Considered among one of the most significant urban centres of Pakistan, urban transport challenges are increasing year on year in Rawalpindi and its surrounding areas. With restricted traffic movement and congestion, the city’s administration struggles to grasp the challenge of rising cars and population growth on main city highways and streets. Public transport crowding, difficulties for pedestrians, parking difficulties, environmental impact, and atmospheric pollution are other critical challenges associated with transport. In a welcome addition to ease the problems faced by Rawalpindi’s residents, the city’s development authority RDA has planned the construction of two megaprojects on the city’s two main transport junctions. The aim is to ease the traffic flow and allow individuals to commute in a more hassle-free manner. Continue reading to understand the impact of such megaprojects on a city’s transport challenges.
Role of Transport in Urban Growth
During the last century, there has been a rapid growth in urbanisation, resulting in cities with over a million residents. Urban transport is among the most significant factors that impact the growth of a town. Transport is the underlying force in the development of a location and functional differentiation of areas. Adequate, cheap, and efficient passenger transport facilities are essential requirements of urban life. Many socioeconomic aspects of towns and cities are also connected to the intercity and intracity transport patterns. In terms of urban development, transport systems provide essential mobility options for people and goods and influence economic activity by providing accessibility to land (Aljoufie, 2011). Therefore, the role of transport systems in the development of a city cannot be understated.
Challenges of Urban Transport in Pakistan
Identifying and dealing with transport challenges in developing countries like Pakistan remains a primary task for city administrations. Despite a large sum being invested in urban transport systems, the current transport situation in Pakistan remains dismal due to a lack of planning, governance, and widespread corruption. In Pakistan, transport challenges are often managed by building more extensive and better roads; however, that is not the only solution. It does not target all the other different harmful impacts of growing urban transport. Traffic congestion occurs when transport systems can no longer cope with the large volume of commuters that use them. The level of congestion is also directly related to urban land-use policies. Traffic will continue to grow due to increasing mobility needs caused by economic and social activities, residential and commercial development, and individual behaviour patterns. Rawalpindi has also experienced rapid growth in car ownership due to banks handing out loans on easily attainable terms. However, the transition has not been followed by the same road network upgradation and often leads to restrictions in traffic movement at peak work hours (Raghav, 2020).
Furthermore, pedestrians form the largest category of traffic accident victims. Efforts to deal with pedestrian safety have usually remained focused on restricting their movement. Another major challenge is the available parking spaces in commercial centres. People are forced to park their cars on main roads and streets, blocking traffic flow for other commuters. This has also led to many problems in terms of public land encroachment. Another major challenge in traffic infrastructure is the dilapidated condition of traffic lights and road safety signs. Due to the inefficient use of these systems, a large volume of urban traffic is mishandled. It often leads to long hours of traffic congestion and also restricts the mobility of emergency vehicles. Lastly, the environmental impact of a growing number of cars is increasingly felt in urban heat. Since there is a lack of regulation on what types of vehicles are allowed on roads, ancient vehicles that emit large amounts of smoke also increase air pollution. All these challenges directly result from a lack of planning and foresight by district and local governments (Paris Innovation Review, 2021).
Analysis of Proposed Mega Projects in Rawalpindi
The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) has proposed two developmental megaprojects for the city. The aim is to construct two underpasses at Kacheri chowk and Fauji Foundation chowk. Officials say that the underpass will enable better traffic flow on the route, which often remains busy with the arrival and departure of VVIPs. More than 0.1 million cars pass through these two junctions every day, with traffic conditions worsening over time. The authority envisions the projects starting in January 2022 and aims to complete both the projects in a year and a half. To tackle the challenge of high mortality rates in traffic accidents and environmental pollution, the authority also plans on installing computerised LED lights to illuminate pathways and plant a total of 25000 trees around the underpasses. Funds have also been allocated for the project under the FY 2021-22 budget and a feasibility cost of Rs. 18.5 billion is estimated for the project. However, the overall impact of these two megaprojects will largely depend on land-use planning and good governance. The general land acquisition policy will need to cater for the needs and interests of surrounding areas. A safe and efficient traffic route will also have to be provided for daily commuters to allow for traffic flow. As many cars travel daily on the route, the timely completion of the project will also play a key role in determining its overall success. Rawalpindi also experiences a large amount of rainfall each year. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the developers to ensure a reliable mechanism for water extraction and management. If all these essential steps are taken, the project will surely be a welcome addition to the already fraught traffic situation in the city (Express Tribune, 2021).
Urban transportation challenges are increasing with rapid urbanisation, increased economic activity, and unplanned development of land. Public transport crowding, difficulties for pedestrians, parking difficulties, environmental impact, and atmospheric pollution are other critical challenges associated with transport. Identifying and dealing with transportation difficulties in developing countries like Pakistan remains a primary task for city administrations. The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) has planned two mega projects for the upgradation of the city’s transport network. The projects are a welcome step towards relieving traffic congestion and improving traffic flow and movement. The overall impact of these two megaprojects will largely depend on land-use planning and good governance.