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Traffic jams at toll plazas

September 12, 2008

Delays at toll plazas are irritating because they are preventable with better management. Despite there being separate lanes for cars, buses and other heavy vehicles, the system doesn’t work as people don’t follow rules. The picture below is taken on the Mumbai-Pune expressway.

Rules are followed only if someone enforces them…and no one enforces rules at toll plazas (or toll nakas as they are called in India) unlike at traffic signals. Most major traffic signals in Mumbai are manned by cops, and now several important junctions have cameras as well.

Another type of indiscipline seen at toll nakas (in the city) is ignoring of the “monthly pass” lane. Breaking of this rule is of great inconvenience to pass holders. At least half the vehicles entering these “pass only” lanes do not have passes…and neither do they have the loose change!

And heaven forbid if the driver in the car in front starts to argue with the toll collector over the amount to be paid. You can add another 5-10 minutes to the waiting time. It’s amazing how people can argue when the rates for the toll are clearly written on a notice board! This is not a rare occurrence by the way…I would say it’s quite normal to have some argument or the other going on.

What is really bugging is when people make double lines and try to nudge through. This results in more delays and often heated arguments between drivers. People behave like they have come to a toll naka for the first time!

At times the delay is caused by the police and RTO officials themselves. They stop vehicles (mostly trucks) just in and around the toll plaza, to collect bribes. These trucks are parked haphazardly and add to the traffic woes.

No wonder tempers run high at toll nakas. Recently at the Vashi toll plaza a 25 year old artist traveling in a taxi with his friends was fatally attacked by the occupants of a Ford Ikon because he protested against the Ikon parking parallel to their taxi at the toll naka. This means that we better keep our mouths shut if someone acts tough…who knows if there are goons traveling in the other car!

Delhi too has had its share of problems. There was the fiasco immediately after the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway was opened and the commuters had to wait for an hour or so just to pay the toll tax. Apparently the situation has improved now, although I could not find confirmation of this.

I don’t understand why rules cannot be enforced when toll nakas are usually over staffed. There is often an extra person standing outside the cashier’s window, either to help with the cash (!) or open the gate if the electronic gate fails!

Once people know they will be fined they will be more careful about getting into the wrong lane. The extra money can be put into building better infrastructure…hi-tech cameras for example.They could also have better quality people manning these toll plazas, people who are interested in regulating the traffic and keeping order. Once I asked a guy why they allowed the drivers to get away with such nonsense. The answer I got was: aisa hi hai (it’s like that only!)

Cameras are essential at toll nakas. They will keep drivers in check. And the cameras should also help in beefing up the anti-terror network. It is a shame that despite Mumbai being on the terror list, there are no cameras to capture images of vehicles at entry and exit points of the city.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2008 12:03 am

    On the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway, they have started the system of Tags in which there is an automatic deduction of money once the vehicle is tagged. There are separate dedicated lanes for that.
    The problem is those vehicles which enter the tag lanes and delay those vehicles which are tagged.
    With the current vehicle traffic, it takes a good 10-15 mins at the Toll in peak hours.

  2. September 12, 2008 12:26 am

    Haha!It’s very common to see people arguing even after the boards display the rates.
    The camera system would be great if ever implemented.Any car with suspicious material,arms or so can be easily caught along with vehicle’s number.And India doesn’t really lack resources to implement this practically,at many a places across India.The country is strong when it comes to software industries,and the number of engineers.
    But,after all,
    aisa hi hai (it’s like that only!)

  3. September 12, 2008 12:52 am

    thought provoking post..
    a frequent express way traveler, the problems you mentioned are very few… and as u pointed out its just lack of proper strict management..

    and then thats is india’s curse..!!
    everywhere its bribed and ‘power’ lot plays the drama..!!

  4. September 12, 2008 2:25 am

    I wanted to say that India needs EZ-pass which is the same thing that Amit says is already implemented.

  5. September 12, 2008 3:53 am

    Make it free, everyone can pass it easily. Instead add the toll money to road tax. It will also decrease the amount of vehicles and make it expensive to own them. Collect more tax every year and build good public transport. Tax people with multiple vehicles or SUVs even further. Driving is a privilege not a right.

  6. September 12, 2008 7:36 am

    I think a toll system is too confusing for an average Indian driver. Are we just talking about educated folks who dont try to follow rules or is it confined to folks like the truck drivers or is it both? This is the same country where there are people(not all of them) who consider the white dotted lines are for decoration and cars have to be driven with the lines passing through right at the center.(Hint: Lanes). A Toll system for these folks will be a too much of an ask to follow! It is just mind blowing!

  7. September 12, 2008 9:17 am

    I think the fact that the security is so lax here is quite disturbing! How do the police and ‘intelligence’ departments manage to overlook such obvious things? :D

  8. September 12, 2008 10:01 am

    A lot many of the new highways and expressways have been financed with different structures. Extended toll collections over 15 – 20 years forms one part of the cash flow required to repay loans.

    Therefore, toll collections become important. Firstly, we have to contend with the increase in traffic beyond expectations and well before original projections.

    Secondly, the toll concessionaires are cutting corners.

    This is a problem that can be easily set right if authorities like National highway Authority or State Highway Authority clamp down.

    We motorists who pass through these toll nakas will have to initiate this process and make it happen.

  9. chirax permalink
    September 12, 2008 11:14 am

    Talking of traffic jam, I live in bangalore, try getting on the roads from 8:30 AM – 9:00 PM, I guess we can blame the infrastructure, but we the people also need to share the blame.

    I have not been unfortunate to go to a Toll yet, but some day, I will regret that, now just let me regret the traffic on the road.

    People, have you noticed though, when you are in hurry the folks in front of you will be driving very pleasurably, and when you are driving pleasurably everyone seems to be in hurry :)

  10. September 12, 2008 11:21 am

    Well i think Mumbai is the only city which collects money from ppl to enter it…(?) ..as you said imposing fines will do the job,but who will collect them and well when the police take bribes,the toll guys too might….

  11. September 12, 2008 12:18 pm

    On WP home page (745am British Summer Time).

  12. September 12, 2008 4:16 pm

    I just published a post “Bell the Cat…” on my Blog. Its a coincidence I saw this post {I happened to land at your blog site when scouting for some Blogs of depth, to network & follow-I’m amazed at the depth of your Blog] which has the same thread: lack of enforcement of Rules & public accountability.

    I’ve been blogging just for a few months but I connect to contemporary issues which agitate us. I paused at your site as I identified resonance of thoughts. I have added ‘nitawriter’ to ‘Blogs I Follow’ and may visit your blog more often. I am hopeful of some proactive networking.

  13. September 12, 2008 4:56 pm

    Situation has improved on the Delhi- Gurgaon toll plaza as explained by Amit.There was never a problem at the Delhi- Noida toll bridge. Regular travelers can buy cards which are cheaper and you don’t need any man power to handle the traffic on the lanes reserved for these card holders. In fact once when my friend entered the toll bridge accidently (she has an excellent sense of direction :) )the staff on the toll bridge helped her in taking a U-turn.
    About indiscipline and road rage what can when one say. It is a law and order problem and when the police is a mute spectator when politicians openly threat and instigate people to destroy public property and get away with it in the name of language and region, this is a small affair involving individuals.

  14. September 12, 2008 6:59 pm

    “It’s amazing how people can argue when the rates for the toll are clearly written on a notice board! This is not a rare occurrence by the way”

    some people can haggle about anything!! Its more like a uncontrollable urge. That day at a doctor’s clinic, when asked to pay consultation fees of 70 rs a lady was haggling and wanted to pay 50 rs!! as if they are in a vegetable market!!

    “What is really bugging is when people make double lines and try to nudge through. ‘
    This is an unique habit of Indians in almost every queue, be it toll naka or ticket counter or railway crossing or form counter!!! Its really irritating.

    “Once I asked a guy why they allowed the drivers to get away with such nonsense. The answer I got was: aisa hi hai (it’s like that only!)”

    Its actually more like”pehla patthar wo uthaye jisne kabhi koi jurm na kiya ho” or words to that effect…i dont remember the exact dialogue.

  15. September 12, 2008 7:24 pm

    Traffic in India…specially in major cities is in very very bad shape.

    On Pune -banglore Highway there are 3 toll’s in the way from Pune to Satara. I could never comprehebd the logic on paying toll tax 3 times on the same road, int he same state.

  16. September 12, 2008 9:26 pm

    Amit, I don’t what tags are but here too they have cards which need to be swiped. but just like in delhi no one goes in the card lane. peak hours is the tough time.

    Ameya, we don’t lack resources, but we do lack the will

    Shefaly, we do have this electronic card system in various places but no one keeps to their lane! And about the wp page, its funny how some posts unexpectedly get there!

    Vinz, Odzer, Mavin, thanks for your sharing your views.

    Dinesh Babu, Reema, :)

    Nikhil, they don’t overlook it. They just don’t care.

    Chirax, the line you are in always moves the slowest. Murphy’s Law.

    Sharad, I think they have it in different places to catch people turning off.

    Vishesh, never looked at it that way. So one can enter Chennai without paying toll tax! That’s lucky. Seems to be the case with Bangalore too.

    Pushhyarag, thanks.

    Prerna, good to hear it has improved at Delhi. There are more toll booths there on that stretch I think, the biggest toll centre in India I think. Here the number of toll booths are fewer in number.

  17. September 13, 2008 10:08 am

    A great improvement would be if people started following lanes. That itself would solve half the issues with traffic anywhere in India.

  18. September 14, 2008 4:06 am

    yeah ..i have seen a busy toll station near chennai in national highway too …. it takes easily 10 minutes top get pass it ..
    and i dint know toll plazas issue passes too :(

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