OPINION

Gridlock

Yesterday’s ordeal for hundreds of thousands of Athenians who got stuck for hours on the capital’s gridlocked roads was a dramatic reminder that life in Athens is hardly bearable. True, yesterday’s traffic jam was the result of three factors. The problems caused by the ongoing projects in many parts of the capital were «leavened,» on the one hand, by a prolonged and heavy rainfall and, on the other, by the workers’ protest rallies. The fact that yesterday was a very difficult day is no excuse for the tardiness of the responsible authorities. To be sure, there was nothing they could do to ensure trouble-free circulation. However, they should have taken all necessary measures in time in order to make the best out of the circumstances. True to form, they stood paralyzed. Gridlocks like the one that occurred yesterday are rare, but congestion is an everyday phenomenon. In the past, traffic jams were caused during rush hour or in case of demonstrations. As the years go by, circulation is becoming more and more problematic. Were it not for the metro, the situation would be a lot worse. The fact that tens of thousands of new cars come onto the roads every year leaves little room for optimism about the future. Under the present circumstances, the large majority of Athens’s workers need an additional one or two hours a day to travel to and from work than they used to. That is a waste of time and an unacceptable compromise in commuters’ living standards. Athens’s traffic restriction ring is no longer a solution. The projects which are currently under construction may halt a further aggravation of the situation, but they will not solve the problem. Calls on citizens to avoid using their cars have also fallen through. In order to break this vicious circle, we need more attractive public transport; that is, more functional transport. This can be achieved by increasing buses’ and trolley buses’ average speed and, therefore, their frequency for passengers. This presupposes a drastic reduction in the circulation of cars. This, in turn, presupposes groundbreaking government measures (like extending the traffic restriction zone), whose implementation will be closely monitored by the police. Unfortunately, although the government talks a great deal about the need to solve everyday problems, it has not braved the political cost of the requisite measures, opting instead to leave things as they are. But this tactic is bound to worsen the situation and fuel public disillusionment with the current situations. Even Athenians’ mithridatism has its limits.