If we ever needed reminding on the chaotic traffic situation in Malta, a car crash a few days ago hammered the point home. A bus and a car crashed on Tower Road, and a major congestion followed. News outlets reported the crash and drivers were alerted to avoid the area.
Anyone driving through Sliema knows that traffic congestion is steadily increasing. And as things are developing, Sliema will not be the only locality in this situation. Amid this suffocation, good governance becomes increasingly in demand.
Will the Planning Authority consider the massive traffic impacts resulting from mega-projects? Will it adopt a holistic approach when considering development proposals, or will it simply consider each proposal in isolation? Will developers continue to deceive us by understating the negative impacts of mega projects? This was the case when architects’ recent plans for development proposals in Tignè did not show other proposed developments in the area.
Developers are expanding their tentacles with new high-rise tower blocks. There are at least two such projects being proposed in Sliema – Townsquare and Fort Cambridge. The Ministry for Transport knows that consequently, thousands of extra cars will likely bring about the mother of all gridlocks, yet is it speaking up for the common good?
Will the Planning Authority adopt a holistic approach when considering development proposals, or will it simply consider each proposal in isolation?
Judging by the behaviour of the same ministry on other matters, I doubt whether the common good is high on its priorities.
For example, take public carparks. Before the 2013 general elections, Labour was vociferous against their ‘privatisation’, yet it curiously didn’t dare speak against certain parkers who were and still are making lots of money from them.
Indeed, such carparks have become a rent-seekers’ paradise. Were the common good really a priority, such carparks would be devolved to local councils and revenue from parking would be usedfor public purposes, and not to enrich some individuals.
Which takes us to residents’ parking. The recent constitutional court’s decision in favour of residents’ should bring some order provided that government does not ignore the ruling. As far as Sliema goes, the Ministry for Transport decided to discriminate against residents when it removed the residents’ parking scheme while retaining other schemes in other localities.
What will Minister Joe Mizzi do once Transport Malta decides to evaluate the 17 pending applications from local councils for resident parking schemes?
I personally believe that non-resident parking in commercial zones should be charged. This happens in many cities abroad and it can also help encourage a modal shift from private cars to public transport, walking and other alternatives. In the process, it can also help spare residents and workers from some car pollution.
The increase in traffic jams around Malta should also alert authorities ofthe rights of pedestrians and cyclists. Apart from the sorry state of many pavements, one has to keep in mind that there are various roads which are actually a hazard for pedestrians in view of lack of pavements, various obstacles and ongoing works.
Cyclists – on the other hand – face many dangers on the road, as witnessed by many accidents, including some fatal ones. Perhaps the Ministry for Transport should consider amending legislation which prohibits adult bicycle users from cycling along promenades, and instead introduce bicycle lanes to enable this.
The traffic debacle in Malta shows that there is a need for good governance and serious planning. It is true that private transport provides opportunities in terms of freedom and mobility, but at the same time it causes considerable harm in terms of pollution, accidents, gridlock and other unintended consequences.
At the moment is seems that not enough weight is given to such harm, with the consequences which are so evident for all to see.