Jahangirnagar University urban and regional planning professor and the president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners Akter Mahmud said that considering the socio-economic context and purchasing capacity of citizens, amount of road and its capacity etc, Dhaka needed to have very special attention on planned public transport system.
As the seventh largest urban centre of the region with highest density, Dhaka city did not have the luxury to have transport policy that encourage small carrying transport. Dhaka urgently need infrastructure, transport policy and actions that favour mass transportation with large carrying capacity, he said.
‘This public transport system should be supported by smart and automated management and operation,’ Akter said.
He further added that there was no doubt about it that Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has failed to regulate the bus owners to maintain the quality of services and the buses plying in the city.
‘We have the rules to monitor the quality of buses. It is extremely disappointing to see condition of buses in the road. It is unacceptable, how these buses get the fitness papers to run in the city is not unknown,’ he said.
It was the ‘tragedy of the commons’ that the government failed to address and offer quality ‘public goods’ for the citizens. A good city largely depends on the efficient management of ‘public goods’. For example, he said that public places, public transport, clean air, safe water etc needed to be prioritised. Successful cities in the world were champions in providing quality public services, utilities etc, he pointed out.
Akter believed that purchase capacity of people has increased and quality of public transport system has not improved proportionately. As a result, people were compelled to buy personal cars and opt for posh transport solutions for their own benefit.
He found that in the transport sector investors were not interested to invest for few obvious reasons — traffic jams delay their trip from origin to destination and they are sometimes unpredictable which only escalate the operational cost.
He also said that weak enforcement of rules gave an opportunity to the ordinary investors to do business with many inadequacies which downgrade total business environment for good investors in this sector and need to find an equilibrium to ensure investors’ profit and to meet people’s expectation
The professor thought that a lot of bus services were plying in the city with low fare and at the same time their services did not measure up.
‘With the improvement of better services fare can be increased as people’s purchase capacity has increased,’ he said.
He said operators’ interest and passengers’ interests must be considered while fixing the bus fare.
The urban planner said that the public transport system lies in the clutch of a syndicate. Too many political people involved in the business sometimes hinder taking pro-people decision in the transport business.
Akter said that to ensure integrated public transport for all in the city the government should taker effective measures and introduce mass transport facilities and improve walking facilities.
He also suggested ways to reduce traffic jam in the road — controlling the low capacity vehicles, implementation of multi-modal transport policy, easy access and barrier-free public transport stations.
Akter said that large cities with bad transport system always have the big diseconomies. Traffic jam, loss of working hours, pollution etc are the diseconomies of a badly managed city like Dhaka. You know the amount of monetary value of these diseconomies.
‘I think decent, comfortable and inclusive bus service can act as pro-people transport system for Dhaka city,’ he said.
Taking all the effective measures to reduce the traffic jam, preferably fixing a dedicated lane for buses, proper planning and designing of bus lane, bus bays, well designed stoppages, passenger sheds with adequate information and display, use of smart technology for operation, and bringing the bus owners under a bus company or few companies according to the routes, enforcement of BRTA rules to improve the service, he suggested.
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