Lofty promises offered by the mayoral candidates in the upcoming city corporations polls, scheduled to be held on February 01 this year, clearly acknowledge that Dhaka and its inhabitants are in deep trouble. Flawed plan coupled with distorted development has already turned the capital city of the country one of the least liveable place in the world. From communication to pollution, the multiple problems of the city have now reached a most unassailable level. Mayoral and councillor candidates also know the fact. Nevertheless, there is no dearth of promises form them to turn Dhaka to a 'smart' and 'dream' city!
Among the promises, solution to the city's chaotic traffic is one of the top priorities set by the aspirant mayors. No doubt, they get the priority right as residents in Dhaka are suffering immensely from the inefficient, chaotic and unruly traffic system. A number of steps have already been taken to improve the situation while the outcome is mostly ineffective.
Solutions offered by the mayoral candidates to overcome the terrible traffic congestions in city are not only overambitious but also superfluous to some extent. Instead of going to the root of the problem and looking for adjustable low-cost alternative solutions, they are mostly promising things without considering the reality.
For instance, a candidate has promised to introduce 'special footpaths for physically challenged people, sufficient foot over-bridges, underpasses to ensure road safety, separate lanes for bicycle and motorcycles, install a digital traffic system, app-based transport system, digitised bus stops, and bus and truck terminals, along with area-based multi-storeyed parking complexes.' He has even expressed his determination to make Dhaka free of traffic congestion by six months. The long list of promises coupled with explicit determination seems too optimistic to be realised. There is, however, no clear direction or road-map of how to turn the things into a reality.
Another mayoral candidate has unveiled a plan to construct 'a six-lane road between Metrorail as well as the two rivers Buriganga and Sitalakshya adjacent to the capital to relieve traffic from Dhaka.' He is optimistic that through the proposed six lane roads at Buriganga and Sitalakshya, communication from any part of Dhaka will be easier. Again, this is also a very ambitious plan without any specific direction to its necessity and effectiveness.
It is also difficult to understand how these things will be aligned with the government's mega projects like elevated expressway, metro rail and bus rapid transit (BRT). Moreover, there is an indication from the promises that efficient, cost-effective and coordinate public transport is still not a priority. The lesson from almost trial run of circular bus service is yet to be reviewed. Despite being an important move to ease city traffic, trial run of circular service failed due to wrong planning.
Little effort is also there to replace the current ramshackle buses and minibuses with commuter-friendly better buses. Rationalising the 200-plus disturbing routes and franchising the bus companies seems to have been shelved. There is also no plan for connecting the rail stations with feeder buses and introducing adequate commuter trains. City mayors are not supposed to do all these things. Nevertheless, when they promise to make the city's traffic efficient and commuter-friendly, they need to look into public transport which is conveniently ignored.
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