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The Financial Express

Revamping public buses in Dhaka


Revamping public buses in Dhaka

Road traffic in Dhaka is a nightmare thanks to inadequate and haphazard public transport dispensation. Other factors like faulty roads and streets and encroached footpaths aggravate the problem. Despite knowing these, most of the measures taken to address the issue are ad-hoc, flawed, overambitious and costly. So the result is a continuation of the bad traffic causing the loss of time and energy of the commuters.

There is no alternative to bus-based public transport in a densely populated city like Dhaka. Currently, many buses and minibuses are carrying and transferring millions of daily commuters. These public vehicles with defaced and worn exteriors and terrible interiors like narrow accesses and seats, dirty floors and broken windows dominate the roads. Daily commuters have no option but to travel by these unclean, polluted and congested buses. Air pollution from these unfit and semi-fit buses is causing health menace also.

Again, due to inadequate buses, many commuters are depending on private and small vehicles like personal cars, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, battery-run three-wheelers and non-motorised rickshaws.  All these are causing more chaos on roads and traffic congestion. 

Apparently, the rapid rise of motorcycles helps to improve mobility for a good number of commuters. But, at the same time, this also creates chaos and indiscipline on roads. Careless ride by a section of unruly motorcyclists poses a serious peril to others.  In the last year, some 99,810 new motorcycles got registration in Dhaka metropolitan area. In the first five months of the current year, the number stood at 44,412. 

Due to various types of vehicles on roads, it also becomes difficult for the traffic police to maintain the smooth movement of these vehicles.  Inadequate space for parking the cars is constantly problematic.  Several vehicles use a part of roads and streets as parking slots creating barriers to smooth traffic flow.

Policymakers have been focusing on constructing ambitious mega-infrastructure to address the traffic problem in Dhaka. Some of these projects like Dhaka Metro Rail will undoubtedly bring some relief for the commuters. Again, some projects like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may not bring optimal outcomes.

Against this backdrop, it is necessary to provide some budgetary support to revamp the public bus services in Dhaka.  For instance, the finance minister may allocate some funds to support the Dhaka Nagar Poribahan, the first franchised bus service. Again, funds for replacing the existing depleted mini-buses in soft loans should be there.  This kind of budgetary support will not create any fiscal burden. Fund for training the drivers and helpers will also be helpful.  A social safety scheme for the transport workers is also necessary.

The current budget for the transport and communication sector stands at Tk 720 billion, which is around 20 per cent higher than the revised budget of the previous fiscal year. However, if planned rightly, only a tiny part of the budget can be easily used to revamp the public bus services.

 

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