Round and round: Yangon’s traffic experiments

Congestion in Myanmar. Picture by Go-Myanmar Tours.
Congestion in Myanmar. Picture by Go-Myanmar Tours.

You might’ve noticed that traffic was unusually bad this past week in Yangon. It was, but at least we have someone — or something — to blame: the Yangon Regional Transport Authority (YRTA) was conducting “a traffic experiment.”

It’s not the first time they’ve conducted this “experiment.” In fact, traffic lights at roundabouts were introduced, then scrapped in 2017 after drivers and netizens unanimously expressed their dislike, telling the Myanmar Times at the time that “they only worsen traffic jams.”

Just a year later, here we are again.

From Nov. 4-7, the YRTA installed traffic lights in Yangon’s three main roundabouts: U Wisara, Hanthawaddy, and U Htaung Bo. According to YRTA Secretary Dr. Maung Aung, the experiment yielded mixed results.

“The experiment was meant to run for four days. After the experiment is over, we have to analyze the results and the difficulties we encountered. When there was a lot of traffic, we ran into problems,” he told local paper Daily Eleven.

Taxi drivers who were on the road on Nov. 6 expressed their thoughts to Popular News Journal, talking about the drawbacks from having traffic lights at a roundabout.

“It’s easier without the traffic lights,” told reporters in a video piece for the outlet. “If everyone followed the rules, it’s easier to navigate. It’s never been easier to add traffic lights to a roundabout.”

During rush hour, traffic was so backed up that they eventually gave up and turned the traffic lights off, instead relying on police officers to guide traffic and ease congestion.

“Normally, the way a traffic light functions is gives each lane a set amount of time and that can’t be easily changed,” the anonymous cab driver continued. “There are times when Kabar Aye Pagoda road has more traffic and there are times when U Htaung Bo has more traffic. If you can react accordingly to the traffic conditions with the lights, it might be easier.”


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