Unclogging Panaji’s congestion problem

The CCF team discusses a major problem in the Goan capital: mobility, and the proposed Decongestion Model.


Known for the Goan architecture of its old Latin quarter, Panaji draws a big share of tourists coming to the state of Goa every year. In recent years, however, the state and its capital are increasingly associated with an urban problem disproportionate to the resident population numbers: vehicular congestion.

With a total population of 1.1 lakhs (Census 2011), the Panaji Urban Agglomeration is unusually small and pedestrian-scaled for an Indian state capital city. Yet the average vehicle ownership per household in Goa is 3 for a household of 4.2 (Draft Parking Policy, IPSCL). The numbers unveil a grim reality for citizens: parking chaos and a peak-time nightmare for drivers, and pollution and speeding-related perils for everyone else.

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The vehicular congestion in Panaji continues to grow in recent decades, exacerbating traffic issues.

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An unregulated public transport system increases time poverty amongst commuters, a majority of whom are women.

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Vehicular encroachment upon footpaths pushes pedestrians onto the streets.

What is the solution to the seemingly endless vicious cycle of congestion, pollution and vehicle ownership? In his Times of India article ‘No end for Goa’s public transport woes’ published last month, Vivek Menezes recalls the pioneering efforts of Columbia’s Enrique Penalosa towards Bus Rapid System (commonly called BRT), a public transport model that has garnered much success in cities like Ahmedabad and Pune. Such examples prove that the answer for a healthier city is better public transport.

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It is imperative for decision-makers to understand that the conventional approach of dealing with congestion—increasing road capacity—is not a solution, but lends to the problem. The Charles Correa Foundation’s proposal for Decongestion Model of Panaji City Centre recognises the need to prioritise a people-centric approach to an auto-centric one. Proposed in 2013, the Model addresses 3 predominant parameters:

  1. Better public transport: to make it an affordable alternative mode of transport and to lure people from private vehicles, thus reducing the traffic volume to a large extent. To create a hop-on-hop-off bus network to decrease travel time and ensure quick interchanges.
  2. Parking strategies: the model suggests organised parking in the city and its surrounds to retrieve citizen space from parked vehicles and make it easy to park and access public transport.
  3. Pedestrian environments: to make use of the innate potential of dense and mixed-use neighbourhoods to promote healthier pedestrian environments.

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With a planned system of one-way (marked in blue) and two-way (marked in purple) streets, the Model proposes a pedestrian plaza (marked in yellow) in the Central Business District.

In order to decrease the traffic volume entering the city during the day, the Model demands a park-and-ride system wherein cars are parked in parking lots outside the city environs and commuters take the hop-on hop-off bus into the city centre. Simple closed loop routes make the hop-on hop-off bus system an efficient one. This is complemented by a parking strategy which divides parking locations into 3 categories: off-site multi-storey parking in the periphery, on-site multi-storey parking in the CBD and on-street parking in the CBD.

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The proposal of the Hop-on Hop-off microbus system is integrated with infrastructure such as bus bays and bus stops necessary for implementation.


Proposed parking locations in the CBD.

As a result of such a decongestion model, the city is bound to experience a series of benefits:

  • Delivery of predictable travel time: The precious time lost in travel is now regained by a system that allows accuracy in frequencies, parking and walking times. As calculated, a mere walk of 125 metres and 1 interchange, or less, is needed to access any part of the city.
  • Safer conditions for all: The pedestrian zone would benefit all pedestrian age-groups and public-transport commuters. The decrease in air and noise pollution would protect heritage structures as well.
  • Reducing pollution and sustainable driving: Decreasing idling time of vehicles leads to better fuel consumption.
  • Public spaces in the city: With optimised parking, streets and open spaces could be reclaimed by the people, resulting in a livelier and healthier city.

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The fight for better public transport is far from over, but the Decongestion Model shows that it can be implemented efficiently. After all, to quote Gustavo Petro (former Mayor of Bogota), “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”