Goa’s preparedness for obviously logical outcomes of decisions taken by the government or administration is poor. It’s as if no thought is given to what can happen next. Last week’s traffic jams extending from Bambolim to Porvorim on the National Highway were a glaring indication of a complete lack of common sense in traffic management.
It also questioned the capability of the artificial intelligence traffic management system that was introduced to bolster human intelligence leading to the conclusion that it was not equipped to meet the demands of Goa’s traffic.
A fortnight before this massive congestion of vehicles on the highway, the government had inaugurated a traffic management system run on artificial intelligence (AI) at the Merces Circle.
The brag at that inauguration was that an experiment with AI had reduced waiting time at the circle from twelve minutes to four minutes.
It appeared to be worth getting AI to make up for the failure of human intelligence in traffic management. But, while AI may be competent to direct traffic when all systems are go for an optimal situation, what happens when it encounters a situation it is not prepared or perhaps programmed for?
That is exactly what occurred on Wednesday of last week that led to the vehicle jam on the highway.
The government announced the closure of the Atal Setu, the link that allows traffic from North to South and East and vice versa to bypass Panjim and the bus stand area.
But, when it announced the closure of the bridge, it did not perceive the traffic congestion this would cause.
What was required here was just a little common sense on the part of the traffic management personnel.
It did not require any AI, just your regular common sense to visualise what the closure of the Atal Setu was going to result in – a substantial increase of traffic on the other roads that due to their width would not be able to accommodate the increased traffic flow.
If the waiting time at the Merces circle pre-AI signalling was 12 minutes when the Atal Setu was open for traffic, wasn’t it perceivable that its closure would increase this waiting time by a substantial amount?
It was simple reasoning, yet nobody was prepared for the obvious traffic jam that followed the closure of the bridge.
This isn’t the first time that traffic management in Goa has shown little application of mind.
Last month, when the Verna to Nuvem bypass was being given a layer of hot-mix, traffic going south was diverted on the inner village road.
The flow of vehicles was unimpeded until one approached the Nuvem Circle. The queue of vehicles here extended over 500 metres at times for the simple reason that the traffic lights at the circle had not been updated to meet the increased traffic from the old road.
So vehicles approaching the circle from this road had just 28 seconds to cross the circle, while traffic on the other roads had longer periods of green lights, leading to vehicles accumulating on the Nuvem to Margao road.
Again, this could have been easily avoided had there been just a little application of mind and the traffic lights switched off and police posted to man the junction during this period or just increase the time of the green light on this road. It has since been increased to 38 seconds.
It really does not require artificial intelligence, just plain old common sense with a little forward thinking as to what decisions that have been taken will result in.
The administration has to be able to pick up such cues and work accordingly. If they can’t do that, can’t they at the very least rise to the occasion immediately and take decisions on the spot?
In the case of the closure of the Atal Setu, a single lane of the bridge was opened the following day and this eased the traffic flow.
Why wasn’t that lane opened within minutes of the traffic congestion starting? Or at some time during the day?
While the traffic jams on the highway are a case in point, they are not the only examples. Panjim, the state capital, has for the last few months faced long delays in commuting time due to the ongoing smart city work.
Some streets have been closed for weeks, others have work in progress even as vehicles negotiate on the single lane kept free with no police supervision or direction of traffic.
This here is another instance of there being no forward planning of how certain works can affect the smooth flow of traffic and making arrangements to ease the situation that motorists find themselves in.
Until there is a change in the manner in which government and administration work, such situations will continue and no amount of artificial intelligence will help.