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Travesty we all face on the streets of Oman



The relatively new phenomenon of traffic jams across the capital has people outraged and incidents of road rage increasing. The grind has begun, the journey home no longer a pleasant jaunt down a half filled motorway but an arduous slog across town with rules of the road flouted in the process. 

Once stuck in a jam there appears to be no way out, although alternative roads are being built on a monthly basis. Once out of the jam frustration and tardiness cause one to speed and that is when people get hurt and wild animals feel the wrath of our
crowded roads.

Who can we blame, is it the banks, once again, for providing reckless loans for unnecessary first time car buyers. Filling our roads with single occupancy vehicles. Or perhaps it is the transforming workplace, with women and men both rushing out from the same household in two separate cars, off to their respective places of industry.

 Whatever the reason it is clear that something is clogging our roads faster than we can build them, or widen them or bypass them. Anyone who has taken a short trip to the airport is well aware that despite the road widening having been complete there are still moments in the day when one wishes for a helicopter or failing that live in the idealistic future of the flying car.

 Which brings us to two words, public transport. How does one reduce road congestion while utilizing the road system and providing for more people in a fast growing population, and most importantly reduce the number of unnecessary deaths, both human and animal. Simple, larger vehicles carrying more people inside them.

 Single occupancy vehicles are the bane of most transport systems worldwide, thus larger vehicles have always been requisitioned to reduce crowding upon the roads. I am speaking of buses mainly, for as we know, the taxi system in Oman is working well in its semi chaotic fashion. It seems we are unable to reign in our taxi drivers due to their sheer numbers, and most importantly the employment they provide.

 It's a travesty that we are not able to govern taxis with metering systems, this making the service fair and widely popular. In fact one might argue that the taxi service industry would greatly benefit from tighter controls as it would boost people's confidence and trust in the system, thus bolstering the number of taxi users. Alas, a more laissez-faire system has arisen that favours the current taxi driver population rather than the next generation of taxi drivers. As a result taxis are used as a last resort by those that have no option.   Buses, dear reader, buses. But how will we ever usurp our dear hard working taxi driver that charges little old ladies any rate they like to attend church on Friday or work in the morning. Buses would be standardized, unlike a baiza bus which charges its passengers according to the standard of the vehicle. The older and more dangerous, the cheaper the fare. 

A bus system, clean, efficient, prioritised in its importance, with a bus and truck lane designated on our roads so that we might officially have a two lane highway for cars. Bus stops used by all, especially in the more populated regions of the capital increasing pedestrian areas, fostering a greater sense of community. 

 I asked people who travel by taxi for their opinions, in order to get a better idea of the risks involved and the frequency of service. Risks were many, uncertainty of cost, willingness of the driver to go to your final destination were but two. In fact most were happiest just to drop one at the side of a major road so as to reduce their own workload. Inside the taxi safety was not a priority and seatbelts were basically considered frivolous. The driver himself was dubious at best, and seemed to have a very shaky understanding of the rules of the road.

And where is the public authority that is going to ask our esteemed taxi drivers to take retests for driving every five years? It seems completely impossible when our own driving instructors, people we trust to teach our fresh young up and coming public transport operators how to drive, are not even given retests themselves, nor further testing to become an instructor.

In all we should ask for two things. Firstly, a quasi private public transport system, governed by a public authority to maintain quality of service. Secondly, we should ask for public transport systems to be the solution to our crowded and dangerous roads, rather than asking for more roads all the time. Not only does this kill humans but also it ruins our environment, it looks ugly and every once in a while it is very sad as we pass yet another animal carcass on the side of the road. How many more victims are we going to tolerate before we act as a community of concerned citizens looking for practical solutions.

The author is a businessman, a writer and filmmaker. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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