Friday, April 5, 2013

Five Majors Causes of Traffic in Trinidad & Tobago

Everyone acknowledges that Trinidad has a severe motor vehicle traffic problem. In this article we explore the primary causes and also indicate the simple solutions that can be applied to solving this major drag on T&T's productivity.
Primary reasons for traffic woes:
1. The gasoline subsidy. 

Though many hate to admit because they perceive that they directly benefit from the subsidy the gas subsidy has an overall net negative effect on society. A general economic rule applies that whatever is subsidized you  get more of. Consequently, because gasoline consumption is subsidized there is more gasoline consumption by way of the usage of private vehicles and by extension the purchase of private vehicles.

The subsidy inadvertently acts as an incentive to use more gasoline. Conversely people do less of an activity when the penalty or cost increases. Therefore if persons in T&T paid the true higher cost of gasoline there would be a natural decline in gasoline consumption i.e. the number of cars on the road would decrease.

Instantly removing the subsidy would force commuters, drivers in particular to be more judicious in whether they opt to use their vehicles. They would suddenly become more conscious of what will instantly become a more scarce/valuable resource and take steps to minimize its use. Without any form of coercion commuters would consider:
  • Riding bicycles / motor cycles that are more fuel efficient. 
  • Car pooling 
  • Public transportation
  • Walking
  • Strategically planning commutes to maximize productivity while on the road.
  • Adjust living patterns - attempt to live closer to work / school locations
Note than in any economy prices act as signals of scarcity -when the price is high, it signals more scarcity i.e. demand is high relative to supply. Conversely when the price of something is low,then it's less scarce. By observing prices, consumers will adjust their consumption accordingly. The fuel subsidy stifles this process. The removal of the subsidy would induce consumers to switch from a scarce resource - gasoline to less scare resources indicated above.  

2. Central Planners (Politicians) Concentrating Activities in Already Congested City Centres 

Our infinitely wise central planners have over the years insisted on government offices and other essential service providers be established in and around designated city limits. These poor decisions contribute to congestion and overcrowding. 

3. Central Planners Have No Incentive to Solve Traffic Problems

Another reason politicians have no reason to truly address the traffic problem is because they are not subject fully to the negative effects of traffic. They are afforded the following perks that the average citizen does not enjoy:
  • Priority Bus Route Passes
  • Flexible Work / Office hours
  • Ability to work from home
  • Priority Parking Privileges
  • Security escort through traffic
  • State provided vehicles
  • Exemption from import tax on vehicles
  • Free gasoline
  • A driver / chauffeur 
  • Government living accommodation in POS 
  • Helicopters etc...

All these mitigate the effects of their commute. After all why even try to sincerely solve the traffic problem when it doesn't really impact you.

4. Limited Operating Hours at Major Ports

Often overlooked are the limited hours of operation the two major maritime ports. Though operations can occur 24 hours a day, weekend and public holidays. Delivery and retrieval of cargo is subject to the availability of customs officials who operate between 7 am - 3 pm after which overtime rates are applicable. This results in most truckers, importer and exporters opting to arrange pick up and deliveries at peak traffic times. If transactions could be done freely after hours this would reduce the volume of traffic on the roadways during peak traffic times.

5. Government restrictions on the issue of taxi permits, taxis and maxi taxis. 

Despite the demand for public transport persons genuinely interested in supplying transport / taxi services to the public are artificially blocked by government regulations. They must go through the process for a taxi badge, Registered as Owner of a Maxi-Taxi, arrange and submit an Application To Operate a Maxi-Taxi etc or be subject to tickets and fines. These very bureaucratic  regulations serve to restrict supply thereby leading to higher fares for commuters and shortages.

Conclusions

The reflexive response of most Trinbagonians would be shun even the thought of the fuel subsidy being removed, but consider how much of your time you would no longer waste in terrible traffic day after day.  Consider how much less strain would be placed on your family, your car and the environment. Consider how much more efficient you'd be in planning your commutes and errands. 

Note also that the fuel subsidy isn't free but is paid for by your tax dollars and proportionately benefits the more the affluent than the poor / middle class since they can afford more cars and vehicles that have higher fuel consumption such as Trucks and SUVs.

7 comments:

  1. I suspect that even with the removal of the gas subsidy where folks world be forced to plan their commutes more judiciously there would still be notable traffic congestion during peak rush hour times. This would continue to occur until a more wholistic restructuring of town and country layout occurs. For example the decentralization of government office buildings as well as private businesses in conjunction with the introduction of a well maintained, efficient and timely mass transit system such as the long awaited 'mono-rail'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your feedback. Traffic will not magically disappear we can however stop doing things that make it worse.

      The thing about mega projects like a mono-rail system is that during the construction phase they are rife with corruption and once the rail gets up and running it will be run very inefficiently and will not be reliable because there is no profit motive.

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    2. True but if and when it's up and running there would be incentive on Government to reduce the fuel subsidy in order to encourage use of the rail system. If managed properly as part of a transport network I think it would go a long way toward reducing the burden on the existing road network.

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  2. This is a good basic analysis, and there is nothing incorrect here, but there is also so much more! Bookmarking your blog for interest.

    Onika Morris-Alleyne
    Vox Policy (www.voxpolicy.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great. Appreciate your readership.
      Please share.

      Delete
  3. Hey I need you to help me with my homework....please.
    Okay can you tell me:
    * The forms of Transportation forms indigenous times to present times in a timeline.
    * 3 ways in which transportation networks facilitate the movement of goods.
    * 3 ways in which Trinidad and Tobago has resulted in changes in the road networks.

    Thanks, can you please answer them?

    ReplyDelete

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