Dhaka city is no stranger to air-conditioned (AC) buses. Commuters subjected to the routine ordeals of traffic chaos welcomed this comfortable transport service because of the relief it brought to them in the boiling cauldron it becomes in the summer in particular. When ramshackle buses with glass windows broken, cracked front glass somehow held together with tapes or glue and the body dented all over or parts of it gone present those as an eyesore, the shining AC buses are indeed a treat to the eye.
Quite a few private bus companies have pressed into service their AC fleets. But sadly people from not all localities can avail of these buses. These buses run on some select routes usually connecting the city centre with some posh areas on the city's fringe. But then the latest such service starts at Mirpur's DOHS (defence officers housing society) and ends at Kawran Bazar -not a very attractive destination.
The AC buses are comfortable enough but not so comfortable for passengers when it comes to fare. True, those who had to call in the Uber service in emergency may find the journey and fare convenient but for regular commuters the fare is certainly on the high side. For travelling on AC buses at similar distances in Kolkata the fare is less than half.
So far as fixing bus fares is concerned, the authorities concerned do it in a non-professional manner, leaving enough room for passengers and bus operators to quarrel over. Sometimes, the noisy arguments lead to fistfight. The problem lies with the announcement of raising fare for each kilometre. Now it is the bus operators who decide the distance between two points and fix fares accordingly. They make a fare chart on the basis of a not so authentic a distance and as passengers protest and some ugly incidents take place, the law enforcers intervene and fine bus operators for realising excess fares. But then the law enforcement people give up and the chart of excess fare stays. So far as AC buses are concerned, their passengers are ready to pay for the convenience and comfort those give. They are unlikely to engage in brawls with conductors. They would rather bleed financially but not complain. Their ego would not moreover allow them to stoop so low.
Bus services in the city certainly need a thorough overhaul. Unlike those on long routes, the rickety buses do not do justice to the status of the capital of an independent country. Sure enough people from different areas of the city should be brought under the AC bus network. Now that people are forced to get stuck in long tailbacks on a regular basis, at least AC buses can give them some relief from the on-way suffering. In that case, the fare has to be rational so that more people can take advantage of the service.
Of late there are some buses with overhead fans. That is a relief too. But the problem with those is that called seating service these are in fact a misnomer. These buses carry standing passengers all the same but would not compromise on higher fares they charge. The committee formed to recommend suggestions on retaining such services or not did so a few months back. But it seems it has been shelved. At least to avoid the quarrels and brawls on moving buses, the authorities should take a decision on the issue and finalise the mode of operation for seating service.
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