Perennial problem

  • Authorities could consider Bus Rapid Transit system for public transport in Kathmandu
 Perennial problem

Sep 24, 2014-

Two years ago, when the night bus service was launched in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, it was welcomed with much fanfare. A month into operation, the owners were already talking about how it had triggered healthy competition among public vehicles, and had even encouraged people to give up travelling on unsafe bicycles at night. Some people thought that this would be the start of an easy commute at night for Kathmandu. But just nine months later, the service was on the verge of closure due to cost overruns. Somehow, it managed to struggle for another six months before closing down for good.

Things are back to dismal dark days for late night commuters; they have to constantly worry about getting home. As for those who have normal nine-to-five working hours, things never changed at all. Buses are few and uncomfortable. The sight of commuters jostling one another, stepping on others’ carefully polished shoes to make way to the exit, and always staring longingly at occupied seats is an everyday phenomenon. Any effort at changing things for the better has either failed, focussed on the wrong thing, or never materialised. No wonder, every other person in this city harbours a dream to own a personal vehicle.

According to the Department of Transport Management, 80 percent of vehicles registered in Bagmati zone are motorcycles while only around 3 percent are public vehicles. This number continues to grow in the absence of a decent public transit system. The government, on its part, has identified traffic congestion as a major hindrance to travelling in the city and has expanded roads in different parts of Kathmandu. But this is only one aspect of the problem. Take the six-lane Tinkune-Suryabinayak section of the Araniko Highway, for instance. Wider roads have definitely reduced travel time for passengers, but it is high time the government looked beyond road expansion and developed a comprehensive plan to reform public transportation.

To that end, authorities could look into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which was first introduced in the Brazilian city of Curitiba and has been replicated in many cities across China and India. The first step towards a  BRT would be for authorities to come down heavily on existing transport syndicates, which resist any improvement and prevent new entrepreneurs from joining the business. Furthermore, authorities must set a threshold for the size of buses and punish those who modify seating capacity. Strict implementation of rules devised to facilitate travelling, like seat reservations for women, the old and the disabled, would go a long way. Drivers and passengers, for their part, should abide by the traffic rules, instead of only blaming one another for chaos on the roads.

Published: 25-09-2014 09:28

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