Where Did the Traffic Go?by Frederick Sowah

Where Did the Traffic Go?

by Frederick Sowah

Published on Mon, Jun 29 2009 by Frederick S.
Anyone who uses the long stretch of road between Madina and Accra Central certainly knows about its notorious traffic. Tens of side-roads join this major road at different points along its course, and this undoubtedly contributes to its traffic. Some parts of this busy road are known to attract more traffic than others, and of course the amount of traffic depends on the time of the day.

But these days something strange but welcome seems to be happening to the traffic in the city. I used to dread the traffic from Osu (Danquah circle area) to the Madina area so much that I waited till about 8 p.m. before heading home from work. Even then, there were times that I still got caught up in traffic even at that late period of the day. For some seemingly inexplicable reason, the traffic in some parts of Accra has significantly reduced.  Even the ubiquitous 5 p.m.-ish traffic has subsided. I have some thoughts about what might have contributed to the thinning of traffic.

Earlier on in June this year the Ghana government announced a whopping 30% increase in the prices of petroleum and its products. The government’s explanation was that the steeply rising global crude prices made it difficult for the government to continue subsidizing the prices without rendering the nation bankrupt. So, the ordinary Ghanaian was called into action to help absorb the increment. I believe the new high prices have prohibited many people from using their vehicles as frequently as they would have liked to, and this has caused a reduction in the traffic.

I reckon the raining season also helps reduce traffic in Accra. Here, rain is a big deal: some people decide not to go work on some rainy days; others would show up at work, but only a couple of hours after the office opened. Of course such behavior is dominant in government establishments where supervision is relatively lax compared to what happens in private industries. From a frivolous perspective, I think the cooler nights that the rain brings make people sleep more—I normally leave home between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., but I have observed that when it rains I can leave home at 7:00 a.m. and still make it to work at the same time I did with the earlier departing times, thanks to the reduced traffic on those wet days.

The last and most feasible reason for the reduction in traffic is the opening of some portions of the Tetteh Quashie-Madina road, which has been under construction for a number of years now and is still scheduled to be fully opened in 2012. The strategic opening of some parts of this road coupled with the placement of traffic-directing policemen at strategic points on the road has helped eased traffic drastically. People who use the road no longer feel the need to rush to avoid traffic, and this has helped to spread out the number of vehicles that ply the streets over a larger period of time, thus reducing the irritating rush-hour traffic. 

But then again, you can never trust Accra traffic. The moment you think you have it all figured out, it throws you a left hook that leaves you thinking: “Why on earth didn’t I use that bumpy dirt-road instead of this major road?” Like many other Accra residents, I apply a crude form of customized “Game Theory” in determining what road to use on any given day, and sometimes I get it right.  Other times, it backfires. But at the end of it all, I hope to reduce the number of times that my traffic-beating hypotheses go pear-shaped.

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