'Ramadan traffic': A nightmare for Dhaka's commuters  

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury   | Published: May 27, 2019 22:07:20 | Updated: May 27, 2019 22:14:56

With every passing year, the intensity of traffic congestion in Dhaka seems to increase during the month of Ramadan. A number of measures taken by the government to ease traffic congestion during this month like urging schools to give a month-long holiday, increasing traffic police officials on busy roads and filing cases against violators of traffic laws, have done little to improve the situation. 

This year, traffic congestion has become persistent throughout the day. As reasons, there are the usual culprits of increased number of public transport vehicles that reach the roads ahead of Eid and the crowds at the shopping malls. The recently-initiated repair work on some main roads and alleys by utilities like DESCO, WASA etc. and the ongoing work for Metro Rail Transport, Bus Rapid Transit, elevated expressway and other mega-projects have narrowed the space for efficient vehicle movement on most city roads.

The growing practice of eating Iftar and Sehri at restaurants by a segment of middle and upper class households brings out a significant amount of vehicles to the roads a few hours before and after these times, daily. A good number of vehicles and motorcycles, from courier services which receive more orders from e-commerce sites during this month and from app-based ride-sharing platforms, have added to the fray.

These trends are affecting the commuters in the worst ways during the month of Ramadan. A survey conducted recently by passenger welfare platform Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity proved this further.

While noting that the worst time for commuters during Ramadan is between 3:00pm and 6:30pm, the survey found that most public bus staff charge extra fare, during this time. Despite paying higher fares for so-called 'seating service' buses, around 36 per cent of passengers claimed that they have to ride these buses standing. To ward off commuters travelling shorter distances, 97 per cent of buses and mini-buses tend to lock their doors during this particular timeslot. 

Most commuters like women and senior citizens prefer CNG-run auto-rickshaws. The survey has found that 100 per cent of CNG-run auto-rickshaws run on 'contractual' basis during this month and their fares are nearly three-to-four times more than the metre-calculated fares.

Even when the commuters want to pay contractual fares, 93 per cent of CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers reject passengers as they prefer destinations whose routes are congestion-free and from where there will be scope for more trips.

App-based ride-sharing services seem to be following suit. The fares of most cars on these apps hover between Tk 700 to 900 between 3:00pm and 6:30pm, up from Tk 400 to 500 on other months.

Motorcycle fares normally cost a third of vehicle fares on ride-sharing services. But the fares of motorcycles have now risen to Tk 300 to 400 for some distances, up from Tk 250 to 280 during other months.

The demand is allowing some unscrupulous bikers to shut down the apps and take trips offline on contractual basis. Some desperate commuters tend to give in to such offers thus risking their safety and security.

To complete trips fast and make more money through more trips, ride-sharing service vehicle drivers and bikers ply on the roads carelessly causing injuries and accidents for some passengers.

The study has found that 93 per cent of the commuters do not know where they can complain in case of accidents or untoward incidents on the road. It is unfortunate that 90 per cent of commuters have said in the study that they do not complain as they doubt complaining would yield any results.

The crisis begs the question: Which government department is responsible for helping the commuters of the city, not just during the month of Ramadan, but at any given time of the year? 



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