Case Study: Reduce Traffic By Resolving Contradictions
By KRD Pravin
Population explosion is a curse as well as a boon for India. It is the second biggest market of the world. It is a strength, but at the same time it causes a scarcity of infrastructure and results in other infrastructure related issues.
Mumbai is one of the most populated cities in the world. In numbers, Mumbai is roughly one percent of the Indian market. Residents of Mumbai face many problems on a daily basis such as housing, costly health facilities, scarcity of open space, water supply, crowded public transport (local trains as well as busses) and heavy traffic on roads – especially during rush hours. The main contributing factor to these problems is the growing population.
“We are the problem” and “we struggle ourselves” to find the solution(s). The paradox is that there are many opportunities available a huge human resource is needed. But this great resource of humans constitutes the underlying problem – an imbalance between infrastructure and head count.
A measurement system is needed to gauge the impact of travel-related problems on “quality of life” since it is intangible. An approximate measurement system for transportation, therefore, is also recommended forthe problem of overcrowding in trains and traffic congestion on roads. This system calculates the overall impact of overcrowding and transportation on quality of life.
Whatever infrastructure Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) provides (or can provide) seems to be insufficient within just a few months. Roads cannot be widened beyond a certain width; the number of local trains cannot be increased considering in peak hours there are already local trains every three minutes. Due to these constraints, the problems of crowded trains and traffic jams arise and increase. Commuters’ productive hours are decreased and result in the loss of business and personal human hours.
Some observations related to the problems of commuting are:
- In morning peak hours, the commuters travel mostly from various suburban areas to south Mumbai and vice versa in the evening peak hours. During these hours, the issues faced on road are excessive pollution, reduced mileage of vehicles and a loss of natural resources due to traffic jams.
- Other issues faced by the commuters on roads as well as in local trains are delays, stress, discomfort during journeys, intangible professional costs, accidents and the potential for physical injuries.
- Travel against the flow (away from South Mumbai in the morning and back in the evening) is less, which results in non-utilization of resources.
Figure 2: Travel on a Local Mumbai Train
The problems, therefore, are:
- How to increase the ease of travel for commuters?
- How to reduce the waste of commuting time without reducing the population of city, restricting people to settle in Mumbai or reducing the number of jobs?
- How to reduce the average time of commuting for Mumbaikars (those who work and/or reside in Mumbai) during rush hours?
Measurement of Problems
It has been observed that during peak hours, each train is over filled by 3-4 times its seating capacity. And during peak hours on roads, there are frequent long traffic slowdowns or halts. These busy times are measured as follows: for local trains the percent full per train and for roads the minimum speed of traffic. This measurement system can be mapped to measure the effect of solving transportation problem on the overall quality of life of Mumbaikars.
By maximizing the suggested measurement specifications, a train can be filled up to 1.4-1.6 times its seating capacity and on roads, there should not be a complete traffic halt (apart from exceptional circumstances) and traffic movement should maintain a minimum of 25-35 km/h. A solution “fails” if it does not meet these specifications a minimum of 95 percent of the time. For calculating impact on quality of life in Mumbai, it is assumed that transportation problems contribute 15 percent to the overall reduction.
If the solution system works within specifications, it improves a person’s quality of life by 15 percent. If the solution fails to meet specification, it is discarded and even better solutions are looked for, or if the solution is acceptable then the quality of life will be affected proportionately. A higher penalty, however, for not meeting specifications is appreciated.
Applying TRIZ to Solve Mumbai’s Transportation Problem
The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) requires the identification of contradicting parameters and then converting the problem into a contradiction between corresponding generic parameters – one parameter improving vs. another parameter worsening. In this case, they are technical contradictions – the problem is with commuting. In terms of TRIZ, the problem is stated as – the volume of people commuting long distances wastes their time and the volume of commuters’ causing uneasiness to commuters. (Note: the author considers the “crowd as a whole” as the “volume” of travels.)In other words, we would like to improve the movement (change in location, commuting) of people without compromising time and comfort. The problem can be written in terms of improving and worsening parameters as follows:
- Improve the transportation of the number of people (volume of travelers) without compromising their comfort (i.e., ease of commuting, ease of operation of the system).
- Improve transportation of the number of people (volume of travelers) without compromising on their wasted time.
- Reducing the wasted time without compromising the number of people commuting.
On mapping these trade-offs on the contradiction matrix, the following are the most popular inventive principles suggested to solve the problem:
- Principle 1, division
- Principle 2, removing
- Principle 10, working beforehand and pre-arrangement
- Principle 18, synchronization
- Principle 28, substitution
- Principle 30, isolation
Another aspect of the problem is that population growth is a physical contradiction – we need people to work and people are not needed because they create various infrastructure-related constraints. This physical contradiction can be solved using TRIZ separation principles, which also can be applied in conjunction with the above suggested solutions principles to reach better solutions (such as separation in time, space or conditions).
Using the aforementioned six principles for solving this problem, a few solutions can be suggestion and developed depending on the need.
- Synchronization and segmentation (principles 1, 10 and 18)
- Divide or relocate offices for employee convenience. It is easy to set up virtual offices using existing IT facilities.
- Develop other parts of Mumbai so that companies can shift from Southern Mumbai to these other places. This also may initiate cost savings as Southern Mumbai is costliest location in India.
- Offices can be asked to decide on shift-wise start and end office-timing such as – 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.,9:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.,9:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m.,10:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m., 10:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m. (Los Angeles began to use this strategy during the 1984 Olympics in order to reduce congestion.)
- Synchronize personal vehicle travelers – car pooling or provide incentives for employees to use company busses.
- Use the above options together to reduce traffic congestion. For example, different shifts with offices at different parts of Mumbai and company busses going among them.
- Isolation, removing and substitution (principles 2, 28 and 30)
- Let employees work from home.
- Travel to office by convenience; for example, people can plan appointments so that they can avoid crowds and arrive late to the office.
- Telemarketers and those with similar jobs can use home offices so they do not need to travel
- Substitution – make home the office, office the home
- Separate people who need to be in office at a given time and change their working hours accordingly.
- Provide special trains and busses with outlets and Internet-access as on-the-move facilities so that people with laptops can work during their travel (principles 10 and 28). (This is happening in San Francisco.)
- If a larger solution is sought (considering all of India), relocate offices to other parts of India – tier two and three cities (principles 1, 2 and 30).
- The solution can help in the development of the country as a whole.
- Create more jobs in other areas that would reduce the migration of people from one place to other.
- Companies can relocate to the most suitable locations for their operations. For example – companies with business related to mines and ores can be relocated to areas with the most mines. Faster as well as cheaper communication results, aside from a growth of employment opportunities in those areas. IT companies can work from smaller cities also, since they require people to sit and work in office, reducing the taxation on infrastructure in and around cities.
- Decentralize offices throughout various parts of India.
Taking solutions 1 and 2 in conjunction, traffic jams and train overcrowding can be reduced further. If these solutions are tried, the target measurement specifications set forth can be achieved. These solutions will increase the flow of people in both directions, toward and away from South Mumbai, diluting the overcrowding in trains and increasing the average speed on roads.
Consider solution 1.5. If offices shift across the train stations from Churchgate to Borivali and Chhatrapati-Shivaji-Terminus to Thane with shift-wise office timings, trains occupancy will lessen and traffic will not be unidirectional, reducing the commuting problem. Borivali is situated in the northwestern section of Mumbai, at a distance of 33.4 km from Churchgate Railway Station; there are 20 intermediate stations between these two stations. There is a similar distance between Chhatrapati-Shivaji-Terminus to Thane (34 km) and there are 16 intermediate stations. People travel toward Churchgate or Chhatrapati-Shivaji-Terminus from all 36 stations. If various offices are shifted along the lines, the crowd movement will become bi-directional.
TRIZ is a powerful tool for inventive problem solving and it can help to eliminate contradictions. The author used TRIZ to develop solutions for improving the quality of life for people in and around Mumbai by examining one specific problem – overcrowding in local trains and traffic congestion on roads. If these suggested solutions are strategically implemented, the problem of overcrowding in can be solved to a large extent. The solutions can be refined and fine-tuned with further studies and feasibility tests. Depending on the requirements, these solutions can be scaled to implement in other cities such as Bangalore. In an extreme case, if solution number four is desired, a larger political-will and significant public participation will be necessary. The author expects every part of India can catch-up with the thriving Indian economy.
KRD Pravin received his engineering degree in Electronics form Madhav Institute of Technology and Science, Gwalior (MP) India. His major interests include learning and implementing new concepts. His work ethic does not come as a sense of obligation, but from the satisfaction he gains from completing a project successfully. He worked on artificial intelligence during his undergraduate studies and was published in the national level conference. At present, Pravin’s focus is applying TRIZ to problems irrespective of their field, simplicity or complexity. His experience includes networks development, teaching game theory, queuing theory and models in a management school and drafting/searching patent specifications and technology forecasting. Pravin is a registered patent agent with the Patent Office of India. Presently, Pravin is a working as a consultant with Breakthrough Management Group, India. His major areas of interest are TRIZ and Six Sigma. Contact KRD Pravin at krdpravin (at) gmail.com.