“The dedicated lanes for the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) will likely not be used until they have been extended up to Qurtaba Chowk,” said Metro Bus Service General Manager Uzair Shah on Friday. He said the earliest it will take until October.
Shah said a smart ticketing system would be introduced with the buses in the BRTS lane. A similar system might be installed in other city buses if the results of the pilot project are encouraging. On February 13, Shah had said that the lanes would start being used in May when they were built from Gajju Mata to Kalma Chowk. However, now they will not open till they have at least been built till Qurtaba Chowk.
Shah, speaking exclusively with The Express Tribune said starting the metro bus service as soon as the 10 kilometres of the BRTS lane (from Gajju Mata to Kalma Chowk) is completed would leave the travellers with a poor impression. He said if minutes after boarding the bus they are caught in regular traffic at Kalma Chowk, they would be exasperated. He also said the BRTS could not work without bus terminals.
Shah said that the number of articulated buses to be run had been increased from seven to 16. These buses, he said, were not cost efficient, however, they were more comfortable. He said the BRTS buses would only run in the BRTS corridor. He said around 40 buses would be used initially.
Shah said a smart card system would be introduced in collaboration with the Punjab Information and Technology Board. He said two fare tariffs were being considered. One option was a flat fare of Rs20 to Rs30 for travel to any destination on the BRTS route. The second option was Oyester Cards. Once a traveller paid for three rides on the card, the rest of his travel on the BRTS for that day would be free. He said the cards would be swiped at the entrance of the BRTS bus terminal and then a second time on the bus.
He said if the smart card system was a success, it might be extended to other buses in the city. He said that a centralised payment mechanism would also be established at IT Tower as all payments would be collected by the government electronically and later distributed among transporters. He said all transporters would be taken into confidence regarding the mechanism.
Most transporters however rejected the idea. First Bus Chief Operating Officer Muhammad Dastgir Baloch asked why they should allow the government to collect the revenue.
He said the idea was not practical as the government would have to increase subsidies to the transporters. He said that even with a subsidy they would likely not accept the proposal.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.
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