11 Juni 2013

Solutions To Bali's Traffic

Balis first underpass at the Dewa Ruci monument, popularly known as Simpang Siur, is finally open. The relevant authorities are to be congratulated on their decision to open the underpass even before work was fully completed and the ceremonies had been held. There is no doubt that traffic flow through this important hub has been greatly improved.

We have heard from numerous officials over the past months that South Balis traffic problems will be solved with the opening of this new underpass and the Nusa Dua Ngurah Rai Benoa toll road shortly thereafter.

Road users passing through the underpass traveling west to Seminyak and beyond may well feel that the traffic authorities have kicked the can down the road and moved the congestion to the Sunset Road Iman Bonjol intersection. Before the opening of the underpass it was already apparent that long tailbacks at Imam Bonjol were being created simply because the timing of the traffic lights was too short.

With the underpass now open and a greater volume of traffic heading west down Sunset Road, the Imam Bonjol intersection is the new Simpang Siur.

The lights stay on green for just 14 seconds. Traffic cannot move forward immediately on the change to green because of the egregious and widespread habit of drivers running the red lights. After the surge of traffic starts, there are only a very few seconds before the whole column stops again.

Vehicles move forward only a few meters before the red light reappears. One can sit in the jam and watch the lights change five or six times before reaching the intersection. This scenario is symptomatic of the outdated management of Balis traffic lights system.

My first visit to Bali was 35 years ago when the Imam Bonjol Road was the major road from Kuta to Denpasar. Sunset Road came 25 years later.

Now, Sunset Road is clearly the major road with a larger volume of traffic. In the minds of local traffic officials it may be that Sunset Road is the secondary road, deserving a short period for the green lights.

Traffic management needs to consider two interconnecting concepts: momentum and flow. From a standstill, vehicles need time to pick up momentum, resulting thereafter in flow. Frequent and short changes of traffic lights worked well when traffic was light.

Today, with heavy traffic, the system of traffic lights in use in Bali prevents momentum building up and flow is thus hampered. An urgent re-assessment of the whole system is needed.

Traffic planners in Bali are well advised to seek advice from their counterparts in Bangkok, where major road arteries have green lights set on longer periods of up to three minutes, promoting flow. And traffic lights on one stretch are synchronized. Jakartas Governor Joko Jokowi" Widodo has traveled to Singapore to seek advice from the authorities on building and operating an mass rapid transit (MRT) system.

Reduce the numbers of U-turns on the main Ngurah Rai bypass; stop motorcycles making illegal and dangerous U-turns wherever they please, make some serious efforts on the management of street parking, punish offenders who blatantly drive through red traffic lights and enforce regulations!

These are some of the practical ways of reducing traffic chaos and improving flow.

Put simply, the traffic authorities seem blind to or ignorant of the problems and incapable of implementing practical solutions, most of which could be achieved without expensive new infrastructure projects.

Douglas R P Wallace Jimbaran, Bali

Surat pembaca diambil dari Jakarta Post tanggal 11 Juni 2013.