If you live in Accra, you should already be familiar with the absurd traffic that occurs in Accra almost everyday on the roads. Frankly, it seems to be getting worse everyday. A 10 minute trip could be take an hour to complete when there’s a traffic involved.

Now, I try not to pay attention to politics because it’s just not my thing but sometimes I hear something in the political sphere which catches my ear.

The former president, John Mahama, during a presentation of his campaign manifesto, said that his administration, if elected for the next four years, would be installing smart intelligent traffic light systems to help ease traffic in all cities, especially Accra and Kumasi.

Now, my ears perked up when I heard that. A smart intelligent system traffic light to improve traffic? Is that feasible and would that even work? (I can go on and on about how government is really terrible when implementing IT projects but I’ll save that for another post)

So, I decided to take a closer look at that and see if implementing a smart traffic light system in the cities would help to ease traffic.

So, What Is A Smart Intelligent Traffic System

An Intelligent Traffic System is basically replacing the traditional traffic lights which use a timing mechanism in stopping and green-lighting traffic. A intelligent traffic system would do away with the timing system and in using various tools including sensors and traffic cameras, green light traffic to flow in congested areas.

I don’t know the specs of this system that the president might want to implement but its going to require a some infrastructure including cameras and CCTVs as well as replacing some traffic lights around the city with smart traffic lights.

That technology exists and is being implemented in some cities around the world. So would installing that system in Ghana help to eradicate our traffic nightmare? I can’t really tell but I’m skeptical. Here’s why:

Bad Design Of Roads

A simple observation of the city and you can see that it’s overwhelmed with vehicles, all heading towards one direction and practically getting squeezed into tiny spots or bottlenecks.

Just take a look at the Accra mall area and you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

So would a traffic light system fix that problem? I’m not so sure it would. Some areas where there are no traffic lights have traffic backed up for hours. You would have to go to the drawing board and figure out a way to better redesign certain roads to help with traffic flow.

Too Many Cars On The Road

Accra doesn’t have the best public transportation system. In all honesty, our public transportation system is basically taxis and trotros. That’s why you will see fleets of taxis and trotros around town because there are no reliable bus systems or railway networks. There is a Bus Rapid Transit system in the works but with the way our roads are designed, the buses are definitely going to operate in certain areas and leave out some of the populous. I don’t know how the traffic management system is going to handle an overload of cars on the road.

But can it help? Yes. But the effects might be negligible. A better way of easing traffic would be to get most of these cars off the road. A good public transportation would help. If more people opted to use public transportation to go to work and run errands, you could see a great reduction in the number of cars on the road and in turn, reduce traffic.

On the weekends, when most people don’t drive, you can definitely see an ease in traffic.

Frankly, the whole city of Accra needs a design overhaul. As the population grew, the city failed to adapt and now we’re living in a traffic jammed, high rise city.

If you ask me, in order to significantly ease traffic, the government needs to significantly improve public transportation.

A traffic management system would help, don’t get me wrong. But would it even scratch the surface when it comes to easing traffic? To me, I think it would feel like putting a small bandage on a huge open wound. Sure, it would help but a bit but eventually, you would need stitches to close up that wound.

To be frank, I have no idea what kind of feasibility studies was undertaken before the president made a promise to install a smart intelligent traffic system. Would the project would ever take off in the first place? Who knows.

In the meantime, we might have to live with this traffic nightmare for a while.

Joseph-Albert Kuuire
Joseph-Albert Kuuire is the creator and editor of TechNovaGh.com, an online digital platform focusing on technology in Ghana. Email: [email protected]

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