Accra is gradually losing its serenity to heavy vehicular traffic. The phenomenon is a daily nuisance to many and it is likely to aggravate if the rates of car ownership increases in the Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA) to over 1 million in 2023 as projected.
Traffic congestions are said to be a daily occurrence in many cities across the world especially during the morning and evening peak hours, which are normally between 0730 – 0930hrs and 1630 – 1830hrs respectively. However, almost every hour is peak in Accra now.
The traffic congestion is usually caused by the inability of the capacity of the road network to cope with the volume of vehicular traffic using it. The number of vehicles registered each year will continue to rise, due to economic prosperity. The other causes may include road closures, road works and traffic accidents, which reduce the effective width of the carriageway and have short term effect on the road network.
The effects of the heavy vehicular traffic congestion are numerous. I was alarmed by a report by psychologists that every day irritations such as waiting in traffic can build up over time and cause mental problems later in life. Scientists have also shown that the fumes and particles of pollutants that we inhale while waiting in traffic can contribute to memory loss and problems with reasoning.
All pollutants have the ability to cause minor damage to the brain but you put yourself at a higher risk of absorbing them by being in traffic. Essentially, you are a prisoner in your car. (http://www.metropia.com/blog/three-things-traffic-congestion-does-your-brain). It is also significant to note that the growing population and consequent traffic congestion have a strong relationship with the quality of life.
We certainly cannot misjudge the implications of the traffic congestion on productivity. There is heavy economic cost to traffic but due to insufficient data, it is difficult to put actual figures to the economic cost of traffic congestions in Accra.
There is the need for an exigent policy decision to curb the heavy vehicular traffic in Accra and other cities in Ghana. It is almost becoming difficult to move within the city especially during the weekdays.
Ghana’s population is growing rapidly and it is important to ensure proper planning of the city. Policy makers and the officials of the Town and Country Planning Department must prioritize the need to reduce the nauseating traffic congestion in their plans.
I have observed that most of the traffic signals in Accra and many parts of the country are operating on a fixed time plan. Fixed time controllers provide timing schedules that gives green to a movement whether there is a car waiting or not. There may be no vehicle at the opposite end of the road but the traffic light signals green. In modern traffic signal timing, fixed time controllers are becoming obsolete. Instead of the personnel from the Motor Transport and Traffic Directorate (MTTD) or national service personnel serving as traffic wardens at peak hours, we must erect actuated or semi-actuated controllers where timings are driven by demand.
Also, Temporary Police barriers mounted in the evenings tend to affect the intersections in the neighborhood. While we see the security need for these night check points, their locations and the mounting times need a complete review.
For myself and other commuters, we can only hope that some concrete steps are taken to improve mobility within the city. We ought to come to the stark realization that any second a vehicle sits in traffic due to delay is a waste to mankind and a danger to the environment as well. TIME THEY SAY IS MONEY.
Eric Edem Agbana.