Print Edition - 2014-09-23  |  Development

Commuting en masse

  • Vehicles with larger passenger capacity could be an answer to Kathmandu’s ever-growing traffic problem
- NIRMALA ADHIKARI
Commuting en masse

Sep 22, 2014-

It is not easy being a commuter of public vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley. Some of the major complaints when it comes to public vehicles are inadequate, uncomfortable and crammed vehicles, dearth of facilities, and lack of security features. Similarly, commuters complain lack of punctuality and reliability of public transport, which results in passengers  not reaching their destinations on time.

Another problem is the lack of well-defined and unreliable time of operation of the vehicles. In the evening, the roads in the Valley are full of hundreds of passengers waiting for vehicles. However, none of them can be certain whether or not they will catch one because there is no fixed schedule for public transportation.

These problems related to public transport have been continuing in the Capital for a long time now. And even though the routes have increased and the roads have widened over the years, the problem in the public transportation system remains unsolved. With the increasing population and the surge of vehicles, the absence of an effective and well-managed public transport system is felt by all. The failure of the authorities to designate proper routes and manage the public transportation in the Valley has created problems for the commuters as they are deprived of a comfortable and hassle-free journey on a daily basis.

The vehicle registration data acquired from the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) shows that 755,546 vehicles have been registered in Bagmati Zone till date. Out of which, there are only 19,559 (2.58 percent) public vehicles available for 3.8 million population of the zone.

Because of Valley’s poor public transport system, many commuters are buying their own vehicles. And motorcycles are the most preferred and common choice. As per the vehicle registration data, 601,951 (79.67 percent) motorcycles have been registered in Bagmati zone till date. Officials at the DoTM say that formulating and implementing the mass transit system can be the answer to all the problems regarding public transport in the Valley. “Replacing the old and small vehicles with mass transportation can solve the problems of overcrowding and help ensure an effective and comfortable ride to the commuters,” said Mukti KC, director at the DoTM. However, replacing old vehicles with new ones is not going to be easy, because of the huge investment of the transport entrepreneurs in the sector of public transport, according to KC. “The government needs to come up with an effective parameter to replace these vehicles.”

The implementation of a proper mass transportation system is also a viable alternative to excessive use of private vehicles. If the mass transport is to be prioritised, the number of private vehicles plying on the streets of Kathmandu can be reduced to a great extent.

The return of the buses of Sajha Yatayat to the streets of Kathmandu after 12 years is indeed a welcoming beginning. The automated door system, the LCD Television, closed circuit cameras, luxurious seats and the systematic and economically beneficial service provided by the Sajha has attracted many passengers, who have the history of travelling in crammed and overloaded vehicles.

Similarly, a well-organised route system can provide the service-seekers with much better transportation service with a fewer number of vehicles than that are currently in use. The major reason behind the unmanaged routes is the interest of the private sector involved in the country’s public transportation to invest in those routes that are used by most passengers, where they could make more profit.

“The responsibility of managing a route should be provided to a single private company so that they can entirely focus on making the transport service effective in the route,” said KC.

Considering the Valley’s ever growing population, and rapid and haphazard urbanisation, the government, along with the concerned departments, has been working on restructuring public transport routes in the Valley by replacing the old system with new routes and additional terminals.

The project under the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project has been studying 24 routes to find out the possible ways for route management. The project also includes other areas such as improving traffic management, upgrading the footpaths and monitoring air pollution.

The weakness in the public transport of the Valley also lies in the lack of coordination among the authorities in providing efficient and affordable public transportation routes linking various parts of the urbanised Valley. “Government should cooperate with us so that we can together work for bringing positive changes in the system,” said Dinesh Bhandari, president at the Federation of Nepalese Transport Entrepreneurs.

Coordination between authorities could prioritise the best alternative for serving the commuters and management of an effective transport system which would encourage the private sectors to invest in higher quality vehicles.

Also the lack of amendments in the laws regarding public transport has created hurdles in improving the public transport, according to Bhandari. “Revising the existing laws as per the demand of public and operators should be a major concern of the government in order to guide the efficient and safer public transport system.”

The transportation system in Kathmandu relying on buses for public transport is likely to continue for years. Kathmandu definitely needs to have a proper and effective public transportation system. The system should be based on maintaining affordable price, improvement in road safety, wide target group, quality of vehicles, access to stations, reduced time travel and consistent service.

Published: 23-09-2014 09:18

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