Like many bustling cities of Pakistan, Lahore is also suffering from the fallout of poor urban development. With a population of at least 14.2 million, the historic city is struggling to manage traffic, resulting in accidents, congestion, and delays. Whether they travel in a car, bike, bus, or rickshaw, it is typical for ordinary citizens to face traffic issues in Lahore on a daily basis. Unfortunately, reaching late at the destination because of some unprecedented circumstances on the road has become a local norm. Moreover, commuters have often complained about getting too tired to do anything else after going through Lahore’s traffic.
5 Major Causes of Traffic Issues in Lahore
Several efforts have been taken to address this challenge, such as building underpasses, flyovers, and road extensions, but they have intensified the problem rather than fixing it. Although the causes of traffic issues in Lahore cannot be covered in a single list, here are some of the major ones.
Increased Number of Vehicles
Lahore is home to locals as well as migrants from distant rural areas seeking a better livelihood in the city. Most commuters use some form of transport to travel to work. and may afford to have their own. While having personal conveyance adheres to the essential need for travelling, it also gives rise to severe traffic on the roads. There are more than 7 million registered vehicles in Lahore. Around 5 million are bikes, while the remaining 2 million include cars, buses, SUVs, etc. The figure has jumped by 1 million within a year, and some cities have total vehicles equal to this number.
The increasing number of vehicles also results in the rise of infrastructure costs. There are plenty of wide roads and highways in Lahore, but the vehicle influx has rendered them ineffective. Despite having signal-free roads, traffic jams have become a regular occurrence in Lahore.
Inadequate Parking Spaces
Another prominent problem in Lahore is the lack of parking spaces. Lahore is famous for its busy markets where it is almost impossible to find a parking space. Mall Road, Ferozepur Road, and Main Boulevard Gulberg are 3 of the busiest roads in Lahore, filled with huge markets. However, they are a nightmare for car drivers who wander around searching for space to park their vehicles. They often have to park it at a distance from their desired destination.
A negligible amount of parking plazas and lots are not catering to the need of citizens. Drivers looking to save time are frequently forced to park their cars on the road leading to massive traffic jams. It has become a common scene in Lahore that queues of vehicles occupy the entire roads where restaurants, shops, and other amenities are located. Moreover, every major highway in the city gets blocked whenever it’s time for schools and offices.
This is a grave mismanagement by city planners who have omitted parking as a priority while urbanizing Lahore for the last 20 years. This has also allowed the parking mafia to take advantage of the situation in many lots. They charge car owners up to 50 PKR in exchange for the valuable spot.
Lack of Road Awareness
Some problems are not because of city planners. Citizens also have to own their mistakes. There are many drivers in Lahore operating vehicles without proper knowledge of traffic laws. Reckless behaviour like overtaking, lane jumping, speeding, and drifting is a common hindrance for commuters. Such careless drivers often cause accidents on the road resulting in a jam for hours. Moreover, some travellers do not understand the road’s symbols and signs, leading them to commit traffic violations. For example, if they missed a turn on a signal-free road, they would disturb the entire traffic to turn their vehicle around in order to save time and distance.
Poor Road Engineering
The inability to create proper U-turns on a signal-free road is one of the major failures of city planners. The turns are built at unreasonable distances, causing violators to drive in ‘One Way’. Thokar Niaz Baig is one of the busiest intersections in Lahore, where domestic transport services arrive and depart all day long. However, it is also a perfect example of poor road engineering. It has several choke points where 4 lanes shift into 1, causing a long queue on the road behind. An exit plan is a vital part of signal-free roads, which is blatantly ignored in Lahore and other Pakistani cities. Most commuters are forced to cover a long distance for a U-turn or violate the One Way policy to save time and fuel.
Similarly, several other routes in the city, including underpasses and flyovers, ignore basic international principles of road construction. For instance, the underpasses on Canal Road vary in height, blocking tall vehicles from using the belt seamlessly. Some are 16 feet, while others are 12 or 14 feet, forcing trucks to exit and re-enter the road from the intersection. This disturbs the traffic flow on all sides and is one of the leading causes of accidents in the region. Sometimes the truck drivers don’t realize the height of the next underpass and drive straight into it, making the bad situation worse. The Jail Road underpass also confuses the travellers because it is the only one located on the left-hand side of the road. Every other tunnel is on the right-hand side along the Lahore Canal.
Sadly, Lahore’s road network also reflects a huge social inequality. Most of the urban development in the city is car-centric. Authorities have planned roads by prioritizing car owners. According to statistics, pedestrians account for 40% of the traffic in the city, but there is not enough investment in related infrastructure. There are a few footbridges on major roads, but they have complaints of being inconvenient and inaccessible most of the time. The bridges have failed to prevent jaywalking, a major road traffic hazard.
Sorry State of Public Transport
The car-centric urban development weighs heavily on the best solution for managing traffic congestion. A reliable public transport system can take a considerable load off the roads, but some factors prevent that from happening. The city’s Metro bus service and Orange Line train for intercity travel have not been according to the public desire. They have limited routes which force commuters to travel a long distance towards their destination. There is a shortage of intersections or stations, so travellers often have to change multiple buses to stay on course.
Unlike the roads in western nations where there is a separate bus lane, Lahore generally has wide highways for all kinds of traffic. However, widening the streets without reserving a bus lane increased the demand for more traffic. It shows a typical scene in Lahore where cars, bikes, buses, trucks, cycles, and even donkey carts get stuck together.