As I look back on my two Surat trips, there are some other thoughts that come to mind. For one, we definitely need to inculcate road sense among our drivers. Slow traffic needs to keep to the left. It is incredibly frustrating to see the right lane blocked with a slow moving vehicle which refuses to shift to the left!
Also, the octroi check posts are becoming huge bottlenecks. Besides being huge corruption joints, they slow traffic to a crawl around them as trucks have to go through those points and long queues form. The One India concept needs to be extended so that these checkposts are abolished and there is free flow across states and cities.
Urgent attention needs to be paid to city roads and infrastructure. That remains the most frustrating part of the experience. In Surat, I saw a key flyover on the Ring Road built barely a few years ago closed in one of the directions for resurfacing. We need to build roads that last. We need to make rapid investments in improving city roads. Whether it is bridges across the sea in Mumbai or double-decker roads, decisions need to be made fast and complemented with speedy construction.
There is a need for alerts on traffic conditions. Everyone has a mobile phone. So, is there a way one can subscribe to traffic alerts for the road one is traveling on? We really need to create a decentralised system that enables person-to-person updates (via a central server). This way, one knows what to expect ahead on the road (high traffic, accident) so one can then make alternative decisions.
The signage need to be a lot better. For example, there is a turn off the highway one needs to make to get to Surat. The visibility of that information needs to be made better for first-time travellers. We also need to get better maps which are updated rapidly given the new construction that is being built. Also, how about integrating GPS into vehicles in India leapfrogging the rest of the world? In short, we need to use the emerging technologies to build a much better information and alerts system.
Another stupid system that needs rethinking is that of collecting tolls. These points and there are about five or six en route to Surat need to be made much more efficient. Perhaps, the EZ-Pass system from the US can be introduced in India. More importantly, we should collect double the toll in one direction and eliminate the toll booths in the other direction. Look at New York City, for example. In the short term, this may encourage travelers to look at alternative routes to save toll in the direction where the booths are, but they will quickly realize the futility of that given also that there really arent too many alternative routes!
It would be nice to ensure that all inter-city roads constructed have three lanes in each direction rather than two. This will ensure much faster driving times and make it much safer also.
We also need to promote the use of hybrid cars so as to optimise energy consumption. We cannot stop people from traveling by cars if anything, this will increase. But we can definitely work on promoting fuel efficiency.
In summary, roads in India are changing and so will our travel habits. By thinking a little about the future and adopting best practices from other parts of the world, we can make the experience much more pleasant.