March 11, 2008

Poor road development practices drive congestion

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A traffic pile-up on Waterloo Road, St Andrew. Poor development practices have been cited as the main contributing factor to traffic congestion in the city. Source: Andrew Smith/Photography Editor 

Two United States-based civil engineers are recommending that Government move urgently to urbanise Portmore and institute pedestrian precincts in sections of Kingston in order to lessen traffic congestion.

Associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Connecticut, Dr Norman Garrick, speaking recently at a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce seminar on development and approval processes, argued that urbanising Portmore will help reduce traffic through Kingston as a significant portion of Kingston’s workforce resides in the sprawling St Catherine community.

Traffic in the Corporate Area has grown tremendously in the last five decades. This growth has been simultaneous with the increase in population. Portmore’s growth has been phenomenal with the population growing 100 times its size since 1970.

Garrick says Kingston’s traffic woes stem from poor development strategies that have failed to integrate commerce and residential activity, resulting in long travel hours from home to work. Urbanising Portmore, he reasons, will provide residents with the facilities and services that would otherwise only be available in Kingston.

From his observation, land usage in the Corporate Area is poor and contributes greatly to congestion. “In Kingston, you have to get into a car to do almost everything,” he points out, adding that Jamaica has been following the pattern of development of the US where commercial and residential land usage are separated.

“The basic assumption was that everybody was going to have a car and would be able to drive everywhere,” he says.

Centralised neighbourhoods

He is suggesting that Government plans more neighbourhood centres when pursuing development to allow people to access services with ease.

“Papine is a good example. You can shop there and kids can go to school there. But a lot of Kingston is not like that, so basically you have to get into your car to do everything,” Garrick says.

But there are other trends, he points out, that are adding to the problem of congestion. He says the development of mega high-speed highways is encouraging housing development directly beside the roadway, counteracting efforts to reduce congestion.

A crowded highway

“Along Highway 2000, little schemes will start to develop and, over time, many persons are going to live there. With no schools and services in these schemes, people will have to go out. So, over time, the highway is going to get very very crowded,” Garrick warns.

Jamaican planners, he continues, have also patterned the US trend of constructing high- speed roads within the city. The move, he says, only encourages people to get around only by driving.

It’s a point that Enrique Penalosa of the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy in New York shares. He says people should be given an option of walking, riding or driving on roadways. He is criticising Government for its lack of attention to pedestrians by building roadways without sidewalks and for failing to maintain those that exist. He argues that the widening of roads, as an option to reduce congestion, only heightens the problem.

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Poor road development practices drive congestion



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