KARACHI: In order to make the operations of Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) successful, the Sindh government seriously needs to ponder over its initiating point, say urban planners.
As per existing plans, the Orange Line BRT, funded by the Sindh government, is going to be initiated from Orangi Town’s Town Municipal Administration (TMA) Ground. At the ground, a rotary flyover is under construction, from where the BRT will run in segregated lanes all the way to Board Office Chowrangi. From here, the BRT buses will run on the Green Line BRT’s segregated lanes after covering a few kilometres in mixed traffic.
As per the concept of BRT system, segregated lanes refer to the roads on which only the BRT buses will ply. Meanwhile, mixed traffic roads refer to the ones on which all kinds of public and private vehicles run.
The project worth Rs1.14 billion is spread over 3.9 kilometres (km). While the planners expect 50,000 people to ride on the Orange Line every day, the system capacity is for 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction.
According to urban planners, starting the Orange Line BRT from TMA Ground is tantamount to starting it from nowhere. The population of Orangi Town and adjoining areas belongs to mostly low-income strata and they reside near their workplaces. According to one of the consultants of the Orange Line BRT, their workplaces are situated in SITE, Baldia Town or Nipa, which is why the BRT has to be initiated from SITE and Baldia Town and taken it to its logical end, which would be in Nipa.
Due to this, the Sindh government is already planning to continue the Orange Line BRT from Board Office Chowrangi all the way to Nagan Chowrangi through the federal government-funded Green Line BRT’s segregated track.
However, it has yet to be decided whether the Orange Line BRT buses will turn back to Board Office Chowrangi from Nagan Chowrangi or move in mixed traffic all the way till Nipa. Ideally, an official explained, the Sindh government should construct a segregated track from Nagan Chowrangi to Nipa to facilitate a larger number of commuters.
Baldia Town and SITE are located further inside Orangi Town while TMA Ground – the existing starting point of the Orange Line – would be at a distance for Baldia Town and SITE residents that would have to be covered in a Qingqi or some other mode of transport. After getting on the Orange Line BRT from TMA Ground, they would have to change another bus at Board Office Chowrangi or Nagan Chowrangi to reach their workplace in Nipa.
With this change of bus, the official explained, a passenger would have to pay around Rs180 to Rs200 per day. “This will make the operations of the Orange Line BRT a big failure as commuters would continue to opt for their motorcycles or existing public transport,” the official said.
Existing bus routes of mixed traffic
Officials of the Sindh government involved in the Orange Line BRT project used to believe that bus routes running from Baldia Town and Orangi Town to Nipa hold little significance. However, the official who spoke to The Express Tribune explained that there are five major bus routes that connect Baldia Town and Nipa.
According to him, these are always full of passengers. Meanwhile, three bus routes run between Orangi Town and Nipa. The fate of these bus routes has yet to be decided by the Sindh government. However, he said, the fact that the existing public buses are still plying on the routes is proof that ridership is on them. He added that the transporter is clearly in profit, which is why he is plying his vehicles on these routes.
At the inauguration ceremony of the Orange Line BRT in June last year, then Transport Minister Mir Mumtaz Hussain Jakhrani promised to extend the Orange Line from TMA Ground to further inside Orangi Town.
According to an official of the Orange Line BRT consultants National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt) Limited, they proposed adding an elevated loop in their rotary flyover at TMA Ground that goes further inside Orangi Town. For this purpose, the official said the Sindh government carried out a survey on the extent that they need to take the BRT inside. They have yet to be updated on that.
Since the corridor beyond the TMA Ground is quite narrow, the official said they will have to construct an elevated section for the Orange Line.
In order to make Orange Line BRT’s operation successful until it is extended all the way till Baldia Town and SITE area, an official explained that two BRT buses – one each from Baldia Town and SITE – could be operated in mixed traffic all the way till the segregated track at TMA Ground. “This would minimise the change of bus for the passengers,” the official said, adding that the Sindh government would have to show willingness to deal with encroachments and illegal parking inside Orangi Town to ensure this.