Opinion: MRT vs LRT shows lack of Vision by Sri Lanka’s Urban Planners

By Lancelot

Reports on Lanka Business Online indicate that Sri Lanka has decided to choose Light Rail Transit over a Monorail system, and that Japan has confirmed the funding.

To a person with some vision, this seems like a choice between dumb and dumber. The world is moving in a different direction.

Car sharing, ride hailing, electrification, and autonomous driving technologies will change the landscape of urban planning around the globe in the next decade. These megatrends will create a tsunami that will change the landscape of transportation as we know it.

So what are we planning in Sri Lanka? We are planing on paying a fortune, to implement yesterdays technology, while causing enormous inconvenience while the ‘new’ but outdated infrastructure is put in place.

Uber and Pickme

Uber and it’s local equivalent Pickme are already growing explosively in Sri Lanka. Pickme has publicly stated that they have over 5,000 vehicles on the road. These services are working well, and the drivers that I have encountered seem to be happy and making a good living.

These type of companies are going to play a huge role in Sri Lanka’s transportation future. Have the relationship between these type of services and technologies with MRT and LRT been examined by our planners? Have our planners taken into account that these services will likely be operated by autonomous driving by all electric vehicles in the next 10-20 years? I doubt it.

Experts say that these mega trends will make the usage of roads much more efficient, and reduce traffic drastically. We should be thinking 10 years ahead to see how we can take advantage of these Megatrends.

Sri Lanka’s Innovative Transportation Plan

Sri Lanka needs to develop a comprehensive plan for transportation that is thinking 20 years ahead. Serious investments should be mooted in order to encourage the public to shift to more efficient methods of transportation like Uber and Pickme.

Electrification and Autonomous driving buses should be evaluated and slowly implemented. In the short run, tolls should be used to reduce traffic congestion and to generate revenue for upgrading of the road system.

Three wheel drivers should be converted into drivers for Uber and Pickle and this transition should be incentivized by the government.

Three wheelers should be banned from the CMC and other municipalities with a target date of 2025, while new commercial clusters should be developed along the highway exits.

The outer circular highway should be completed as a priority national infrastructure project, while the southern highway should be expedited connecting the Hambanthota Port and Airport to the National Highway system.

Simple Solutions or More Incompetence

These are simple cost effective solutions that will help with transportation problems, and allow us to take advantage of the future, rather than be mired in the past

Or maybe we should just build the LRT. We can borrow tons of money, dig up all of our roads and cause a transportation nightmare for the next several years, buy some old junk from the Japanese and allow commission pedlars to make a ton of money.

Over to you Yahapalanaya.