To most Bangladeshis, the metro has been a foreign concept, seen in some foreign tours or pop culture by others. Naturally, many misconceptions percolated when it was announced that Dhaka would have its own metro.
There were rumours about its being underground, and some considered it very burdensome overall.
However, when Dhaka Metro Rail's first phase opened, the city instantly accepted it. It was almost a festival, and soon many people started using it every day, avoiding traffic jams and having an amazing commute.
However, there is one particular segment of the metro project that has always been the centre of much contention. The second phase of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which will go through Dhaka University, is that very segment.
This will open up in October this year, pass Dhaka University from Bijoy Sarani, Farmgate, Kawran Bazar, and Shahbag, and go towards Bangladesh Secretariat, Motijheel.
The route through the university and its station at the Teacher Student Center (TSC) have both been under much criticism, receiving widespread protests from teachers and students of the university.
These protests sprouted when the project was undertaken, and the routes were worked on. It was demanded that rails passing every now and then through the university would disrupt the campus condition and might impact the critical historical architecture of the university.
This reached a climax in 2020, when the construction of the TSC station began, for students said that even if the route has some merits, the station will only exacerbate the existing outsiders' crowds.
However, these demands were not taken into consideration, and the station would open soon after the route opened in two months. It'd be interesting to investigate how sentiments are on the ground now.
On the one hand, after the reopening post-pandemic, traffic jams have been excruciatingly high, and the metro indeed provided much relief to citizens.
Dhaka University premises have gone through much change as well. Post-pandemic, crowds at the premises have erupted to a high level. But recent measures by the proctorial body to eliminate all street shops have reduced it to a record low level. Overall, there are mixed feelings regarding the TSC station.
Farha Tasneem, a university's Department of Economics student, says, "I'm looking forward to the opening. It will be very easy to commute."
For many students like Farha, saving time and energy from the difficult Dhaka traffic is a priority, and they think this will allow them more opportunities to invest in themselves.
Many students think that a station in TSC, in particular, will enable them to get into the station right away, and this cuts any expenditure on rickshaw fares had they needed to commute to Shahbag or other stations.
Many students don't think that the station will impact the campus situation. People from across the city and students from a wide range of institutions flock to the campus currently. Hence, many crowds are witnessed at weekends and during festivals.
Labibi Al Tasfi, a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), says, "DU is already very crowded, I don't think this station will change the crowd levels much."
However, many students are disappointed at the station. Hasib Ur Rashid Ifti, a student at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), says, "When I went to the DU campus as a kid, the thing I loved the most about the entire area was the greenery and the clear open skyline. Even after all these years, this has been the defining feature of Dhaka University in my head. Until the skyline was covered by the metro lines."
"The road in front of Curzon is now dark and dusty all the time, and walking on the Dhaka University campus doesn't feel the same anymore. Shahbagh's traffic has increased substantially because of the station, and there is literally no space for the pedestrians underneath."
He further added, "When you think of a public university, a train going by every four minutes and the roads getting overshadowed is the last thing that comes to mind. Dhaka University will surely lose its grace."
This is especially true considering the nostalgic intellectual value of the University of Dhaka and TSC. It has been Bangladesh's intellectual hub for decades now, and many people consider the metro to be out of sync with it.
Hence, while many expect the metro to be an addition to TSC's superiority due to faster and better communication, many consider it to be a blow to its aesthetics. Only time will tell what truly results from this dual.