When the two major bus terminals were built at Saidabad and Mohakhali of Dhaka city in the mid-eighties, many had expected the city traffic congestion to ease. But the situation on the roads has been truly disappointing.
The bus terminals are now being seen as major contributors to the traffic-related woes of the city. Vehicles passing through the streets around these terminals during the peak hours of the day do have a nightmarish experience.
Over time, the number of inter-district buses using the terminals has increased manifold. In the morning and afternoon, these buses enter and exit the city in large numbers creating traffic chaos in the city. The drivers of these buses hardly follow traffic rules and keep their vehicles parked haphazardly on the roads adjoining the bus terminals.
A good number of traffic policemen are posted in front of the bus terminals. But they can hardly play an effective role. The reason behind their failure to discipline the bus drivers could be anybody's guess. There is no denying that most bus drivers are prone to breaking traffic laws and rules. But these people can be restrained from doing so if the law enforcers do their part honestly and sincerely.
Now, the city mayors are trying to rid the city of the problems that are being caused by the two bus terminals that were once built to ease traffic movement.
On December 23 last, the mayors made a preliminary selection of four spots on the periphery of Dhaka city for relocation of the city's bus terminals. The spots are Betulia at Uttara, Hemayetpur of Savar, Teghoria of Keraniganj and Kanchpur.
Terminals to be built in those places would house the buses that ply different inter-district bus routes. However, things are very much in the preliminary stage. There would be feasibility studies before preparing separate projects. Hopefully, the bus terminal project/s would look into all the relevant issues and address those faithfully. If that is not done, the billions of taka to be invested in those projects stand to go waste as has happened in the case of existing two bus terminals.
It is hardly disputable that some of the ills of the Dhaka city's traffic system are beyond any cure. Many faults in the system are built-in and some have reached the incurable stage because of long-standing indifference and neglect.
When the terminals are built, the inter-district buses cannot be allowed to enter the city under any pretext. Though inter-district buses are not allowed to move around the city, they are seen doing that in the name of picking passengers from different points.
To facilitate easy transportation of inter-district passengers, it will be necessary to introduce efficient bus services connecting the city with the points of bus terminals. However, care needs to be taken so that the commuter buses are parked in an orderly manner outside the terminals to avoid any obstruction to normal movement of inter-district buses.
Since the existing terminals are contributing to severe traffic congestion in the city, the government should do what is necessary to expedite the process of preparing the relevant projects and their execution.
Relocation of bus terminals, however, is a partial solution to a huge problem. It is important to seek a solution to other elements of the problem that have been costing the nation billions of taka every year, in terms of fuel burnt and manpower lost at road intersections. Enforcement of traffic laws and punishing the violators might help attain the objective to a great extent. But will that ever happen?