The Meghalaya government’s efforts to reduce traffic congestion in Shillong have been applauded by a division bench of the Meghalaya High Court comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, and Justice W. Diengdoh. The high court said this while Philip Khrawbok Shati’s Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding traffic congestion. The court also took note of a status report of the city’s traffic problem submitted by the state government.
Taking cognisance of the status report submitted by the state government the High Court suggested a number of solutions to ease the problem of traffic congestion and praised the state government’s attempt to purchase buses for transportation of school children. This step would reduce the need for private cars to pick up or drop off children at school.
Significantly, Shillong the state capital has been experiencing traffic congestion during school and office hours. According to 2021 Transport Department data – every day about 13 new cars and 14 two-wheelers vehicles add to the existing traffic congestion. On top of that, nearly 60 per cent of school students commute to their respective institutions by private vehicles.
To address the traffic issues, the Meghalaya Government launched Northeast’s first shared buses for Urban Transport under STEMS (Sustainable Transport and Efficient Mobility Society). As of date, 30 buses have been procured for school children and officegoers. These buses also have security features like CCTV and GPS tracking. According to estimates, one bus can replace 15 cars, which means that during peak hours, 30 buses can eliminate 450 cars on roads. This will go a long way to decongest the city’s traffic.
The High Court observed “The most commendable aspect of the matter is the short time within which an initiative has been taken to procure a large number of buses for ferrying school children and to ensure that individual cars do not have to come to drop the children to school or pick them up thereafter. Indeed, despite school buses being available, parents or guardians of wards are more concerned with the security of the school-going children, particularly girls, and may not be inclined to allow them to use buses or public transport even if that entails a considerable degree of inconvenience to the parents or guardians”.
The high court also urged the state government to take steps to relieve traffic congestion by building new roads, parking lots, one-way streets, and other regulations.
The Shared Buses for Urban Transport program was launched to decongest school traffic by 75 per cent and reduce CO2 emissions by 72 per cent for school trips.
Commenting on the Hon’ble High Court’s observations Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma said “As the minister of the nodal department, I am glad to see that the High Court commended the state’s initiative to introduce 30 buses for school children and officegoers in January of this year. Our government’s determination to take advantage of the more recent kind of shared mobility has led to a groundbreaking scheme where numerous schools and offices share government-purchased buses. School buses are typically underutilized, but in Northeast India, our government-owned shared buses for the Urban Transport system are one of the first of their kind. With features like GPS tracking, CCTV cameras, and trained workers, we anticipate that this system would not only reduce traffic congestion but also assure the safety and security of students attending schools.”