Lebanon seeks solutions to ease traffic woes

75 percent of the population use private cars, yet only 25 percent use public transportation.
by Nour Ghoussaini English

14 March 2017 | 19:14

Source: by Annahar

  • by Nour Ghoussaini
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 14 March 2017 | 19:14

Lebanon suffers from daily heavy traffic congestion due to the lack of public transportation and an ailing road infrastructure. (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: Lebanon's capital bore witness Monday to massive bumper-to-bumper traffic jams at the city's three main entrances as a result of poor weather conditions in what has become a regularly expected scene, especially when "half a million cars move in and out the city on a daily basis," according to the Lebanese Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR).

"Lebanon is primarily in need of a new concentrated and reliable public transportation system, with a full strategy requiring efforts of governmental authorities, municipalities, governors, funders and of course security forces," a source at the Internal Security Forces (ISF) told Annahar.

Head of the Public Works, Transportation, Water and Energy Parliamentary Committee, MP Mohammed Kabbani, noted in a phone call with Annahar, that the proper application of new traffic laws can significantly help reduce the traffic problem, yet improving public transportation is an equally important aspect of this issue.

Kabbani highlighted that "75 percent of the population use private cars, yet only 25 percent use public transportation; meanwhile, in other countries, these percentages are reversed."

He noted that "improving public transportation tops the committee's main concerns, and it's considering the adoption of a new system known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)."

BRT is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It requires the provision of dedicated lanes, with busways and iconic stations typically aligned to the center of the road, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations.

Civil engineer Elie El Helo, who is currently in charge of the BRT project at CDR, told Annahar that the successful application of the system would provide a fast and comfortable public transportation between Tripoli and Beirut without having to pass inside the city, noting that buses between Tabarja, a coastal town in Kesrouan, 56 kilometers north of Beirut, all the way to Downtown's Charles Helo Station, will move in "a dedicated lane for buses passing through 22 to 25 predetermined stops."

Helo concurs "that enforcement and application of new traffic laws are highly required to ensure road safety and traffic control."

According to Kabbani, the World Bank estimated a four-year timeframe for this system to be applied in Lebanon; that's why CDR started organizing intensive weekly meetings to work on and discuss a potential substitute solution, while continuing, in parallel, the study of the BRT project's environmental and economic aspects.

Road safety expert, Kamel Ibrahim, appreciates the efforts of the government and CDR in improving public transportation, yet sheds light on the importance of finding practical solutions that can be promptly applied.

"Solutions and substitutes should be practical and realistic in order to fit Lebanon's economic status and current infrastructure," Ibrahim told Annahar, "Lebanon's government, along with institutions and citizens, must start adapting new methods of transportation."

He highlighted that "carpooling," which is sharing rides with those heading to the same destination, is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way to travel as it reduces carbon emissions, traffic congestion on the roads, and the need for parking spaces.

"By having more people using one vehicle, it thereby reduces each person's travel costs such as fuel costs and the stress of driving," Ibrahim noted.

One of the most notable efforts regarding this matter in Lebanon is Carpolo, an application created by Lebanese entrepreneurs Mohamad and Lujain Nabaa, Basma Jilani and Ralph Khairallah who decided to take on the challenge of making carpooling appealing to the Lebanese public in particular and several adjacent countries.

"The idea of the application is encouraging citizens to share rides to and from their work/university, safely and easily," reported cofounder of Carpolo Ralph Khairallah, "We can thereby make use of excess car seats, reduce the number of cars moving to and from the city, and result in diffusing traffic."

An infographic guide to Carpolo App

Khairallah said, "that the app will be launched in the next few months giving the public the opportunity to utilize it for free. Users will also be rewarded with points they collect using the app through a program sponsored by Touch."

On a related note, Ibrahim also encourages institutions and universities to adopt shuttle services; a private bus that travels between two points and is of minimum or free charge for faculty, staff or students.

An article published on TransLoc, a British leading website in transit technology, notes that the benefits of a commuter shuttle encompass both employers and employees in terms of cost-efficiency and environmental aspects, in addition to the impact on enhancing employee productivity and general well-being.

"Wouldn't it be a win-win situation if employees are offered an extra hour to relax, work, and connect with other people yet arriving on time, in a tranquil frame of mind that permits them to start their day efficiently and effectively," Ibrahim asked.

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