GUWAHATI: The city’s traffic situation has now attained nightmarish proportions, and voters here would like this issue resolved by whosoever is elected to office.
Priyanka Deka is a student who lives 19km from her university. Every day, she spends over 90 minutes traveling the distance one way. “The city has a smart city tag and is expanding by the day, but commuting remains a big problem,” said Deka, a Gauhati University student. “Someday the bus has to wait for over an hour at Bharalumukh, Kamakhya and Maligaon due to heavy traffic congestion. Solutions have to be developed fast.”
The city has 650 private buses and 300 state-owned ones. But these are proving increasingly inadequate to cater to the needs of the people. Deka says most of the time people have to skip rides because the buses come stuffed with people.
Then there is the problem of buses stopping at undesignated spots. “The bus drivers stop wherever they want as they try to get more passengers. This adds to congestion,” said Satabdi Baruah who takes a bus to work and back daily. “Women also have to worry about their safety after 7pm as some bus staff are drunk on duty,” Baruah said, adding that there’s an immediate need to rein in errant drivers.
The Guwahati master plan for 2025 projects an increase in the two-wheeler count to 60,219 in 2025. In 2004, the number was just 10,949. Same goes for the car count that will balloon to 66,942 in 2025 as opposed to 15,475 in 2004. The master plan also estimates that there will be a total travel demand of 13.7 lakh person vehicular trips daily in 2025.
Therefore, the voters want a sustainable transport model. Abhi Saikia, a city resident, blamed the chaos on inoperative traffic signals. Of the 34 traffic signals in the city, 26 have remained non-functional for the last three or four years.
Some residents also say that it is difficult to find public transport after 8pm in a city of 14 lakh people. “There are hardly buses or other forms of public transport that remain active late. We urge policymakers to look into this,” said Bishnu Hazarika who travels from Kahilipara to the DC office daily. All Assam Motor Transport Association secretary general Pradip Das said that it is not economically viable to run buses after 8pm in Guwahati. “We are helpless as very few passengers are there at that hour. But the government-owned buses can operate,” Das said. But city residents don’t buy this argument and want better functioning transport. “Public transport plays a key role in the fight against climate change,” said city resident Anup Barman.
Another resident, Chiranjeeb Sarmah, said all busy roads need to be widened and electronic traffic control systems installed. “Haphazard parking should be strictly penalised,” Sarmah added.