Hike parking charges to solve traffic woes: Praveen Sood

Published : DNA

Beginning today, DNA will interact every week with experts on traffic, crime, and law and order issues to defog citizens’ concerns. This week we focus on parking menace and how it’s shrinking carriageways. Additional commissioner of police (traffic) Praveen Sood tells DNA that parking is at the root of city’s traffic ills.

What is your solution for Bangalore’s chaotic traffic situation?
The city doesn’t have a traffic problem, but there is a parking problem. You tackle the parking problem and the traffic problem will be solved. Much of the carriageway, roughly up to 30%, has been encroached, mostly by car drivers. We cannot keep on slapping fines on them. The viable solution is to create parking lots. If we can create parking lots, 50% of the traffic congestion can be diminished. You give me free roads, and I will give you smooth traffic.

Using public transport is the proven solution for the traffic problems. How can we make people opt for public transport vehicles?
One way to encourage people to use public transport is by increasing the parking charges. Where in the world can you park a car for more than 10 hours without paying a single penny? The situation in Bangalore is such that a shopkeeper parks his car in front of his shop throughout the day. If you charge that shopkeeper, he would come by public transport or get dropped.

Traffic planning requires efficient cooperation and collaboration between the police and civic bodies…
We constantly interact with each other. After taking over the traffic department, one of first things we, in a joint effort, did was to construct 65km of medians on city roads. This has drastically reduced the instances of gridlocks. We coordinated with the Bescom and removed electric poles which were in the middle of the road. Coming to the ongoing metro rail project, we diverted traffic to alternative roads. If an alternative route was not available, permission was not granted to close the road.

It seems the traffic police constables and the public do not have a cordial relationship.

Well, there is a tendency to hold the traffic policeman responsible for any problem. The motorists vent their frustration at the policeman, the visible face of the government. If the traffic is not moving, the policeman gets shouted at; if he stops you for a violation, you fight with him. They are ridiculed 24×7, and the policemen are made to look like abusers.
If a bus breaks down in the middle of the road, a policeman can only send a wireless message requesting help. Instead of cursing him, if you help him push the bus to the road side, the traffic would move freely.

A problem of traffic police having a bad image among the people?
No, we have a stereotype problem. A policeman is still considered to be poorly educated, ill-mannered and abusive. This is not true in the case of today’s policeman. He now uses BlackBerrys and Bluetooth-enabled printers.

I get several complaints against the constabulary. Several of them complain that they were abused. When I ask them about the abuse, they say that the policeman said something in Kannada! Now, the problem is that people find fault with constables for not knowing English. Kannada is their mother tongue, and you are in Karnataka. We do encourage them to learn English, and they are given training. You cannot take it as a matter of right that he should speak in English. Several people, living in the city for more than 15 years, cannot speak Kannada. And they demand the policeman to speak English. Is it fair? It is not 

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