Roads, traffic and GDP

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Source- The post is based on the article “Roads, traffic and GDP” published in the “Business Standard” on 9th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 Government policies and interventions. GS 1 – Urbanisation

News– The article explains the issues of traffic management in India.

Why does traffic movement need to be a significant part of development economics and public policy in India?

The chaotic and slow traffic movement causes significant wastage of time and energy. It affects productivity and gross domestic product.

Traffic movement is not the only solution for the growth rate of GDP.  But policy to improve traffic movement is a part of “small” policy changes. These policy changes can make a big difference to the growth rate of GDP.

Improving traffic movement can have significant effects on welfare. This is due to factors such as tension, road rage, and accidents that are waiting to happen.

What are the reasons for poor traffic management in cities?

Investment can be in tangible assets or intangible assets. Tangible assets include roads. Intangible assets include a sound system for smooth traffic movement.

India is spending too much money on tangible assets and very little on intangible assets. There is a tendency to spend on wider roads and flyovers. But there is inadequate attention to smooth traffic movement.

India often takes pride in world class highways. However, the opportunity cost of a world-class highway is very high.

Parking space for vehicles is limited in cities in India. Parts of the roads are used as parking spaces. This slows down traffic considerably.

Master plans of cities often do not allocate enough spaces for the purpose. Town planners feel that they need to focus on providing land for housing, commerce rather than on less useful purposes like parking.

What is the way forward for improving traffic management in India?

Only about 0.2% of national land mass in India is used in the top 10 cities. This shows that there is ample scope for increasing land for cities. This can pave the way for providing far more spaces for parking in existing and new cities.

There is a need to reconsider the licensing of drivers. At present, the focus is on checking whether a person seeking a licence can drive a vehicle. But there is also a need to check adequately that the applicant can drive without adversely affecting others.

A change in licensing policy can help in improving the movement of traffic on roads.

India needs good highways, but not necessarily world-class highways. The difference between the cost of building a good highway and a world-class highway can be very large. The money saved can be used to improve the traffic movement within cities and small towns.

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