogged for a long time much beyond the ability  of  the traffic personnel  to promptly clear the  jam; an indication that the  traffic congestion is about to reach that stage  where it can  take away   precious time and  which could lead  to unfortunate or tragic  consequences.

    The  city  traffic congestion is an  accrual problem partially or insignificantly resolved  for  a number of  years now and the  Government’s holistic approach towards   resolving  the problem substantially  is still vague and incomprehensible. If there are  talks of   flyovers  or   underground routes as likely long term solutions then  this  could be   easier said than done   given the existing  complexities  within the city. However ,  if   properly explored and  if  every  square inch of land available is utilized then it might be possible to widen  roads  at certain points soon. There is a hint that  the government may  develop   the state Public Works Department  land  at Barik Point, if available, into a protest park area and for   parking. While the idea of a protest park here is contentious with the Civil Hospital, the State library and the Government Secretariats nearby, the idea for a parking area to come along with road widening around  the area could be a plausible  one if  the government gives serious thought to it. There was a  suggestion that  some portion of land  from  the huge  plot  housing the Governor’s  official residence be made available for road width expansion around that area and  for a parking  lot and this could be  another  possibility. Likewise there could be   extra land available  in any other state or central  government premises  within the city for road widening or parking  purposes if diligently  explored. On the other hand if  a resolution  has been  passed   in the State Assembly to  impress upon the Central Government to  exempt Meghalaya from the Central Mining laws then likewise a resolution  may perhaps be passed  to  impress upon the Central Government to hand over portions of Defence land  within the city to the State government  for road  widening purposes  or possibly for opening lateral roads. There could be a favorable response from the Centre on this since  it  would benefit the general public at large after all and provided the demand does  not exceed  more than  for the purpose required .

There  are a number of   pedestrian  pavements  of sufficient width within the city which  are not intensively used  while some  are intermittently   used   for  purposes  not  originally  intended. The spaces these pavements occupy may be available for road  width expansion    for maneuvering  of vehicles within a short distance especially during emergency situations  provided such expansion is not close to shops establishments or residences. Alternatively  short length skywalks for pedestrians above these available spaces may be constructed. One also hopes that the land  at Them Mawlong  would be used   for constructing  a multi tier parking lot  and not a commercial complex if the present residents are shifted  from the location.

     In the meantime , the government could  initiate  preventive or restrictive measures  which in any case  has to constantly  go side by side with  infrastructure built up  to prevent recurrence of traffic congestion  in no time. For a start  the introduction of  school buses  may    be made compulsory especially for big schools  to  alleviate the traffic congestion in the morning and afternoon hours .Some schools  in the city have already  introduced school buses; other schools should follow suit if  the   modalities relating to parking of these school buses ,the safety and security of the students etc are work out amongst  the school authorities ,the parents/guardians and the local durbars   with the government leading the initiative.  If, as  reported, the  State Government intends to  dispose  off  a number of  Shillong Transport Public Service (SPTS) buses  through a tender process then the  Schools  could perhaps be encouraged instead to take over the  maintainable  buses with a less demanding settlement where those  schools which  might  want to add  more buses  to  their fleet  and those with the intention of operating school buses would be benefited .

     When the carrying capacity of the main roads within the city may not be able to take more  load soon then it is time perhaps for the Government to   limit  the number of  new vehicles that can  be registered  for  a defined period . This may disappoint  prospective buyers , financiers  and  vehicles dealers  but then it cannot be expected that the  Government  can  please everybody  all the time  if the situation does not allow it . Many may  not  opt for public transports  nor will walking  be  a feasible option when it is easy to own a  private vehicle  with the desire  to often  use  it. The Singapore Government    regulates the total number of vehicles to keep traffic congestion at manageable levels  and to encourage use of public transport  where besides  effective  controlling measures to reduce vehicle movement  during  peak traffic  hours  it also  makes   it a very expensive  endeavor to own a vehicle  through  steep taxes while a  substantial amount has also  to be paid to the government to  obtain a Certificate of  Entitlement (COE) or the right to purchase a vehicle. While the   Meghalaya  government  may  not  replicate  the Singapore model  here as of now  but it   perhaps could at least   insist that new vehicle owners produce a  Certificate of Availability  of  individual parking space  certified by  designated  authorities with spot verification  before  the  registration  of  the new  vehicle is considered . This   will deter  those who  intend to use  a portion of  public  roads  as day or  overnight parking space  from  acquiring a vehicle  and it would  also  reduce the number of vehicles  in the city    to a reasonable extent.

    The  suggestion  that government could come up with plans to establish  parking space or terminals at certain entry points for vehicles coming from different sources towards the city  is worthy of consideration as it  will reduce inflow  of vehicles  into the  city  while public transports  can thereafter ferry passengers from these terminals  towards and inside the city. Government may  however  strictly regulate  the  issuance of  public transport permits  to avoid overspills  which  could again lead to  traffic congestion .

 Desperate times call for desperate measures and pending  quick suitable   interventions it may be   necessary   for the  government   to   apply the odd and even formula   to regulate  flow of vehicles  within  the city . Perhaps  it is too pessimistic for one  to think that such an eventuality  might arise but the public may have to brace themselves for  it  unless  the government    takes  bold  or even  courageous    decisions  to alleviate the traffic congestion   soon  and  for our other leaders to  support such  decisions   and  subsequently be  cooperative  and equally for the citizens to participate  without  grudge. Finally and hopefully suggestions or ideas on   possible solutions to ease the city traffic congestion which are publicly brought forward by the  people of Shillong  calls for public interactions and for the Government  to take note of and possibly  consider.

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