Bhopal’s ‘Intelligent Traffic Management System’ shows few signs of intelligence

The traffic management system, launched under the Bhopal Smart City Mission, is meant to regulate traffic, bring violators to book and address infrastructural and design lapses. Unfortunately, none of these are being done efficiently enough.

There is nothing intelligent about Bhopal’s Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS), introduced in June 2018 at a cost of Rs 17 crore. A project under Bhopal’s smart city initiatives, the ITMS is meant to regulate Bhopal’s traffic and bring traffic violators to book. But the rising number of new vehicles, poor road conditions and a total lack of civic sense among the city’s rapidly growing population, have rendered the system meaningless.

Erring motorists and two-wheeler riders have blithely ignored the many e-challans they have received for traffic violations like traffic light violation, over speeding, no helmets and triple riding. (Total number of challans from June 2018 to date: 104,000. Rs 250 for no helmet, Rs 500 for red light jump and Rs 1000 for overspeeding.) According to official figures, in the last 19 months, barely 15 per cent of those who received challans have paid up. And traffic remains as chaotic as ever despite the hi-tech cameras installed as part of ITMS at strategic points in the city to capture traffic violations in real time.

Non-payment of fines has invited little retribution from the traffic police. “ITMS and traffic police do not penalise errant motorists,” said Pradip Sinha, a bank employee. “They only put the e-challan on their website MP Online. But very few traffic violators check the website and are at times unaware that they have been fined for breaking traffic rules. There is a lack of awareness on this issue. Most people even don’t know that e-challans are put up on MP Online. Many motorists have told me they have never been informed about e-challans.”

Since ITMS began operations, nearly Rs 14 million in penalties have been recovered, which is just 40 percent of the total fines imposed.  This amount could have been significantly higher if they had got more violators to pay up. This failure has only led to a huge increase in repeat offenders, many of whom claim ignorance of the MP Online website or that they have been fined. There are 30 people employed in ITMS — two from traffic police and remaining from the smart city organisation. The personnel in charge of the whole operation is an engineer employed by the Smart City Authority.

“People have very little knowledge about ITMS and it is necessary to create more awareness among people for the success of this system,” said Anup Sharma, who runs a grocery shop in Jehangirabad. “I’ve seen two-wheeler riders either taking a quick U-turn or wearing a helmet which they carry strapped to their bike only when they see traffic cops penalising helmetless riders. They do not realise there are cameras recording traffic violations continuously. If all vehicle users are made aware of this, traffic violations would come down significantly.”

Arvind Dubey, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), traffic police, said the ITMS sends SMS to traffic violators on their registered mobile numbers. “It is basically the responsibility of the ITMS to send e-challans to traffic violators,” said Dubey. “The collection of the fine is the responsibility of traffic police. People also have the option of paying it online”. (The new motor vehicle act has not been implemented in MP so far). However, many motorists said they did not receive any e-challan on their mobiles.

“We are also sending challans to their residence address,” said Nitin Dave, public relations officer ITMS. “Now more people are paying penalty and are more aware of traffic rules. ITMS has also improved the challan system after incorporating feedback from the public”.

Addressing design issues

ITMS aims to make city roads safer not just by identifying traffic violators but also through analysis of why more accidents take place in some city areas. According to officials, this technology can be used to streamline the movement of vehicles. Efforts are being made to ascertain factors that lead to a higher number of accidents at certain junctions in the city, they said.

To that end, cameras have been installed at 22 places. The videos of repeated accidents at the same square or point is analysed by experts, said ITMS staffers. The concerned agencies are then asked to correct the infrastructural flaws responsible for mishaps. For instance, one reason for accidents was poor design and construction of roundabouts, incorrect diameter of squares or tri-junctions, traffic signals not being visible due to obstructions put up on the roadside, and poor position of signals installed at slopes. A report was submitted to the concerned agencies along with the causes of accidents.

For instance, Chetak bridge in MP Nagar and Board office square were identified as the most dangerous zone for accidents by city police. But so far no remedial measures have been taken.

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