Business-as-usual city management in a pre-election year is stagnating traffic and burning costly fuel

Now that we are approaching 2014, which should be an election year in the normal course, there is bound to be a spurt in high-profile political activity. Which is all very good because we will hear a multiplicity of voices. There will be more demonstrations pressing particular points of view.

In Chennai on Friday, there was one such demonstration outside Valluvar Kottam, which is now a permitted site for such events. The crowd was heavy, and the traffic was naturally choked towards Village Road and Gemini. There were barriers erected to divert traffic.

This is where smart policing can reduce some of the difficulty of living in a metro with exploding traffic. The demonstration this morning was happening at the same time that two big schools in the area were closing for the day, adding to the pile-up. Garbage trucks heaped high were finding it hard to move out of the transfer station just 100 metres away from the crowds.

With all their radios and patrol vehicles, the police only had to divert traffic towards Gemini via Mahalingapuram, rather than let it all come on further to V. Kottam and then try to flow it into narrow Thirumalai Pillai Road.

There's something more that the police can do: use mobile LED display boards that are regularly deployed in the West to communicate traffic messages. If one had been placed on Kodambakkam Bridge this morning, with the advisory in English and Tamil, many vehicles would have simply avoided the stretch and proceeded towards Nungambakkam and Egmore via Mahalingapuram. When this technology is available (and many officers must have seen it at work during their 'training' sessions abroad) why not try it out in this 'Detroit of India'?

The good thing about LED display boards is that they can be programmed to display any message you wish to put out. And when they are on wheels, they can be moved to locations where they are needed most. Actually, even our "state of the art" national highways do not have such display facilities as yet.

Incidentally, the Facebook page of the Chennai City Traffic Police had no advisory this morning on the state of the traffic in V.Kottam and its fallout in other city locations. Of course, CCTP is responsive to those making complaints about traffic issues on FB, but the emergency information to avoid gridlock was not traceable. Gridlock burns precious fuel, and adds to the global petrol and diesel price because the oil industry says we Indians are using so much of it. It also makes many people angry, ruining their day.