Columns

Kingston roads are purgatory!

...is Barbican Square hell?

Franklin Johnston

Friday, May 11, 2018

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Our transport planning and economics is tame and disrespectful, so road users, vehicles, and the environment are all out of sync. Our serial Cabinets focused on Air Jamaica, but we need cargo and commuter aviation growth. They tackle road traffic on demand, not pro-actively. My friend Mike Henry, champions broad-gauge rail, but only a bauxite rump works.

We do not use water for liquid, gases or solid goods (200 tonne barges); yet rail, coastal waters can remove congestion from roads, grow tourism and recreation. We need edgy transport plans to inspire, not the same old hat!

The P J Patterson toll roads opened up exciting vistas, but Kingston is ancient, honourable and boring. Some roads are having a makeover as Cabinet buckles to powerful interests, loud voices, or old ideas. We see no data or innovative plan to justify the chaos, inconvenience and environmental nuisance in Barbican Square, Constant Spring, Three Miles, or Ferry. Commuters matter!

To avoid a meltdown by 2040 we must embrace light rail with trunk lines — north, west, east, and central to Gordon Town area from Kingston Metro Multi-Modal Transport Terminal (KMM-MTT) — a node of several modes to include luxury hovercraft, cabin ferry to Norman Manley International Airport, Old Harbour, Portmore, Port Royal, and remove, say 30 per cent road traffic. The road services (bus, taxi, limo) would intersect with light rail, so commuters have choice to include sponsored bicycles for use in the city centre.

Mr Prime Minister, start to change urban transit, as the horizon is 15-plus years to plan, finance and execute new solutions.

Our productivity is hit by Barbican, etc, as these nodes of chaos are on corridors which move workers and goods. If we get Kingston's transport system wrong the entire nation suffers as the people stuck in traffic run Jamaica; provide crucial government, business services; responsible for thousands of container of inbound and outbound air and sea freight.

Sir, is it blindingly clear this is not just transport but a productivity and growth issue? Where is a Kingston Transport Master Plan? How do one-off fixes fit the future traffic flows of our city? We need a plan to resonate with Kingston's history (horse-drawn carriages for tourists; ornate drinking troughs and fountains) and to innovate.

Consider the Airbnb eruption and imagine locals (we have a burgeoning retiree market) and tourists venturing to our light-rail terminus off-peak and exploring; ride a horse, bicycle; enjoy St Mary life from Temple Hall into Iter Boreale; Gordon Town into Blue Mountains; Old Harbour Bay fishing tour and St Thomas sugar and Lighthouse events? Jobs, jobs, jobs! But, let's look at some issues.

Kingston needs a 'Ring Road' to distribute traffic from all directions by roundabout and gyratory; costly but necessary to the 2050 transport mix. Next, Cabinet must segregate goods and people transport as our Kingston is our capital and also confluence of domestic and international freight logistics — airport and seaport. And if Mike Henry gets broad-gauge railways restored all modes will converge on import, export, and national supply chains. Where are the studies on warehousing, resupply, loading, unloading, parking or reverse logistics? Sir, we can remove major congestion and air pollution by regulation if we have data and act. Can we ban 40 tonne heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from the city if Factories Corporation of Jamaica creates 1.5m sq ft of public warehouse space at the borders? How fast is tonnage growing; what parking and loading surveys? What about “no diesel downtown” between 0700 and 1800 hours to save asthma sufferers; boost air quality and production? Do we incentivise electric HGVs? Check this other stuff!

Kingston can have a gully road system. We consultants say, “London on the Thames, New York on the Hudson, and Kingston on the gullies!” A gully (used or not) is high-maintenance sterilised space on the best path to the coast and we have a network of them from which innovative engineers may create cutting edge solutions. Think out of the box!

The detour to avoid Cross Roads exists; another runs from Constant Spring Market to Spanish Town Road near Berger Paints (14-minute commute) and could ease angst of motorists and traffic: A well-managed concrete road for cars only; one-way south or north in rush hour weather permitting, to boost productivity and stanch road rage. Roads are systemic, so a change sets off countervailing forces causing upstream or downstream glitches — pay attention!

Barbican Square chaos will ultimately benefit commuters, but will the local community be poorer? The Constant Spring Golf Club road widening will bring relief for 600 metres, but may push the bottleneck closer to choke points at or past Dunrobin Avenue and may not help the dreadful evening commute. Will the Three Miles flyover move the bottleneck into the city? If vehicles don't have exit ramps or pre-booked parking, expect jams by those who seek parking. Does Kingston have enough multi-storey parking?

Sir, the Kingston Logistics Hub is a big deal; however, domestic goods and passenger logistics is the single most powerful and pervasive force in our economy. It employs thousands, uses massive energy, creates most pollution, but adds most value and crucial to growth. Yet, Parliament, Cabinet do not get it!

Sir, everyone and everything moves. Petroleum for transport is second highest so we can make massive savings. Get the data and let Kingston start the transport revolution. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at the Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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