Some call them 'outdated', some say their poorly programmed, but the traffic lights at many busy interjections on Muscat's roads blink for a reason – to slow you down to safety. But motorists in Muscat say they surely deserve a better deal!
Wriggling traffic, and cars dead stuck at intersections is a common spectacle at the traffic signals across the city. Especially during the peak morning/evening hours, it becomes a nightmare for commuters cutting through the logjams to reach their destinations.
The situation is worst in the busy hubs at Ruwi, Al Khuwair, Bausher, and Ghala, all of which have heavy traffic all through the day. It is a common sight to witness vehicles lined up at these interjections, each having to wait for at least 3-4 signal cycles before clearing the junction. And, to add to the distress of motorists, several impatient motorists cut lanes at the last second, to take shortcuts for themselves, and end up jeopardising the movement of scores of vehicles in lanes all around them.
Another big problem is very short duration of the green signal at many of the crossings - some very busy, including the Ruwi and Bausher intersections, going green for as low as 5 seconds. The extremely low timings have lead to incidents of signal jumping and crashes, as drivers make haste to avoid being stuck for another whole signal cycle.
The recent school bus accident at the Ruwi Intersection, near Sheraton Hotel, was a result of the low signal timing. In fact, motorists travelling from the Sheraton signal towards Ruwi roundabout have to endure five signal junctions, each just a few metres away from the other. And during peak hours, traffic get trapped in the so called "yellow boxes" at signal junction since the vehicles ahead do not get adequate clearance once they exit a signal.
Acknowledging the problem, Khalid Amri, from the IT Divison, ROP said, "There are junctions across the city where the signals are timed to go green for strikingly low durations, which is aggravating the congestion problem. The ROP has taken note of the issue, and it would soon be resolved," he said adding the municipality had already been notified and instructed by ROP to increase and adjust the signal timings at some junctions.
Many commuters feel numeric countdowns (as prevalent in several cities around the world) should be installed at the traffic signals, to help drivers get ready and launch better at the intersections. The idea, however, was tested and rejected by the ROP as it found the countdown not feasible and prone to further increase the congestion on the city streets as motorists tend to move on as soon as the countdown begins.
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