Functional cities need mass transit

Our cities, unfortunately, continue to drag themselves on first and second gear.

Gulraiz Khan June 25, 2011
Much has been said and written about lack of predictable and efficient public transport system in Pakistan’s major cities – to no avail.

Former mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal, who built a swirling network of flyovers and signal-free corridors during his four-year tenure, was smarter than that to realise, and voice, that adding more roads was only a short-term solution. True unclogging of our major cities’ blocked arteries would happen when you remove a significant number of vehicles from the road, which is only possible when you provide commuters with a viable public transport option.

But the argument for a mass transit system goes further than traffic jams. Not having a dependable, efficient system creates, for one, severe hindrance in access to opportunities, especially employment, for the most vulnerable sections of society.

For instance, the existing bus network in Karachi is run by private individuals, prone to political pressure and vulnerable to ethnic violence. In the event of the slightest unrest, the system shuts down arbitrarily, leaving millions stranded.

A mass transport network run by an administrative body or corporation, and not individuals, will not only be able to withstand political and ethnic pressure, it will also serve as an equaliser in society by neutralising the spatial barrier the city’s size poses in access to opportunities.

The spatial barrier also saps the city of its vitality. The sheer thought of being stuck in traffic for hours, or the fuel burnt for those with private vehicles, makes one drop non-essential work or recreational trips.

A functional mass transit system would therefore increase mobility and consequently increase the number of interactions that take place in the city. These interactions alone would create opportunities and add vitality to the city’s social and economic life.

The city ought to be a functional space that works for its citizens. Our cities, unfortunately, continue to drag themselves on first and second gear.
WRITTEN BY:
Gulraiz Khan A sub-editor on the business desk of The Express Tribune who is interested in visual journalism and hopes to turn newspapers in to works of art
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (16)

mk lodhi | 10 years ago | Reply MEGA PROJECTS OF TRANSPORTATION IN BIG CITIES. I totally agree with your opinion,and further i want to give some suggestions which will enable us to introduce and build mega projects of public transports, like underground rail systems, circular rail service and double decker buses. literally speaking, our governments have limited resources, i can't assume that they might be able to start these prjects very soon. to make it practical we should introduced these schemes pulically in well known magzines and newspapers that are published globally, all over the world, to attract foreighn investors, who will start these prjects, and would be stakeholders regarding the rights of operation and ownership with the city governments. legally there would be a guarrantee that no new coming government will intervene in theses projects terms and conditions. The prime metropoliton cities should be Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabd.The infrastructure should be developed by foreign companies. To run the local trains in theses underground systems, they should welcomes giants of personalities from business community from these cities. The fare of travelling should be introduced after a debatable participation of companies, governments and civil society representatives. there would be no increase in fares for atleast one year. If we want to cut the traffiic jams, reduce the traffic pollution and make lives of our people easy in big cities then projects like that are eminent.
Moise | 10 years ago | Reply In defense of Mustafa Kamal I would say you need lot of funds to develop MRT system. What he had done in the approved budget is very good. Our lives in city improved considerably with regard to cleanliness, commuting, aesthetics and somewhat security.
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