It will not take yet another traffic study to tell us what we already know. If you live in New Providence, chances are great the single biggest loss of productive time on any given day when school is in session will be on the roadways. Scenarios of the nightmare we call traffic are endless - sitting at traffic lights as they change three times. You inch up slowly but can’t get far enough to make it across a busy intersection with cars blocking from the other direction, or frustrated because the car in front of you lacks confidence to enter a roundabout, or angry that somewhere ahead a good Samaritan plays traffic cop and lets a dozen cars out from a side road to ease his conscience about some other misdeed he did.
We can measure the lost time. What is far more difficult to measure than lost productivity is what the traffic nightmare costs us in personal well-being, even affecting our satisfaction with where we live. We are frustrated. The frustration causes us stress, anxiety and angst. We are less patient with our children as if it were their fault they had to be picked up from school at the same time children all over the island are being picked up. If we have school pickup, we have shortened or non-existent lunch hours so we gobble fast food in the car, becoming Styrofoam supermoms, dining with fingers instead of forks. If enough drivers on the road frustrate us with what we perceive as their bad driving, our anger boils over. We honk our horns more than we ever did before. We become ruder as a people. Road rage is never far away.
And when we finally get a chance to break free, we speed like crazy, causing more serious accidents, even death.
Those are the facts. Unscientific, but irrefutable observations of heavy, slow traffic on a small island with too many vehicles. The question is what can we do about it? Various governments have tried to discourage additional cars but no amount of increasing Customs duties has worked. The higher costs of importing a vehicle have only caused people to buy less expensive, older cars and trucks that are in poorer condition than newer vehicles would be. The policy has backfired. So what do we do?
Until the overall public transportation system improves and shows innovation including using Nassau harbour as our natural north coast highway with parking along several on-off boarding spots for continuously operating ferries as recommended in the Historic Nassau Study, we suggest the following changes be considered to ease the burden and speed up movement.
Roundabout fix: Drivers must be educated in how to use roundabouts. We strongly recommend the Ministry of Transport take this on as an educational campaign for road safety. Drivers must slow down so others can filter in. Roundabouts are meant to allow traffic to flow. They are not substitutes for traffic signals. There are Youtube videos that could be played in public places until the proper use of roundabouts is ingrained.
Traffic light snarl fixes: Drone photos show areas of worst traffic backups; adjust signals or entry-exits that cause it. Three quick examples – heading west on Shirley Street, lights at Kemp Road and Mackey Street are poorly timed. The green light should be extended for the westbound Shirley Street traffic. The greatest offence is Mackey Street, also known as the Atlantis light, which allows a few southbound cars coming over the bridge from Paradise Island to take their time getting through while westbound traffic is backed up a mile. At hotel shift change, the smart light could be adjusted, but other drivers should not be penalised all day.
Additionally, there are two narrow side roads that run parallel to each other just west of Mackey Street, both dumping traffic on to an already crowded Shirley Street and slowing crawling traffic even more because of the dual entries. The road that runs smack into oncoming traffic heading the opposite direction, northbound, from Bilney Lane could easily be converted from southbound to northbound. Presently, there is no way to get to Bay Street without adding to the traffic on Shirley and heading west to Church Street, then turning east again on to Bay.
Saunders Beach fix: Eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening, north coast road nightmares, are largely the result of myriad entrance points from various businesses, including at times a backed up drive-thru window at KFC and Pizza Hut. The fix: creation of a single access road south of all businesses with all eastbound traffic exiting through new road. Westbound traffic would continue to enter through the current West Bay Street entrances. The only other solution is to use eminent domain for 12 feet of land on the south side and create a centre turning lane.
Cable Beach fix: A dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation exists on Baha Mar Boulevard with the northernmost pedestrian crosswalk so close to the turning on the roundabout. As traffic increases with the opening of more properties including the SLS this week, there will be serious accidents as cars coming off that roundabout do not have enough warning time to stop. The fix: Bus pullover is fine, but move pedestrian crosswalk at least 100 feet further south.
Safety fix: All traffic signals should turn to blinking at 1am and remain blinking until 6am.
Traffic flow fix: Identify the dozens of intersections where you can make a left on red.
‘Worst Design Ever Award’ fix: New parking area on East Bay Street east of the old Paradise Island bridge. The fact you have to get to the strip parking lot east of Potter’s Cay by entering a turnoff west of Potter’s Cay, driving through Potter’s Cay, adding to that congestion among restaurants, conch stands, ferries and commercial cargo traffic, and exiting thousands of feet away on the east side deserves the award for the stupidest road plan ever devised for the city of Nassau. Various businesses have offered to pay for an entry point on the northern side of East Bay Street. Accept their offer.
Still to come – Blue Hill, Golden Gates and the Highway with ideas for Town Centre Mall. On the positive side, the roadway past Lake Cunningham makes the drive to LPIA a treat. Only drawback – street lights should have been placed in the middle of the median with arms extending either side to minimise risk of damage and destruction by passing trucks and traffic. The median and verge along the lake could be planted with beautiful flowers that are changed with the seasons, so long as they are kept low, maintaining uninterrupted lake view.