MAURITIUS TO MAKE USE OF TRANSPORT MODELLING SOFTWARE

Computing

In order to make the software bought by the government useful, the officers will have to gather some data like for instance the percentage of cars, lorries and buses that make up peak hour traffic flow.

Now that the bus lane and "light railway" projects have been shelved (temporarily, it seems), the government is banking high hopes on a traffic software purchased for the sum of Rs 2.3 million to find solutions to the problems on our roads.

Yes, it looks like a good idea. But to get good information from the software, we have to give it good data. If not, as the saying goes, it will be garbage in, garbage out, and we shall not get the right information for managing our thorny traffic problem.

To begin, we have to start that tedious - but vital! - process of data gathering. For example, we have to know the percentage of cars, buses, lorries and even motorcycles that make up peak hour traffic flow. We also have to know how the traffic volume fluctuates during the peak hours, what is the average bus stopping time at a bus stop, and so on.

Then, after feeding this gathered data to the software, we have to check whether what comes out of the computer (the output, I mean) reflects what is observed in real life. For example, we can simulate a bus journey along Royal Road from Rose-Hill to Port-Louis and check whether the software gives a journey time that agrees with what usually takes place in real life. Thus, if the software indicates a journey time of 30 minutes, say, we would know for sure that there is something wrong with the input data. And we would have to make changes to the input data and re-submit them to the software until we get an acceptable simulated journey time. This is how the software might be calibrated.

After the calibration, experiments can be done on the software. For example, we might halve the number of bus stops and see how it would affect bus journey time. Or, since cars are always brought to a halt by buses stopping at bus stops with no lay-bys, we might equip all bus-stops with lay-bys and see by how much this would reduce journey time by cars.

Most probably, the software would show that - to reduce journey time - there should be fewer bus stops (which means that passengers would have to walk longer distances) and that all bus stops should have lay-bys (which means that some bus stops may even have to be re-located). It would also show that traffic lights should be synchronised, that flexi-time should be introduced (to spread the rush-hour traffic over more time) and that all buses should be equipped with two exit doors (to reduce the time that it takes to discharge and embark passengers) and so on.

In sum, by doing clever experiments on the software we would know what should be done to improve traffic flow. But the big question is: would we have the courage to carry out all these changes? Well, to tone down the roar of protest from the public (who do not always know what is in its interest), the authorities might say "pa mwa sa, komputeur sa!" (not my fault, it's the computer)

However, according to a software that has been developed at the University of Mauritius, one measure which could bring significant results, would be to relocate the population along the Port-Louis/Mahebourg corridor. This can be brought about by diminishing to a certain extent the lure of Port-Louis. For example, if Mahébourg were to become a second port, there would be lesser vehicles going towards the capital and this would greatly reduce journey time along the upper part of the Port-Louis/Mahébourg corridor. Unfortunately, even if this can be demonstrated by the Rs 2.3 million software, it is unlikely that this project would ever be brought into effect. You see, what is good for the interest of the collective may not be good for the interest of some!

L'Express