Traffic Constipation

By Raffique Shah
November 09, 2014

Raffique ShahOne of these not-so-good days, vehicular traffic in this cussed country will grind to a halt. With vehicular density (cars per 1,000 people) somewhere around 600 and growing, and Government boasting of vehicle sales as a barometer of a robust economy, we shall soon reach saturation where, if all the vehicles take to the roads at the same time, the country would be stricken with severe traffic constipation.

Over the past 20 years, how many kilometres of new roads have been constructed in this country? Three main highways—Beetham, Churchill-Roosevelt and Uriah Butler—have been widened, force-fitting six lanes into spaces that were designed to hold four. Except for the interchange, the ongoing extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway (San Fernando to Point Fortin) and the upgrading of a few secondary roads, nothing substantial has been added to our network.

During that same period, the number of cars has multiplied, possibly by three times, and the numbers and sizes of heavy trucks—huge dump trucks, massive container transports—likewise. An easy way of estimating where we are today in relation to vehicles is to look around your neighbourhood and count the numbers of vehicles per household.

Casual observation tells me that most households have at least two vehicles, many three, and some four or more. Not only that: the types of vehicle have changed. Today, if one does not own a sports utility vehicle (SUV) or truck (what were once known as vans, except these are, well, muscular!), you are not with it.

To add to our woes, this country has never had an obsolescence programme, so un-roadworthy wrecks trawl the roads without the requisite certificates of inspection and nobody gives a damn.

The end result of this irresponsibility on the part of successive governments, this absence of planning, is constant traffic congestion not only on the main roads and highways leading to our cities and towns, but at every two-rum-shops junction across the country.

In the current controversy over the highway extension to Point Fortin, frustrated residents of communities in the deep south plead for its swift completion to ease their hours-long, daily commute via ancient roads.

Well people, I am happy that you are getting a shiny new four-lane highway that is sure to help. But do not expect a free flow of traffic when it’s completed. Residents of central Trinidad who must commute to Port of Spain and its environs to work or conduct business spend two-to-three hours in traffic daily. Parents and children must rise at four in the morning and leave their homes no later than 5.30 if they are to reach Port of Spain by eight. Worse, the smallest mishap can turn two hours of frustration into four hours of torture.

For as long as we keep adding vehicles to the huge stock we already have, and until we institute a rapid transit system (or systems) that works, we shall be condemned to spending more hours confined in our vehicles than we spend at our places of work or in our homes.

Whenever we are in a bind, we often look far to Singapore, to see how they handled problems that are similar to ours. Of course, we cannot simply apply all their templates to Trinidad: if we did, some politicians would be in jail, and 90 per cent of the population would be cast in concentration camps (well, jail cyah hold all ah we!).

You spit on the sidewalk—lock up and lashes! Yuh bum peeping from yuh pants—lash! Litter—lash!

So we don’t want to go all the way down the Singapore road: we would sooner die than conform.

However, there are some aspects of their orderly society that we can learn from, and one is their mass transit systems. Bear in mind that this city-state is 718 square kilometres small (T&T 5,131), but it has a population of 5.4 million against our 1.3 million.

As far back as in 1967, city planners saw the need for rail-based urban transport by 1992—25 years ahead! By comparison, that was the same year in which the Dr Eric Williams Government was dismantling the remaining rail system in Trinidad.

The autocratic Lee Kuan Yew, mindful of the island’s land-scarcity, hence limited road-space for buses, opted for rail. The 153-kilometre system was built in phases, the first line opening in 1987. By 2013, daily ridership was estimated at 2.75 million.

Because of its super-efficient rapid transit system, vehicle ownership in wealthy Singapore is 151 per 1,000 residents, the lowest among developed countries. And while they still face traffic woes, a road toll system, recently digitised, has reduced significantly congestion and accidents.

Today, 65 per cent of Singapore’s estimated 3.5 million daily commuters use public transport, which is described a clean, rider-friendly and efficient.

Clearly, Trinidad (more than Tobago) needs a nationwide rapid transit system. The rapid rail preferred by the PNM, which many people like, may be better, but it’s hugely expensive (at least US$70 million a mile). Bus rapid transit is less costly and could be almost as efficient.

Whatever our preferences, it’s urgent that we move past discussion and into implementation before the country is stricken with a crippling case of traffic constipation.

19 thoughts on “Traffic Constipation”

  1. I think a mix of bus and rail could work. Rail to Sando and a Rapid bus on the South, Central and EW corridor.

  2. Naw with computerization more businesses should be looking to have their employees work from home. With the highways coming on stream there could be a designated bus lane operating between the hours of 6 a.m. To 9:00 a.m. And 3:00 p.m. To 6:00 p.m. From Point to Port of Spain, the bus could be double in length. The stops would only be in the main towns.

    The government is already moving to decentralize governance so that citizens do not have to go to Port of Spain for anything. Soon high encryption computers will be used to fill out applications and passport etc will be mail or courier. The problem of hours wasted in traffic is nothing new all nations are experiencing this plague. The Chinese have solve this by building several hundred kilometers of subway each year. TnT will come up with its own solution as time goes by..

    1. Sir, with your permission may I pose the following question? How “many” countries comprise the continent of North America?

  3. Swordfish, there are 23 countries in North America. These countries include USA, Canada, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Islands.

    1. Chong sing,there are “three countries” which comprise the “continent of North America” Canada,The United States of America,and Mexico.Please consult your former educators.

  4. History would bear me out on this , or better yet, Sandhurst Coup School trained , Uncle Shah, if in a generous mode to indulge an equally concern soul.In times of wars , and inter ethnic conflicts , some of the worst atrocities, are often committed, when such battles are on the verge of ending, or peace is eminent.
    The reasons are clear for us , students of Politics , and International Relations ,while mind boggling to other intellectual peons.

    The reality is, that the various fractions in the struggle , are trying to ensure that they obtain a more substantial slice of the pie, once the dust is settled/things get back to normal, and treaties are ready for signing.
    It ain’t quite the post Cold War ,genocidal inter ethnic conflict that devastated the former Yugoslavia -Balkans,or the under reported ,Armenian war, that involved those wounded descendants of Suliaman de Magnificent , in dem Young Turks, but nevertheless, we have our own peacetime ULF-UNC-PP/PNM war hear, and a big showdown is carded to take place soon , sometime before the middle , or perhaps end of 2015.
    Sadly though , T&T traffic woes , aren’t a high priority , vote getting issue for the two camps, so we should not expect much from de Siparia , Joan of Arch, in the few months remaining of her rule,or strident Commander ,Toussaint Rowley Le Overture , de Mason Hall geologist, and PM in waiting, if he should defeat her.
    The fact of the matter is that the political elites , in or out of power, oftentimes would not have to deal with the frustrating traffic congestion, that Uncle Shah has alluded to. They have their fancy police escorts, priority bus route passes, and the likes.
    The next time you go into a government office , and a low end, pimple face , public servant , at say ,de licensing office ,snaps at you, remember the reason why.He or she , got up at 3 am to catch a non existing taxi, or PP halted ,rapid rail ,and still got stuck in traffic en route to work.
    If Trini males are not seeing much romantic overtures from their exhausted wives , don’t blame the woman, when she had to endure hours on the road , returning home, then force to cook dinner , and help the kids with homework, while trying to do a few stomach crunches.
    Point fingers instead to Chambers, ANR, Basdeo, Manning, and Kamla , since not one of these bastards , constructed a single road , during their time in office.
    Thanks Papa Deffy…, and how they love zipping along the PBR, even our glorified environmental guru Dr K. Say no to rapid rail, but yes to Debe .
    Who de hell is looking out for frustrated commuters, hmmmmmm?
    A very poignant article , Uncle Shah.
    Long live the Republic of T&T.

  5. Swordfish, time changes and so does knowledge. At one time we were taught that there were 5 continents. During that time North and South were considered one continent. Then North America (Canada, USA and Mexico ) and South America were each considered separate continents. Now North America includes the countries I listed in my first response to you. ( For your information, I am an American based Trini educator.)

    1. I have met some of your (smile)students.Are you serious that the Caribbean constitutes part of the “North American continent?” My youngest grandchild will have “a field day with you” (smile)

      P:S: There are forty million people in the USA who “read and write” at the Grade Eight level.The population of Canada is approximately thirty-four million people!!! Do the math!

    2. You forgot to add for our edification Cong sing- ‘and with my sobriquet, I’m obviously East Asian, and so according to many phony experts, can do mathematics blindfolded if required, or better yet- unlike some ethnic peons-can excel in any business venture I attempt.’
      “American based Trini educated.?” What’s that mi Pizzano,a new species from Neptune? You folks are so hilarious,dat it ain’t even funny anymore, ennnnt?

  6. Lee Quan Yew had a few punch lines he dropped on our PM Eric Williams. The reason he put forward was we have more resources, slightly bigger land space and a lower population than Singapore but why Singapore is ahead of T&T in so many ways is because of the carnival mentality we possess. However I would add that Singapore has a vision and does not scrap ideas vikey vie as we do. I wonder if we will change.

  7. Swordfish, I am happy that your question and my response has stimulated other responses. Another thing, as a Trini I can take “fatigue.” I feel that you should check the website that ‘Loyal Trini” recommends.
    Thank you, “Loyal Trini” for you wise response.
    Now I am responding to Mr. Neal. I am not Asian but one of my grandparents was born in China. I am a “Trini 2 d bone.” One bit of correction. I wrote that ” I am an American based Trini educator” not “American based Trini educated.” I was educated in T&T but I did graduated studies in America and I am an educator.

  8. and the most critical factor has again been avoided for discussion…. that is….. how many people are going to work school etc… for the same hour? mass transit would be useless in this country as the old purchasing regulations have not been changed since 1965 thereby creating problems in the buying of replacement parts and effecting repairs to vehicles and equipment…

    this country has a build but doh maintain attitude from 1956 onwards look at school repairs, the elevators in the Parkade have been nonfunctional for how many years? Those in privately owned buildings function perfectly not so…. how many ambulances were for EHS now rot in El Socorro South and St. Augustine just because of bureaucracy in getting spare parts, almost 1000 or less, while the world laughs as an oil producing nation has about 4 ambulances to service almost 2million people and Trinis feel they are intelligent, come on get a grip on reality. How many Jaws of Life in Trinidad? 1 only 1 and it’s stationed by the airport inthis oil nation with how many universities and tertiary level institutions.

  9. Thanks for the edification Chong sing. In contrast, my Mandingo/ Hausa/ Luhya/Fulani/Ashanti/Ibo/Kimbundu ,great -great- grandmother ,was probably raped by some White Irish, English, or even Jewish , slave Massa, and so my name, but who is really checking -or care for that matter, hmmmm?
    Like you too, I likewise did my post graduate studies in good old ‘Pax Americana,’ but feels just as proud to say Trini educated, for without my O/A Level foundation. Well….you get de message.
    Keep educating dem Yankees Chong sing!
    Thanks for giving me an idea for a new research Chong sing.
    Why exactly does every race on earth,with any link to Africans , do everything in their powers ,to denounced /downplay,their Africaness, while members of ‘Afro-Kinky Head Nation,’ -with even the most minuscule mix blood- would try to overstate,.. ummmmmmm embellish ,their ‘otherness?’
    We have Etiopian Jews in Israel today being treated worst than rabies dogs , by racist religious fanatics , and yet referring to themselves as Jews. In North America, you’ll find folks Blacker than Idi Dada Amin, idly boasting about their Native American blood.
    In Latin American fiefdoms such as Dominicana Republica, Y Brazil, well.., we know the horror stories , and as for our T&T?
    Let’s just say, one just cannot get an honest debate on say de PP, or their elitist ,female leader Kamla , aka the Siparia Queen , re her sub par stewardship,and grab for more power,simply because Africans are busy running around like chickenhead —cowards, as they all claim to have some great grand mother ,or auntie , who is Indian. Race has become a taboo subject, just like in Chong sing , adopted home America , since everyone thinks he is mixed .
    Go figure!
    Luv Humanity people!
    Thanks Chong sing. You’ve been a good sport-or so I hope after this.
    It’s av beautiful life!

  10. funniest thing about the drunk hindu woman… she fulfill parts of the PNM development plan and her party manifesto in now less than 5years while the PNM IN 58 YEARS did not accomplish 3% of their manifesto…. like drunkeness and alleged pissing makes one more efficient than most….. wonder if is Guyanese puncheon?

    1. Some manifesto bigga927, and what exactly is that? Let me see.1.Destroy the moral of the entire Police Service, by bringing in a White Commissioner, who they promptly release , once he was not willing to be her lackey.
      2.Force an unconstitutional curfew on the nation.
      3.Purge the Public service, by replacing experience folks ,with unqualified party hacks.4.Gave thousands of Rickety laptops , that broke down in less than a month.
      5.Hand out state lands , but only to members of the tribe.
      6.Set up a bogus Commission of Inquiry into 1990 Coup, where findings became null, and void , since the Chairman who was vetted , by the clueless Dookeran ,was an Islamist ,simi educated fraud.
      7.Fired half her cabinet, but ensured the cantankerous, untouchables , such as Rammy is still around.
      8.Gave out some of the most questionable contracts , in the history of the Commonwealth, but only to cronies.
      9. Has not initiated a coherent jobs plan since in power.
      10. Security has regressed, and the economy is at a standstill, just like the traffic woes , commuters have to endure on a daily basis.
      11.Idly boast , on the UN floor, about giving single moms 500 dollars , to raise their illegitimate , fatherless babies , but is unperturbed than more kids have lost their lives , and women are being abused to a greater degree , during her stewardship, than during the previous period , her male predecessors served.
      Hey bigga937, pray tell me what 927 stands for? Is it your recent jail cell number?
      Here is a suggestion mi amigo.Leave hard core politics , to folks who at least finished High school.
      Stick instead , to discussing important , neo escapist trivia ,such as , Nicky Manaj butt size, the increasing price of cigarettes, and whether your favorite dance hall hero Vybe Kartel , is still bleaching, now that he has to serve 30 years for his past acts, or rather , is too busy fending off….., well, you know exactly what I’m talking about, hmmmm?
      Anyone willing to give this PM kudos re her stewardship over the recent 4 years, need to book a room in St Anns, then again , the funniest thing is ,that bigga927, was kidding all along, and we all recognized that , but when along with the ride nevertheless.
      Thanks bigga927, for giving us ,a bit of levity, at Kamla’s expense.

  11. Thanks for your comments Neal. I think we are on the same page. I enjoy meeting and “chatting” with anyone via this medium.
    Another thing, I am mixed with every race but I define myself as a black man from the Republic of T&T, a “Trini 2 d bone.”
    Let us continue our chat as time goes by.

  12. ohhh PNM till allyuh dead section of society, see if yuh still standing after PNM lose next year lol

  13. I was on the verge of telling bigga927, that history is on our side , and more importantly, it was his over hyped, female PM, who pronounced in her run for power-and I quote-“blood will run in de streets , if the PP loose this election. ”
    Then I said to myself, why waste time with this character , who one can clearly sense,could not have attended school, beyond grade 1, or worst yet, perhaps recently escaped ,the Jagdeo / Ramoutar-Guyana , socio-political cesspool, after swimming up the Berbice, or Demerara river , to T&T ,so he obviously knows no better.
    Listen buddy/banor , our T&T, contrary to what you country haters think , is a thriving democracy, where folks -irrespective of how painful the result- will always accept the final decisions of the electorate.
    Now on to real pressing issues , that has negative impact on my dear, underachieving country:- Namely, the sad state of affairs ,on our nation’s roads , that once more ,led to the demise of more unfortunate Trinis.

    Tell me however folks, does anyone, and their wonderful mama ,truly believe ,that a normal ,red blooded Trini ,would be caught driving a car at 40 Km per hour, at 2:30 am , on any road in Trinidad , and Tobago? I didn’t think so too.
    Listen , I for one empathize with the now traumatize families of these road tragedies, but let’s quit kidding ourselves, and begin the task of starting real efforts , aimed at being more responsible drivers on our roads, si?

    Por ejemplo:-
    1.Address sleep deprivation.
    2. Don’t drink and drive.
    3. Pay attention to all driving regulations-starting with excessive speeding, and worst yet, observing safe distances between vehicles .
    4.Ensuring that our vehicles , are always road worthy, via proper mechanical service.
    5. Avoid unnecessary distractions like cell phones etc.
    6.Show a bit of courtesy to both drivers , and pedestrians alike, and when involved in an RTA, please try to be civil /lower the anger meter/then allow our hard working ,dedicated Cops ,to do their jobs, re investigate the matter.

    It does not get any worst that this , does it?

    Luv Humanity people!

    Long live de Republic of T&T!

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