Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 Traffic Woes

75 cars.

That's my estimate for how many cars are added to the roads of Doha everyday. It's a conservative estimate as well, if you look back at my post from last year discussing traffic the average number of cars added to the road from 2000-2010 was around 36,000 a year.

While summer is pretty brutal weather-wise due to the heat it is the nicest time to drive around Doha as the schools are out and many people are on vacation. Traffic is much lighter. A lot of people then get used to it and forget how bad the traffic gets when the schools are back in session.

And 75 more cars were added everyday during that break. During the summer an additional 6,500 cars were added to the streets of Doha.

Now schools are back in session, which means that now traffic is once again congested. This time though it's compounded by the massive roadworks going on at the Corniche, Al Bidda, Al Quds signal, Markiya Street, Arch Roundabout and Souq Waqif areas. I can honestly say in the 7+ years I've been here I've never seen so much road construction, which is pretty surprising given road construction has been a constant fact of life here as the city struggles to keep up with the rapid population growth. So for most commuters the daily commute has become worse than ever, and every morning I read reports from the Twitterverse about the gridlock and congestion. Naturally my commute is also worse, which means my prediction for September 2014 is on track:

The road system in West Bay is already at capacity, so even a slight increase to the number of cars has a significant impact on the commuting time (which is what I suspect is happening now). In two years time [2014] the increased traffic to West Bay will put such a strain on the system the entire thing will gridlock. People living on Al Waab Street will likely be facing commutes of around 1hr 45min. My 20-minute commute will become at least 45-50 minutes.

My commute is currently hovering around 30 minutes on average, but sometimes it can be much quicker if I hit the timing right and get to the intersections as the traffic police are letting the traffic through.

This Thursday was a whole new experience though. For the first time ever my neighborhood was completely surrounded with gridlocked traffic. On all of the 4 main roads surrounding the neighborhood it was cars just inching forward – I know because as I saw the congestion I took the back roads through the neighborhood to find another way out, and then backtracked to find another way out, and then another. I'd never seen that before, and here's hoping it's not a daily occurrence.

All the construction is a temporary nuisance to be sure but it had to be done so better we suffer the inconvenience now in the hopes that it improves things going forward. The removal of the roundabouts had to happen, it could not continue this way. I just kind of wish it had been done years earlier.

Sadly I'm not sure it will make a lot of difference unless the government makes one key change -- increase the number of lanes. As I highlighted last year there are only nine lanes going into West Bay and those lanes can only handle so much traffic. It doesn't matter if it's lights or roundabouts at the intersections the actual capacity of the road will not increase. Heck, you could make Al Bidda Road a freeway and it would only mean 5000 cars would get stuck at the next set of lights (kind of like Salwa Road does at Ramada Signal). Only by expanding the number of lanes can you increase the capacity. This construction is the main opportunity to do it so I sure hope the government is planning this.

If it doesn't happen then the traffic is only going to get worse.

By 75 cars a day.

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