Mumbai traffic, the continuity equation & polictical will

Mumbai has given me my friends, education, bread, happiness & sorrow – I love it. But with that it has given us traffic & pollution – 2 things unavoidable in this city. Despite of the patient Gaurav Samant driving me to work on that crazy JVLR, both of those rankle me everyday. But over the last couple of months, I’ve come to conclude that the traffic problem in Mumbai is a mere flow-rate issue. I might have lost touch with the intricacies of fluid dynamics, but the flow rate concept is simple enough to recollect & apply here. Wider roads have more cars flowing per second (wider¬†area allows¬†high velocity, hence higher flow rate). And its exactly the¬†opposite on narrower roads. When 2 roads come together to form a road narrower than the sum of their widths, theoretically cars would have to go faster to keep the flow-rate constant. But I wish Mumbai roads allowed this. Such joints are usually where traffic clogs due to damaged roads & lack of driving sense.

The first problem is that these devastated intersections are “No Contractor’s Land”.When projects are executed across wards, the scope of work ends within the respective wards and the joints are often ignored. These spoiled joints then become favorites for pot holes & slow traffic.¬†¬†As a result, traffic becomes slow, and the effect cascades miles away. So slow traffic due to lane re-arrangement near Aarey flyover is felt all the way back at Jogeshwari.¬†Another issue is corruption. Paving¬†blocks haven’t really worked that well for us, yet have been applied every possible where. I’ve heard that our¬†opportune¬†netas have invested in paver block factories. A second contributing factor is the¬†resistance¬†to cementing roads. This traces back to corruption because if all roads were cemented, no one would have to look at them for 15-20 years: how would tenders be floated every now and then?¬†Moreover, its political agenda to portray roads¬†being fixed in response to public complaints, especially in the pre-elections period.¬†Yes, it takes longer to build cement roads and we would have to¬†suffer for a while. But we suffered the fly-over construction around the¬†millennium year, didn’t we? Aren’t we happier people now?

Team Anna is doing enough to tackle corruption and Julian Assange is threatening those who’ve siphoned state money into Swiss banks. ¬†But I think what most of this boils down to is the political will. Are our leaders¬†in parliament really to battle corruption, leave aside personal agendas & take decisions in favour of the nation. And its not difficult. If roads¬†could be fixed overnight after HT raised public discontent against potholes & roads, why can’t these be taken care of a¬†priori? If that’s going too far, take the Ganapati visarjan talao (Ganesh immersion pond) in Pandurang Wadi, Goregaon (E) for example. It was refurbished just a couple of days¬†before the festival. And I don’t mean touch-up, the elevated footpath was re-built, the place was painted, and even trees¬†were planted. All it takes is the will & determination to make things better for everyone.

Wastage of two resources very important to me makes me write this: Time & Fuel. It doesn’t make sense for 8 kms to take¬†the time it takes my boss to transit between New Jersey & New York. And the amount of (imported) fuel burnt idling is¬†damaging both the ecology and the economy. I love to take a shot at hypothetical estimation and here’s one: the amount of fuel wasted¬†in Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities in India (due to traffic, bad roads and undisciplined drivers), must equal that spent by the rest of¬†the country. I’d leave it for P.A.L.S. to validate. What annoys me even further is that at the end of 2 hours of non-stop clutching-and-braking, the root cause analysis has a null set of causes.

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