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Sri Lanka to test bus priority traffic system

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will test a bus priority system in a suburb of the capital Colombo on the most congested route into the city to encourage greater use of public transport and reduce worsening traffic jams.

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka said traffic jams were worsening despite almost a trillion rupees being spent on improving roads in the past decade.

“At the same time use of public transport is declining. More people have shifted to private modes like motorcycles, three-wheeled trishaws and cars,” he told a news conference.

“If 40 people going by bus decide to go by motorcycles, trishaw or car, they will take up 7-10 times the amount of road space of buses,” Ranawaka said. “Unless we improve public transport, traffic jams will only get worse.”

The week-long test of the bus priority lane system starts next Sunday, 12 March, on a one kilometre stretch of the road to Fort in the city centre from the suburb of Malabe.

It will be from Rajagiriya junction to the Ayurveda junction, on both Parliament Road and Old Cotta Road.

Ranawaka said the government has no intention of forcing people to shift from private to public transport, as was done in Singapore using heavy tolls on cars entering the city centre.

The bus priority lane project, where buses would be given a separate lane and get priority at traffic signals ahead of private car and motorcycle users, was to test how it would work in practice and the public reaction.

“It will be a success if we can save time for people on their daily commutes,” Ranawaka said. “Today about a Rs1 billion is lost daily because of traffic jam, or about Rs350 billion a year.”

Amal Kumarage, senior professor in the Department of Transport and Logistics Management at the University of Moratuwa, said the government has to use the limited road space to benefit the greatest number of people.





“A bus priority lane is necessary when traffic jams become an economic and social issue, when demand for road space is more than what can be supplied,” said Kumarage, a former chairman of the National Transport Commission.

Bus lanes are also needed when the efficiency of using available road space begins to fail and when non-road solutions are not acceptable and more costly.

“Along with the bus lane, modernisation of the bus industry is necessary,” Kumarage said. “We need modern buses to encourage the shift from cars. We need to change the attitude of people.”

New, low floor air-conditioned buses will be introduced, bus halts improved, along with connectivity with rail, timetables and reliable schedules and electronic ticketing.

Saman Vidanapathiranage, deputy director of the highway design division of the Road Development Authority, said bus priority means that at traffic signals buses get priority, before cars.

”We will create new bus halts and transit passenger pathways and be working with the police during the test to see how the system works,” he said.

The ministry said in a statement that bus priority aims to ensure those travelling by bus are not penalised by slower travel, with Colombo city bus travel sped now being only 8km an hour while using a car is twice as fast.

“A five minute improvement in travel time between Battaramulla (near Malabe) and Fort will result in savings of time and fuel estimated at Rs6 a year.”
(COLOMBO, March 08, 2017)

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