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BD Post Report
Marred by longstanding widespread indiscipline, the public transport system in the capital calls for serious attention of the government.
An inadequacy of ample number of public vehicles in proportion to the burgeoning population of the megacity is one of the main causes that have been contributing to a low standard of living here. The increasing sufferings of the people due to acute shortage of public transport on the streets of the capital city are beyond description now.
It is now virtually impossible for a person to guess how many hours it would take to travel from one side of the capital to the other.
At the 130 bus stoppages across the city, dwellers of Dhaka pass hours waiting for the desired vehicle. Whenever a public bus approaches a bus stop an unhealthy competition starts among the waiting passengers, shoving and pushing one another to ride on the bus earlier.
If one is lucky he gets a seat, otherwise standing on foot inside the heavily overcrowded bus becomes the only way, managing continuous pressure from co-passengers.
The road situation has deteriorated to such an extent that road transport minister Obaidul Quader, at a recent roundtable, said, “Discipline in transport sector and safety on road — I did not succeed in these two issues.”
“As road minister I admit this. I have tried but failed,” he lamented at the roundtable few days ago at Daffodil International University.
According to statistics, public buses are the only way of transportation for 72 percent passengers of the capital city where population is increasing every day at an alarming rate.
Although the population is increasing alarmingly, the number of public transport needed for their daily transportation is not rising at all in a city where the number of private transport is swelling.
According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), in 2005, Dhaka’s population was 7.2 million while latest World Bank information says the number is now 18 million, increasing more than double in 12 years.
The city has mainly three types of public transport: bus or mini-bus; CNG-driven auto rickshaws; and taxi-cabs. In 2005, number of buses plying on Dhaka streets was 7,100 along with 14,000 CNGs and 11,000 taxi-cabs.
Now after 12 years when the population increased by 150 pc, the number of bus and mini-buses increased by 26 pc only, according to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). At present a number of 8,932 buses and mini-buses ply on the city streets while number of CNGs and taxi-cabs remained almost unchanged.
According to BRTA sources, at present the number of registered taxi-cabs in Dhaka is 36,500.
But it is in papers only, as it has been learnt that in 2005, there were 11,000 black and yellow taxi-cabs. In 2014, only 330 more were added. In fact, only these 300 taxis are in operation currently in Dhaka, concerned persons said.
In this frustrating context, experts are stressing on increasing number of buses and mini-buses since long.
Dr Mizanur Rahman, director of Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET), said, “Dhaka doesn’t have adequate number of public transport comparing to its population. This is the main reason behind the existing anarchy on city streets. When a bus comes, a passenger waiting for hours tries to ride on it at any cost, even ignoring the risk of accident.”
“Passengers get exhausted both mentally and physically due to the overcrowded condition inside the city buses,” he added.
DMP deputy commissioner (traffic–north) Prabir Kumar said, “A main reason behind public sufferings for the lack of transport is that new buses aren’t being added to the existing fleet. The situation would have developed a lot if a good number of new buses are added to tackle the increasing crisis.”
On every morning, a long queue is created at the gate of Mohammadpur BRTC bus counter even before the bus comes out of the adjacent depot. The queue at times stretches more than half a mile inside the Noorjahan Road.
Azmal Huq (50), an insurance official, said, “Most of the days, I fail to manage a seat, and travel for long two hours standing on foot.”
Exclaiming that the situation was not so bad only 10 years back, he said, “At that time, buses had to wait for passengers at stoppages, I remember.”
In contrast to all the statements made by passengers, experts and government officials, general secretary of Bangladesh Transport Owners Association Khandaker Enayetullah categorically rejected the notion of transport crisis in the city, saying that there is no crisis of public vehicles in Dhaka.
“If the number of public vehicles was really inadequate, people couldn’t travel from one place to another,” he argued.
Nazrul Islam, secretary to Road Transport and Highway Department, said, “The issue cannot be resolved overnight, it needs a long-term plan. After the implementation of mega projects like Metro Rail and BRT, the problem would decrease hugely.”