The FINANCIAL -- The time it takes to cover a distance by car has increased more than three times for Tbilisi drivers during rush hour, according to experts.
Vehicles consume twice as much fuel during intensive traffic jams. While the local authorities are not managing to solve the problem, it continues to affect the physical and mental health of the population, as well as their finances. In the current situation oil importers and retailers are the only winners. Their sales will drop as soon as the city’s municipality improves the traffic situation. The state budget will also be affected.
“Every vehicle consumes twice as much fuel while in traffic congestion. Hence, solving the problem of traffic jams will halve the sales of oil producers and importing companies,” Vasil Urushadze, Executive Director at HUB Georgia, told The FINANCIAL.
During the first nine months of 2017, petrol and diesel fuel imports in Georgia amounted to 786,6 thousand tonnes, which is 54,3 thousand tonnes, or 6,9%, less than in the same period of the previous year.
Out of them, during the first nine months of the current year, petrol imports decreased by 12,700 tonnes, or 3,25%, and reached 390,5 thousand tonnes, while diesel fuel import decreased by 41,6 thousand tonnes, or 10.5%, and reached 396,1 thousand tonnes.
Despite the drop in the amount of oil products, the mentioned commodity group remains a top imported product in Georgia in terms of its cost. According to the Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat), the top import commodity as of January-September 2017 was petroleum and petroleum oils imports, which amounted to USD 487.0 million and 8.7 percent of total imports.
According to a new bill that came into force in Georgia from 2017, excise on 1 tonne of petroleum has increased from GEL 250 to GEL 500; 1 tonne of diesel fuel - from GEL 150 to GEL 400; 1000 m3 of natural gas used as fuel - from GEL 80 to GEL 200; and motor oils - from GEL 400 to GEL 800.
The sum collected by the state budget from petrol import during January-September 2017 has amounted to GEL 195,250,000 and GEL 158,440,000 from diesel import.
An end to traffic jams could be considered a way to reduce fuel expenditure for car owners; at the same time, oil product importers and the state budget would also see reductions. However, the Government’s decision to double excise tax, despite dramatic devaluation of the Georgian Lari and increased prices of products and oil importers’ speculations over prices, make this scenario less realistic.
Q. How much does traffic congestion increase fuel consumption in Tbilisi?
A. Tbilisi has become a city of traffic jams during recent years. It has become impossible to move during rush hour, when, according to average observation and calculation, a vehicle’s engine spends 75-80% on wasted idling, while only 20-25% is used in motion. We can just imagine how much fuel is wasted during traffic congestion and how much it is costing every citizen and driver.
According to the average statistics, based on different surveys, a vehicle consumes twice as much fuel during an intensive traffic jam than when moving freely.
Q. What is the average percentage of extra time that commuters in Tbilisi spend during rush hour traffic?
A. Unfortunately, similar studies have not been conducted in Tbilisi yet, so it is difficult to refer to accurate figures, and here we should also rely on international experience and individual observations. During busy traffic, based on various surveys around the world, the time spent on travelling a concrete distance increases 3 times, but in Tbilisi, especially during rush hour, this indicator is much higher.
Q. What is the main reason for traffic congestion and what is your vision for solving the problem?
A. The first instance of traffic organization management and congestion prevention was recorded in 1654. At that time the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal developed a plan for traffic system optimization via mathematical calculation for the city hall of Paris, France. The plan was aimed to regulate chaotic movement and jams generated by horse coaches in the city centre.
In this case, Pascal made a simple and at the same time, reasonable decision and imposed a fee for moving by coach in the centre of Paris. The decision resulted in a successful outcome and relieved traffic, but of course, only in the centre. Since then, the issue has been becoming more and more pressing. Many scientists and experts throughout the world are working on this problem, but how effective the results are, is not easy to assess.
The technical failure of vehicles is one of the most important factors causing traffic jams.
Traffic system management, its improvement or deterioration, depends on mathematical parameters. Mathematical calculations are factors for city planning, highways, street and traffic light design. With mathematical modelling, it is possible to determine the intensity of traffic on streets and a calculation of road capacity. The necessary parameters are: average speed of motor movement; area of the carriageway; average number of passing cars. Based on this information, the coefficient of capacity of streets, crossroads or highways is calculated.
Consequently, we arrive at the conclusion that we do not have to fight traffic jams, but to prevent their cause in the first place.
Q. Why has Tbilisi become a city of such severe traffic congestion and what are the trends in this regard?
A. The above-mentioned viewpoints of experts and scientists about the creation of traffic jams are applicable in the case of Tbilisi on a theoretical level. However, if we examine the Tbilisi traffic system, we will see that the case is much more complicated than we could have imagined.
Traffic congestion in Tbilisi streets has increased significantly over the last few years. Driving is restricted not only during rush hours, when some of the strategic transportation networks are almost paralyzed, but during other times of the day too.
Why did traffic congestion appear in Tbilisi? It is simple to find the answer. About 50-80 thousand vehicles have been added to the Georgian fleet of vehicles every year since 2005. According to the data of 2012, 900 thousand cars were registered in the country at the time. Now this number has reached close to one hundred thousand. 40-50% of these cars are moving in Tbilisi, which is a natural process, and is determined by the country’s development.
Additionally, intensive constructions, especially in the centre of Tbilisi, may be a natural process, however, construction of any residential or commercial object without appropriate calculation of a traffic flow management system is a crime.
The world’s major cities are trying to reduce the number of vehicles moving daily, with the development of alternative vehicles such as: various types of municipal transport, buses, terrestrial and underground subways, trams, etc. Out of them, the bus is one of the most mobile municipal modes of transport that can carry passengers to any town or district of the city.
Today, municipal transport buses operating in Tbilisi have for the most part amortized, reaching their expiration period, and therefore do not meet passenger safety standards. Five hundred buses are moving in Tbilisi daily, but their number is decreasing monthly due to technical malfunctions. This means that they can no longer meet the demands of the number of passengers that are needed every day in the city. Considering the number of Tbilisi residents, the city should have at least a thousand buses during the day. The operating regime is also very important; optimization of minibuses and correct planning should be consistent with passenger flow numbers, according to precincts and settlements.
Parking systems are another significant problem. If we compare the number of official parking lots in Tbilisi to the number of vehicles, we will see that we have 12 car units per each official parking spot.
When a parked car occupies an important area of the roadway, it significantly reduces the capacity index of the roadway and causes traffic jams. The lack of parking for distribution vehicles in the city is also a problematic issue. In many cases, distribution vehicles are parked on the motorway, in order to serve commercial objects, which then contribute to jams via the so-called “Butterfly Effect”. A similar problem also occurs during the operation of cleaning service vehicles.