Within three months of introduction of the so-called circular bus service on four routes in Dhaka, it is now clear that the service failed to pass the preliminary test. Two circular routes are in Azaimpur-Dhanmondi area and two circular routes in Uttara area formally launched in March and May respectively. The Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) has been operating air-conditioned buses on these routes though the service is fully functional only on the route at Dhanmondi. Buses designated for three other routes are now plying to longer destinations.
The primary failure, however, doesn't mean that circular or semi-circular short-route bus service is not feasible in Dhaka. It brings some lessons for making the service effective and better.
The selection of right route is the first priority. It is not clear whether there was any study to find out the routes. For trial run, current routes, however, appear alright.
The selection of the type of bus comes next. The BRTC introduced single-door, high-floor air-conditioned (AC) buses on these circular routes. These buses are suitable for longer routes not for short routes. On circular or semi-circular routes, commuters need to get off and get on board buses quickly as there are frequent stoppages. It requires wide door and small steps. Low-floor wide-door buses are most suitable for circular service as women and elderly people can board on those easily and safely.
A number of low-floor single but wide-door buses are already available in the fleet of the BRTC. The number is, however, not adequate and the corporation may focus on procuring low-floor non-AC buses immediately.
AC bus is usually not essential for short-route journey. By operating AC buses, operators have to charge higher fare and this sometimes discourages commuters. The core idea behind introduction of circular service is to gradually replace non-motorised vehicle, rickshaw to be precise, and discourage private cars to short destinations. That's why it requires easy accessible buses, not luxurious ones. Nevertheless, AC buses may be there beside no-AC buses.
Another important thing is availability of buses during peak and off-peak hours. Determining the peak and off-peak hours is essential to accommodate the commuters accordingly. It will also help bus operators to run those efficiently. Due to bad and unpredictable traffic in Dhaka, commuters have to wait for long at different bus stoppages. Without sufficient number of buses in peak hour, the service will not deliver the optimal benefit.
Adjustment with other buses, overlapping the circular routes, is a tricky thing. A number of long-route intra-city buses run touching different stoppages of Azimpur-Dhanmondi circular routes. Without rationalisation of routes properly, this kind of overlapping will continue.
The trial run also shows that the concept of circular or semi-circular bus service is yet to be clear. The main thing is to provide frequent and easily accessible buses to the daily commuters.
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