Limiting cars on Yangon city streets

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A traffic congestion in Yangon in 2019.  Photo: Phoe Khwar

By Lokethar

The number of cars on Yangon city streets, to say the least, are “too many” as can be seen by anyone moving around in the city. Private cars top the list. Of course it’s the right of people to own cars for their personal use. But the trouble is not all who own cars have places to park them. They usually park them day and night in front of the buildings and apartments they live in. When told about it they usually reply where else could they park it.
There is a requirement that at the time of purchase and registration of the private vehicles, the owners are to declare where they will park their car(s). However “wild parking” is commonplace. Of course every one knows about private cars using up public street places to the inconvenience of the general public. Just as the owners of cars have a right to use the streets, the general public has the right to walk freely around the city or in their community. So how can the City Fathers meet the needs of both pedestrians and motorists? The most obvious answer would be to limit the number of cars within the city boundary.
In quite a number of large cities around the World, the “taxes” on owning and operating a private vehicle can be high. This is of course a deterrent to owning private cars. Another is to improve public transportation so that it would be more convenient to travel in the city for various reasons without the use of private cars. In Yangon City improvements in the public transport system by the Yangon Region government with the introduction of many new buses and bus-routes by the newly formed transport companies has much improved moving around the city without using private cars. There needs to be further improvements to see lessening use of private cars.
The “Taxi” service in Yangon provided by taxi companies have also added to improved mobility within the city by those who can afford hiring “Taxis”. Perhaps re-introduction of the “taxi meter” for taxis and educating the public to use taxis with meters would increase use of taxis instead of private cars as there need not be the problem of parking if private cars are used. After all many large cities around the world have “Taxis” with meters so that the passenger, pay according to standard rates set on the distance and time travelled.
People say that the City Fathers should provide parking spaces for the private cars. Perhaps multi-level car parks could be built by the Yangon City Development Corporation as a business venture. But then the economic/utility benefits of using the land for car parks would be less than if the land is used , say for instance, for building modern market places.
Another solution used is to require developers to build sufficient vehicle parking spaces in buildings for housing the cars of the residents. Some building engineers opt for providing underground parking spaces for large building complexes. In doing so the engineers probably make provisions to deal with possible waterlogging of the underground parking spaces in times of temporary flooding that may occur due to heavy rainfalls. In the final analysis, the logical solution seems to be to limit private car ownership to those who really have facilities for parking their cars overnight or in the daytime when not in use.
In these times of Covid-19 Pandemic, and the Stay at Home Rules of the Ministry of Health and Sports, the spread of the Covid-19 virus seems to be under control to some extent. A “consequence” of the “Stay at Home” rules have been restrictions on travelling to the extent that there has been less cars on the roads of cities with large populations like Yangon and Mandalay.
With the Corona Virus-19 Pandemic, in Yangon nowadays, driving into the city for essential articles like food , medicines etc. with less cars on the roads is quite a pleasant experience. Driving past the green parks with beautiful flower beds, green grass kept well trimmed, leafy green trees, the “green” landscaped embankments of the Inya and Kandawgyi Lakes, the “green islands” of some of the long main roads and the many “parks” in and around the city being a pleasant “green”, is a feast for tired eyes, especially after sitting for long hours with eyes fixed on the laptop screen or on the TV while staying at home. In the past driving into and around the City for business or official purposes, one never noticed the “greening” of the city because one’s eyes were mostly glued on the many cars in front and sides so as to avoid unpleasant accidental encounters.
When, in the future, the Stay at Home Rule is gradually relaxed, vehicular traffic on Yangon roads , especially private cars, will make a come back. The number of cars on the streets will increase and slow down our “mobility” and dirty our “air” as well.
The way to limit vehicular traffic in Yangon City from making everybody miserable would probably be best to limit the number of private cars on the city streets . It could be done by making it expensive to own a car or limiting the use of cars, within the City Centre which is one of the main cause of clogging the somewhat “narrow” roads between blocks of multi-storey buildings. A common “solution” tried out by some large cities around the world is allowing cars with odd and even number licence plates to enter the city on alternate days. Another measure taken by a very large city is to limit private cars from entering the marked boundary of the “City Centre”. However there is no telling that such arrangements would work in the City of Yangon.
With the City Fathers planning to expand the city in all directions, it is hoped that the more well to do people would gravitate towards the new sub-urban areas and tend to live in individual houses with garages to park cars in their own homes or in collectively built car parking facilities, could lessen the number of cars on the streets, whether temporarily or permanently on the side of the narrow streets thus causing traffic and pedestrian movement to slow down, leading to traffic jams.
With charity to all and malice to none.

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