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Are the construction of Highways and Freeways the best solution to the traffic problems faced by road users in Trinidad?
The proposal of construction of major highways and freeways as the solution to the country's transportation crisis is a major step in alleviating the problem however it is not the best solution since there are many issues besides the deficiency of highways/freeways that are prime contributors to the traffic issue. The fact remains that the transport infrastructure is an invaluable component to the country of Trinidad and Tobago because it is the primary means by which the transport of people and goods are facilitated and without it economic activities would be severely crippled.
Reduce Bottlenecking at Urban Areas
To the average person building more highways would be seen as the best and most logical solution to the traffic problem in Trinidad and Tobago however this is not so. Imagine for example that the extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin was successfully completed and is open for public use. At peak hours large volumes of vehicles would be utilizing the highway and arriving at their destination in a shorter span of time but the problem now arises at the junctions and intersections where the highway begins and ends (Keeping in mind that these would be urban areas of high economic activities such as Port of Spain, San Fernando, Chaguanas etc). At these points there would still be major bottlenecking taking place as large volumes of vehicles simultaneously try to access and egress the same points.
In this regard one would just be transferring the traffic problem to another location. This is why the focus should be on alleviating the existing bottlenecks within and at the periphery of urban centres and not adding to the problem. Evidence of such bottlenecking are seen at existing intersections where the Churchill Roosevelt Highway (running east-west) & Uriah Butler Highway (running north-south) converge, Munroe Road, Endeavour Road and Chaguanas Main Road Access into and out of Couva/Point Lisas, the Solomon Hochoy Highway in San Fernando and the intersection at Gulf City Traffic lights in La Romaine just to name a few. See Appendix 1.
Vehicular volume reduction
The building of additional highways would not decrease the volume of vehicles on the road on any given day so that part of the traffic solution would be to get unnecessary vehicles off the roads period. With each passing day more and more vehicles are being licensed, sold and placed on the nation's roadway. This only increases the volume of vehicles that are on the roads which is also a key stakeholder in the existing traffic crisis. In this regard the government needs to place some sort of restriction where the purchasing and ownership of vehicles are concerned because it is wreaking havoc on our roads.
According to the United Nations World Statistics Pocketbook and Statistical Yearbook 2010, Trinidad and Tobago comes in 51st on their list having approximately 151 motor vehicles for every 1000 person and one can factor in the reality that each person may own much more than one vehicle. Therefore the relevant bodies should look to alternative means of transport or other additional ideas that would remedy the traffic problem. Having more water taxis, shuttles, busses, rapid rail projects and even carpooling would all prove very effective in drastically reducing the volume of cars on the nation's roads and decreasing traffic congestions.
Modification and Improved design of existing and future roadways
Another contributor to the traffic crisis is the poor design of the existing highways and freeways. Most of these road ways are dual carriageways having only two lanes in a given direction which limits the capacity of vehicles that can use it especially at peak hours. If the highways and freeways were designed to accommodate three to four lanes of traffic in a given direction then there would be less congestion on the nation's roads.
In an article published by the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago (APETT) it was stated that "over the last forty years one National Transportation Study (1967) at least two sub-sector transport studies have been commissioned. With less than 50% of the recommendations of these studies being implemented to date, another study, this time a macro Comprehensive National Transportation Study (CNTS), encompassing sea, land and air transport was commissioned in October 2005" and to date the findings are unknown. One can therefore assume by such actions that there is little or no concern about improving and upgrading the existing transport system. In addition to the above it must be mentioned that if the current and proposed highways and freeways are built without factoring these improvements the end result would be the same.
THE ASSOCIATED ADVANTAGES AND DIS-ADVANTAGES
Transportation that works for us is not as complicated as it seems. It is dependent on implementing a cohesive and interdependent strategy. This strategy must actively encourage effective programs that help commuters and drivers choose methods of travel that make efficient use of our roadways. At the same time, we need to make sure that we make smart development choices that enhance both our quality of life and our access to these transportation choices. Thus far we have some advantages and disadvantages stemming from what we have accomplished so far with our construction of new highways; because if highway expansion was the answer to congestion problems, the trip to Port-of-Spain, Pt. Fortin and so on should have seen some relief by now. Instead, traffic in the region is worsening and the projections made about the effectiveness of this expansion have proven to be inaccurate.
There are some key findings that prove the construction of freeways does not necessarily alleviate traffic congestion. For example, it has been seen that despite all the increased lanes, highways and removal of intersections (eg. Aranguez); the traffic congestion within the heart of Port-Of-Spain still remains the same than before any investing of expanding road capacity. But for persons going east from south Trinidad would enter and exit the highway much faster but there will be that congestion on the main roads.
Similarly to the new bypass developed along Prize Plaza for commuters to exit and enter the highway. This as a matter of fact has actually attracted new traffic causing more congestion. It is known that for every ten percent increase in a city's highway network, drivers will add five percent onto their driving. The removal of the ramp to exit off the highway and enter at Prize Plaza flyover now makes it harder because it only diverts the traffic from one point to the other.
The benefits that one receives because of an expanded road may be outweighed by the costs that one incurs waiting in traffic while the road is constructed. Smart planning involves assessing the costs of a system (highways that lead to more sprawl, more air pollution, higher costs of delay during long construction projects, taxpayer money that pays for those projects) versus benefits (supposed decreased travel times) to then create an effective decision about the best possibility.
The newly constructed off ramp heading to Port-of-Spain at Gran Bazaar has fill up much faster than anticipated, providing little to no relief hence the ongoing alleged improvement of freeways. The problem has not been solved yet with traffic congestion. It would still take the average person one hour and forty-five minutes from San Fernando to Port-of-Spain. That time span is only dependant on if there are not any road accidents or construction. The Aranguez Interchange project caused delays than the eventual benefits were worth. Commuters are projected to never make up the time that they will lose during the approximate four years of its construction.
While increasing road construction it decreases public transportation availability. At Aranguez Junction, a commuter using public transport would have been able to drop off short but because of its removal, there is not any stop. It would be economically inefficient for public transport to come off the highway to facilitate travelers accustoms to that drop off point. This now in increase delays between major stops. Persons are now forced to use their private vehicle as their predominant mode of transportation as a matter of convenience.
Therefore the concept of generated traffic is straightforward. Just like in microeconomic theory where an increase in supply causes an increase in demand, when the "cost" of travel decreases because of added capacity, people travel more. The supply of roads increases, the demand for those roads increases. Roadway capacity increases that alleviate congestion reduce the generalized cost of driving so that the perception that travel will be easier makes the trip seem "less expensive," thus new roads encourage more trips and more mileage.
The construction of major highways and freeways as the solution to the country's transportation crisis is not the only solution. Transportation is the movement of people and goods from one location to another. The frequent moving of people and goods via vehicles causes major traffic build up around certain times of the day. There are alternative solutions that can be considered but along comes advantages and disadvantages. Assessing these alternatives to prove whether it is applicable is a major concern for various political platforms together with the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago. The following are alternative solutions:
Improvements to junctions - the use of grade separation
Grade separation is the process of aligning a junction of two or more transport axes at different heights so that they will not disrupt the traffic flow on other transit routes when they cross each other. The composition of such transport axes does not have to be uniform; it can consist of a mixture of roads, footpaths, railways, canals, or airport runways. Bridges, tunnels, or a combination of both can be built at a junction to achieve the needed grade separation.
Roads with grade separation generally allow traffic to move freely, with fewer interruptions, and at higher overall speeds; this is why speed limits are typically higher for grade-separated roads. In addition, less conflict between traffic movements reduces the capacity for accidents.
Grade-separated junctions are very space-intensive, complicated, and costly, due to the need for large physical structures such as tunnels, ramps, and bridges. Their height can be obtrusive, and this, combined with the large traffic volumes that grade-separated roads attract, tends to make them unpopular to nearby landowners and residents. New grade-separated road plans can receive significant opposition from local groups for these reasons.
Rail-over-rail grade separations take up less space than road grade separations, because shoulders are not needed, there are generally fewer branches and side road connections to accommodate (because a partial grade separation will accomplish more improvement than for a road), and because at-grade railway connections often take up significant space on their own. However, they require significant engineering effort, and are very expensive and time-consuming to construct.
Rail-over-road grade separations require very little additional space because no connections need be built, but requires significant engineering effort and are expensive and time-consuming to construct.
Ramp meter, ramp signal or metering light is a device, usually a basic traffic light or a two-section signal (red and green only, no yellow) light together with a signal controller, that regulates the flow of traffic entering freeways according to current traffic conditions.
A platoon is a group of vehicles travelling in proximity, such as a group released by an arterial traffic signal changing from red to green. Ramp meters can break up platoons of vehicles entering freeways, ensuring that traffic can merge more easily. Another premise of ramp meters is diversion. The delay caused by the ramp meter waiting period may cause some drivers to choose other routes thereby reducing demand for the freeway
Queued traffic overflowing out of the ramps and onto other streets approaching the interchange.
Increased pollutant emissions arising from the metered traffic and from the additional emissions from accelerating from a stop to freeway speeds (versus accelerating from street speeds to freeway speeds).
These are Local-express lanes that provide through lanes that bypass junction on-ramp and off-ramp zones and limited-access road. Such roads limit the type and amounts of driveways along their lengths.
The purpose of having a collector-express system is to "squeeze" two freeways into one corridor. Often the collector lanes serve primarily as the direct connectors or ramp extensions, and the express lanes are designed for "through traffic".
The disadvantage is that a significant amount of right-of-way is required to accommodate a collector-express system, especially the collector lanes and the median barriers between the collector and express lanes. Transportation departments often design new suburban freeways with interchanges spaced far enough apart to eliminate the need for a collector-express system, and the land saved can be used for a wider median and/or extra lanes.
Reversible lanes are lanes where certain sections of highway operate in the opposite direction on different times of the day/ days of the week, to match asymmetric demand. This may be controlled by Variable-message signs or by movable physical separation. A reversible lane is a lane in which traffic may travel in either direction, depending on certain conditions. Typically, it is meant to improve traffic flow during rush hours, by having overhead traffic lights and lighted street signs notify drivers which lanes are open or closed to driving or turning.
The presence of lane controls allows authorities to close or reverse lanes when unusual circumstances (such as construction or a traffic accident) require use of fewer or more lanes to maintain orderly flow of traffic.
The movement of large physical barriers needs to incorporate the use of heavy equipment and regular maintenance. The presence of traffic moving in opposite directions relative to each other presents the risk of head on accidents more common.
Water taxi service
A water taxi or water bus is a commuter passenger boat used to provide public transport, usually but not always in an urban environment. Service may be scheduled with multiple stops, operating in a similar manner to a bus, or on demand to many locations, operating in a similar manner to a taxi. A boat service shuttling between two points would normally be described as a ferry rather than a water bus or taxi.
The water taxi service is part of the Trinidad and Tobago Government's "Vision 2020" strategy plan, which aims for an efficient, integrated, multi-modal public transport system. When fully operational the water taxi service is expected to facilitate the transport of approximately 8,000 to 12,000 passengers in a normal working day and will be integrated with other transport systems. (Extracted from Austal, 2009)
Cheapest traffic means.
Possesses high load carrying capacity.
Requires cheap motor powers than for airplanes.
Does not require any special infrastructure like roads, and airports.
Slow in speed
More chances of attack on boat sailing through
Only can be used when sufficient water is available.
In deep sea if boat gets in to storm, it becomes difficult to rescue.
Special maintenance of boat is required.
Rapid railway system
Rail transport is the process of conveying or transporting people, livestock, and general goods using a vehicle mounted onto a rail system. The most common form of rail transport is generally known as a railroad or railway. One of the older forms of conveyance, rail transportation for freight and people, continues to be a viable and reliable form of moving from a point of origin to a destination in today's world.
The proposed Rapid Rail System (RRS) OR BOMBARDIER STYLE TRAMLINK would appear to be a done deal that has been concluded in the privacy of Cabinet without the requisite proper feasibility study (recommended by APETT) being conducted to determine whether it can really alleviate the escalating traffic gridlock that has enveloped most areas of Trinidad. This RRS is being bandied about even before the receipt of the Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) Comprehensive National Transportation System (CNTS).There is no additional physical room along the Butler Highway or compelling economic justification to build a North-South Railway Link. (Extracted from Stephen Kangal, 2006).
Relatively cheap, quick, easy to plan route, one of the safest ways to travel, relatively reliable, can enjoy the scenery, can work/study/take phone calls on the way, easily accessible to most, can travel overnight long distances.
Noisy, cramped, drunks causing hassle, strangers staring, can be stressful; children can be a pain, having to give up seats out of politeness, listening to other peoples really loud phone conversations, can be bumpy too warm/too cold.
ENGINEERING (AND OTHER RELAVANT) RECOMMENDATIONS TO ADDRESS OUR TRAFFIC SITUATION
Formal Adoption of Engineering Standards and Practices:
From an engineering and construction perspective standards are very beneficial. This is because standards set the framework to ensure quality control, consistency, control environmental impact and safety. In Trinidad and Tobago road we need to adopt these standards from the start to finish of all road and traffic projects. This means that before any project is started a system would already exist to guide the planning, design, implementation and maintenance aspects of the projects. Since this standard would apply to all projects then all of the road and traffic infrastructure would be consistent. Safety is also a critical issue addressed by using standards. One of the mandates of any transportation system is the safety of all its users, irrespective of the mode of transport using that system.
Consider for a moment the familiar scenario of suddenly coming upon a 'pothole'. The motorist swerves to avoid that hole but hits a pedestrian or cyclist due to his sudden action. Upon careful consideration of this scenario you would realize that the problem goes beyond the pothole and it can be directly related to the lack of adherence to standards. Poor material or construction techniques might have been used by the contractor, which led to that portion of the road deteriorating prematurely. We can even consider that proper preventative maintenance was not done on the roads. Proper standards and the adherence to them can address most if not all of these challenges.
Implementation of Proper Fiscal Incentives and Policies:
Sound economic and fiscal measures are relevant for the success of any Endeavour. If we want to see real improvement in our traffic congestion problems and related issues such as air pollution, then initiatives must be taken by the government to ensure that the relevant economical incentives are available. For example car pooling has long been recognized as a good means of decreasing vehicular traffic on our roads. Those who do pooling can be given discounts when purchasing gasoline or vehicular parts for example. If individuals or businesses can feel a tangible benefit or penalty then this would greatly assist. The government currently subsidizes the purchase of fuel, which is becoming more and more of a burden on the national treasury. This policy can be modified to apply to those motorists who adhere to some approved initiative; for example, only vehicle owners with special emission control devices on their exhaust would qualify. The implementation of such policies can be challenging but government would have to be innovative and adventurous in finding ways to apply these economic measures.
Improve Public Transport Systems:
The public transport system plays a crucial role in traffic management. If more people use public transport such as busses, water taxis and land taxis then vehicular congestion would be greatly alleviated. The problem in Trinidad and Tobago is that the public transport system is not efficient or reliable. If citizens are expected to use this system for transport to school, work, home or wherever then the service must be reliable, efficient and safe. Although there have been some improvements in the public transport system, there is still a lot more room for improvement
Improving road capacity:
Adding more capacity at bottlenecks (such as by adding more lanes at the expense of hard shoulders or safety zones, or by removing local obstacles like bridge supports and widening tunnels).
Adding more capacity over the whole of a route (generally by adding more lanes).
Creating new routes.
Parking restrictions - making motor vehicle use less attractive by increasing the monetary and non-monetary costs of parking, introducing greater competition for limited city or road space. Most transport planning experts agree that free parking distorts the market in favor of car travel, exacerbating congestion. (Hermann Knoflacher, 2006).
Park and ride facilities - allowing parking at a distance and allowing continuation by public transport or ride sharing. Park-and-ride car parks are commonly found at subway stations, freeway entrances in suburban areas, and at the edge of smaller cities.
Intelligent transportation system
The term intelligent transport system (ITS) refers to efforts to add information and communications technology to transport infrastructure and vehicles in an effort to manage factors that typically are at odds with each other, such as vehicles, loads, and routes to improve safety and reduce vehicle wear, transportation times, and fuel consumption.
Traffic reporting, via radio, GPS or possibly mobile phones, to advise road users.
Variable message signs installed along the roadway, to advise road users.
Navigation systems possibly linked up to automatic traffic reporting.
Traffic counters permanently installed, to provide real-time traffic counts.
Convergence indexing road traffic monitoring, to provide information on the use of highway on- ramps.
Visual barriers - to prevent drivers from slowing down out of curiosity. This often includes accidents, with traffic slowing down even on roadsides physically separated from the crash location. This also tends to occur at construction sites, which is why some countries have introduced rules that motorway construction has to occur behind visual barrier.
Speed limit reductions - with lower speeds allowing cars to drive closer together, this increases the capacity of a road. Note that this measure is only effective if the interval between cars is reduced, not the distance itself. Low intervals are generally only safe at low speeds.
Lane splitting/filtering - where space-efficient vehicles, usually motorcycles, scooters, and ultra-narrow cars ride or drive in the space between cars, buses, and trucks. This is however illegal in many countries as it is perceived as a safety risk.
We try to find ways to alleviate many problems in society, most of which is caused by our own doings. In this report, we looked at the Transport Infrastructure of Trinidad and Tobago, and how it can be improved to help curb the traffic woes inflicted on society. One can now have a better understanding of the affect of the plans for upgrading/creating our nation's highways on everyday life on the road. We have looked at some of the alternative solutions to help ease the traffic congestions and their associate advantages and disadvantages. It is clear that in order to reduce traffic on our roadways, we have much more to do that building new highways. Although it will assist with reducing some congestion, it may still create a negative effect elsewhere.
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