No decent public transport system emerged in Dhaka over the years as the policymakers did not emphasise its importance, said Musleh Uddin Hasan, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor and also a transport expert.
He said that to this day the issue was practically overlooked as a vested quarter was controlling the sector and was hindering its huge potential for growth necessary for ensuring decent service to benefit the public.
Musleh Uddin said that the reason behind the indifference over improvement of public transport service in the city was that people designated to take decisions were given or otherwise use private cars and they have no concern over the sufferings of 17 million people living in 1,528-sq km area.
The government was giving easy loan facility to buy private car and provide private cars to officials titled deputy secretary and above. On the other hand, different autonomous and private institutions provide private cars to many of their officials.
‘Even the bus owners use private cars not public transport bus services,’ he said.
He further argued that in many countries around the world prime minister, president, important ministers, business leaders and high government officials used to travel through public transport where both public and private transport were simultaneously improved.
‘If people get same comport in public transport, many of them will cease to use private cars,’ he said.
He pointed to a misconception that exists among the people that the high-income urbanites buy private cars and they are also responsible for not improving the public transport in the city and this ultimately led to the decline of the transport sector.
Musleh Uddin said that in 2001 there were a number of good quality buses running on the city routes and today a huge number of posh private cars were seen to ply on the roads and there many crucial factors that worked behind this sea change that took place over the years.
He also pointed out the discrimination that exists how public transport and private transport viewed in the current society — this bias towards private car became critical as the income discrimination among people became intense over the years.
‘Additionally, public transport governance is very weak in Dhaka,’ he said and identified the causes why more investors were not coming forward with new buses even through the sector is pregnant with huge business potential.
He said that each and every bus in the city is always overcrowded. There is no crisis of passengers that indicate business potentiality, but businessmen were not forthcoming in making new investment in the sector.
The professor felt that to remove the primary barriers, one must take some crucial steps and one of them would be to ‘stop business monopoly by the current business cartel and ensure equal opportunity for all to attract investors to reinvigorate the transport sector.’
Musleh Uddin said that extortion in the transport sector became an open secret but no pragmatic steps were taken to address the issue.
He also asked the government for a rational distribution of buses considering the number of passengers on each route.
‘We should adopt a future plan predicting the future need,’ he argued.
He said that the general trend in mega cities like densely populated Dhaka should inspire people to use public transport instead of private to tackle traffic jams.
Traffic jam became reached an extreme stage in Dhaka in the last one decade as the World Bank report said that average traffic speed in Dhaka has reduced from 21 km per hour to 7 km per hour in the last ten years as a result of the spiralling traffic congestion on the roads and unplanned and uncontrolled growth of Dhaka played a role in it.
Congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million working hours per day, said that report.
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