The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) says that the capital city contains around 35,000 public vehicles, and that around a million people travel on them daily. As result, the unavailability of public transportation, compulsion to travel in jam-packed vehicles, lack of quality of the service and inconsistency in the service are some common issues that have made life hard for commuters.
Sajha Yatayat Cooperative and Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) have signed an agreement to operate buses in the Kathmandu Valley. They plan to introduce 80 big buses in the capital city under the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transportation Project. Similarly, the move to introduce 2,850 new taxis on the streets of Kathmandu is one of the positive initiatives taken by the government to ease public transportation woes in Kathmandu. However, these efforts
alone are unlikely to bring about big changes until the implementation factor is looked into. Moreover, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has said in his budget statement for the fiscal year 2015-16 that only disabled-friendly public vehicles with a capacity of more than 40 passenger will be permitted on the main roads of the valley, and that the newly registered small public vehicles will be permitted on the side roads. The finance minister also stated that in order to reduce traffic congestion, a feasibility study for establishing a metro and monorail in the Kathmandu Valley would be completed in the ongoing fiscal year. The ministry has allocated a budget of Rs800 million for the purpose. “There is a need for re-engineering the overall vehicle management system in Kathmandu,” said Basanta Adhikari, spokesperson of the DoTM. “The number of vehicles is not a problem at all in Kathmandu. The main problem is that we have swarms of small vehicles which carry just eight to 10 passengers each.” According to Adhikari, there is a need for big buses and other means of mass transportation in Kathmandu to ease the problem of commuters.
The other issue which has increased public distress is that there is no custom in the country of staying open 24 hours a day, said Adhikari. The working hours of government offices, private enterprises, schools, colleges and other organizations are almost the same in Nepal.
“This means that vehicles are compelled to stay off the roads for at least eight hours a day. And during rush hour, they are jam-packed,” Adhikari said. He added that if the movement of people in a city exceeds 1 million daily, establishing a metro is a must as per international norms. “We have to think about these possibilities too,” Adhikari said.
The country’s private sector is of the view that issues with public transportation emerged following low expenditure by the government in the development of infrastructure in urban areas. “While the growth in the number of automobiles has been phenomenal in the past few years, there isn’t abundant infrastructure to support them. We feel that the government should accord priority to Kathmandu as a metro city,” said Anjan Shrestha, vice-president of the Nepal Automobile Dealers’ Association (Nada).
Likewise, Deepak Thapa, general secretary of Nada, said that the tendency of bringing policies to promote mass transportation but neglecting the implementation aspect had remained a key issue. “The budget for the current fiscal year has given preference to buses having a capacity of 40 passengers or more. However, there has been no such effort at the ground level,” Thapa said.