RIGA - The Riga City Council has in recent days started a flurry of activity in order to reduce the increasingly time-consuming traffic jams that have plagued the capital. In Lithuania, a similar campaign has started in that country's Parliament as better living standards have allowed more Balts to purchase cars.
In Riga, the bottlenecks have stretched to the point that it is impossible for public transportation vehicles to make their way through the streets. During the afternoon rush hour many buses and trolleybuses stand empty since passengers find it easier to walk to the destination in the downtown area.
"There is not only a problem with private cars, but also with public transportation, the police and the fire department. If there is a traffic jam, there is no way for them to get where they need in time," the city's press department said.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been nearly 35,000 new cars registered in Riga alone. This has led to rush hour traffic jams which can often last for hours.
Riga Mayor Janis Birks highlighted the issue in an Oct. 5 interview with the popular morning television show "900 Seconds."
"This situation is not curable with simple therapeutic measures. Surgery has to be used 's only radical methods could change the situation," the mayor said.
Birks explained that an "odd and even day" system, similar to those used in other countries, had been proposed to help ease the congestion, but that he did not consider it to be a viable option for the city.
"I am more inclined to the methods that would give the green light to public transport, meaning special public transport lanes, as well as establishing priority of the public transport in the streets of the city," Birks said.
In Lithuania, the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament), has taken up the issue of traffic congestion in Vilnius. On Oct. 9, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported that traffic in the city was enough to "impede the normal activities" of Parliament, as employees would often arrive late because of the traffic.
Lawmakers have proposed two possible solutions to the problem. One proposal is to draw up a comprehensive public transportation plan for large cities in Lithuania, similar to the sort of plan that Riga is considering.
The other proposal is to change the Parliament's working hours to avoid rush hour traffic. The proposal envisages starting work at government offices and ministries at 8:30 a.m. and finishing at 5:30 p.m. Friday working hours would finish at 4:15 p.m.