Cities that are experiencing rapid growth, in terms of urban migration, face a variety of challenges, as they expand and become increasingly complex. Traffic is one of the most significant challenges: congested roads are a strain on the environment, the economy and the overall quality of life. Accra is currently at this stage, if not worse.
The time spent in traffic in Accra is equivalent to wasted man-hours. Moving from point A to B in Accra, involves painstaking planning on the best routes to take, and there’s no surety that you’d avoid traffic. You’re bound to get into it and the sad part – there’s no solution in sight. How then can we mitigate the traffic woes citizens face every day? How can the Government alleviate people’s pains?
While there’s the obvious “Fix the public transport system” solution, which we’ve been on about for the past decade, with no ready solution, I think it’s time we take a look at this issue from a technology standpoint – after all, we’re in that age now. A few Cities have tried to apply tech-driven solutions in fixing their traffic menaces and so far, so good.
Parking management and traffic control cameras are two approaches that Barcelona, through their Urban Lab program, has used to tackle traffic. They installed sensors & Cameras at parking spots that are connected by fibre optics to the transport authority and those sensors provide real-time data on parking availability and flow of traffic, which are then transmitted through the city’s WiFi infrastructure, linking devices belonging to the end user and local authorities. This gives them a clearer picture of traffic movements and a more dynamic approach to the frequency of Red & Green at traffic lights.
There’s also the Street Bump app, being used in Boston, which approaches traffic control from a “Civil engagement” point of view. The app sits passively in your pocket as you navigate the city daily, collecting information on the smoothness of the ride and delivering that data back to the Transport authority. They analyze that information to find potholes and bumpy roads in need of repair for other reasons, essentially putting cars and smartphones as sensors.
While these solutions may not be clear-cut solutions to traffic woes, they help take care of the little things that contribute to mobility problems. I’d take that any day over sitting in traffic for hours, daily, with no solution in sight.
Of course, the ready solution would be to fix Accra’s public transport system and create more convenient ways of moving around, without having to break the bank, but I believe that there could be tech-driven solutions that in the imminent, help mitigate the daily sufferings of commuters.
So if you’re building a solution or have an Idea that could make our lives better, feel free to shoot me an email, [email protected], and let’s see if we can make this a reality, and eventually, make this city more habitable for us all.