A rapid transit system for Lahore?

Published: July 25, 2012
The writer is a senior lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand and author of Institutional barriers to sustainable urban transport in Pakistan

The writer is a senior lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand and author of Institutional barriers to sustainable urban transport in Pakistan

Urban planners, transport specialists, environmentalists, property developers and the common citizens of Lahore should welcome the city’s first-ever Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, but with caution. Why?

Rapid urbanisation and a sharp increase in motorisation have resulted in serious traffic congestion in Lahore. Professor Vuchic Vukhan in his book Transportation for Livable Cities argues that congestion is a consequence of inappropriate policies and inadequate planning that failed to consider the long-term relationship that exists between a city and its transport network. Therefore, the solution to congestion problems demands a holistic approach to urban planning, beyond any single transport project.

Urbanisation is not necessarily a bad phenomenon. The important point to consider is the part of the city where population growth is occurring and where it is actually supposed to be occurring. Traditionally, Lahore manages population growth by developing hundreds of medium-to low-density housing schemes at the edge of the city. This type of population growth demands heavy investment in road infrastructure, which is evident from the construction of underpasses, flyovers and the Lahore Ring Road. These housing schemes and the road infrastructure make Lahore accessible to private vehicles only, which has subsequently led to a sharp increase in motorisation. The percentage of total trips made by private vehicles has doubled from 24 per cent in 1991 to 46 per cent in 2007.

On the other hand, the percentage of total trips made by public transport vehicles in Lahore have either remained constant or are declining, instead of mirroring the increase in population. This indicates that people do not find the available means of public transport  an attractive way to travel. Therefore, in the presence of poor quality public transport, people belonging to the middle income group use either motorcycles or cars. There is an argument that public transport trips have not increased due to the aspiration of people to own private vehicles. This is true to an extent but the lack of investment in decent public transport in Lahore is the root cause behind people choosing not to make use of public transport. Therefore, the construction of the BRT should be warmly welcomed regardless of political biases.

However, investment in the BRT should be made in conjunction with new policies and zoning regulations for transit oriented development (TOD). TOD can help increase employment, housing density and mixed land usage along the BRT routes in general and the BRT stations in particular. This could attract private investment in new housing estates as happened in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, which could in turn lead to the development of new population growth centres in Lahore. TOD is an approach that can link the BRT investment with 21st century housing development, ultimately achieving high economic growth, less transport energy consumption and better urban environment. Professor Robert Cervero in his book Transit Metropolis: A Global Inquiry argues that TOD leads to shorter travel distances, promotes walking, cycling and public transport, reduces traffic congestion and makes cities liveable.

What is required for linking the BRT investment with TOD policies is institutional strengthening at the local level — making the City District Government, Lahore functional and upgrading the Lahore Transport Company to the Lahore Transport Authority.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (35)

  • faraz
    Jul 25, 2012 - 10:50PM

    For Punjab government, everything revolves around Lahore. It has nothing else to show except for construction of roads in Lahore; rest of the province doesn’t even have proper drinking water facility, sanitation, schools, hospitals. I will be delighted if PMLN gets booted out of Lahore by PTI; PTI would do great service to rest of Punjab by doing this


  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Jul 25, 2012 - 11:03PM

    Going by the experience in New Delhi, BRT is not going to address the problem. rather it might make it worse. Best will be to go for metro railway. Delhi Metro Rail has become very popular and successful. Hong Kong or Singapore solutions won’t work in Lahore. I am very doubtful other than the contractors, anyone will benefit from BRT.


  • Kashif Shamas
    Jul 25, 2012 - 11:26PM

    @Faraz: Which city in Punjab has the biggest population? So which city needs BRT system most? Please leave this dead slogan now, everything for Punjab.. Of course it will be replicated in other cities as well. Insha Allah


  • faraz
    Jul 25, 2012 - 11:34PM

    @Kashif Shamas

    I live in Lahore. There is no such catastrophic traffic problem which requires BRT ahead of drinking water, sanitation, schools and hospitals. States must prioritize. Failed projects like Motor way won’t lead to economic development. And in few years’ time, CNG prices will increase, and children would be found playing cricket on these widened roads.


  • Nasir Mahmood
    Jul 25, 2012 - 11:47PM

    The best option to solve public transport in Lahore is BRT.


  • zanjabeel
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:49AM

    This only benefits to SHARIF BROTHERS!We don’t need them in future.


  • Pakistani
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:55AM

    @Kashif Shamas:

    That is the most pathetic comment ever.. So you are saying that it is more important that you don’t have to be stuck in traffic than other Punjabis getting drinking water and sanitation facilities.



  • Majid Urrehman
    Jul 26, 2012 - 3:28AM

    @Fraz, I think your eyes are closed or you don’t want to see things deliberately.
    What source do you have which told you that PMLN has done anything in other cities of Punjab? Please first find an authentic source of information and get to know what PMLN has done in Punjab. I am awaiting your comment here apologizing for what you have commented above in the state of ignorance.


  • Jul 26, 2012 - 4:28AM

    @ Faraz:

    “Failed projects like Motor way”??? You are a genius sir. Period.


  • Knotty
    Jul 26, 2012 - 6:53AM

    London has Underground Railway and best transport system in the UK. I think no other city has Metro (Underground) in the UK.
    Smaller cities don’t complain why they are not given Underground (Metro). These things are profitable in big cities only.


  • faraz
    Jul 26, 2012 - 7:09AM

    @Majid Urrehman

    PML-N government is spending Rs35,000 per capita in Lahore against only Rs1,000 in South Punjab. Percentage of population living below poverty line is about 44 percent in Southern Punjab compared to 27 percent in rest of Punjab. In DG Khan, a shocking 51 percent population lives beneath the poverty line. It’s no secret that Southern Punjab or rural areas of whole of Punjab lack basic facilities; just travel across Punjab. All cities of Southern Punjab complain about ‘Takht Lahore’.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jul 26, 2012 - 8:20AM

    @ faraz, Lahore is mini Punjab. Hundreds of thousands of people from other cities travel to Lahore every day.. If you ever visit courts and other government buildings, you will see that ninety percen visitors at these places are non Lahoris. I do not live in Lahore but I love this city more than any place in the world and feel great pride in its development.


  • Iram
    Jul 26, 2012 - 10:01AM

    35 million rupees wasted on overhead bridges and i guess daily 35 persons are not using this facility.


  • Awans
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:01PM

    PTI spoiled kids are ruining any positive arguments and positive discussion. Also regarding why Money is spent on Lahore the reason is simple it is mini Punjab and have the highest rate of emigration from all parts of Pakistan so obviously it needs more investment to meet the needs. If there will not be any rapid investment then the whole city could become a mess like Karachi. It seems people forgot that every time one service start in one part of the Punjab and then is replicated in coming years all over Punjab. Rescue 1122 and Elite Commandos , Danish Schools are a good example. Also work on Mechanized Waste Disposal replica systems is now underway apart from Lahore. All projects need a kick start and Rapid Bus transit is a kick start and an example for others. Moreover the figures of 35,000 per capita for Lahore is absolutely false and is projected by liar opposition headed by PTI and PPP.


  • Ali
    Jul 26, 2012 - 12:58PM

    You think motorway is failed project ? Strange.


  • Ali
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:04PM

    You live in Lahore then you must have better idea of sufferings of the people who travel on Public Transport , Especially females.
    I don’t agree 100% with policies of Punjab Govt, but as much priorities are concerned i think good public transport deserves to be among top priorities along with the list of priorities you mentioned.


  • Ali
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:05PM

    35 persons ??? Plz think again.


  • Zia
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:11PM

    PMLN has no vision, no ideas and no commitment! Period!


  • iqbal
    Jul 26, 2012 - 1:52PM



  • Ali
    Jul 26, 2012 - 2:22PM

    I agree with the Indian poster above we need a metro system in Lahore. if you do not own a car its very difficult to get around the city. My family are spread all over Lahore, we are lucky we have a car to see them all. It is very difficult for females to travel around the city on their own even with female only sections in the buses. Rickshaws and taxis are expensive and the Rickshaw valley make up their own prices and some wont travel to certain localities as its not convenient for them.

    A metro system will go a long way in helping to connect the city and its people and make life much more bearable.


  • Maria
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:34PM

    @faraz: Whether you know this or not, all of the Punjab is developing – not only Lahore. If you don’t believe it, come to Rawalipindi, Sialkot, Gujranwala or Faisalabad. Incidentally I am not from Lahore but I can tell you that most people in Punjab welcome the CM not because he is from their group- he’s not even Punjabi but Kashmiri outsider- but because he has done a good job of creating the only stable, reasonably well governed and developing province in Pakistan. If Lahore has a good Bus Rapid Transit System, I would welcome it because Lahore is the provincial capital and eventually a good service there can be replicated in other parts of the country.


  • faraz
    Jul 26, 2012 - 5:46PM

    @Muhammad Bilal Aslam
    Motorway runs parallel to GT road! It doesn’t link any previously unconnected areas. But GT road has towns and cities on it, while the motorway passes through fields. Toll tax is too high, so transport trucks don’t use motorway. Most of the trucks don’t have the engine power to climb the steep Kalar-Kahar mountain range. And most importantly, there is not a single industry constructed. All the claims of industrial zones proved foolish fantasies. Only a small elite class benefits from it.


  • Mountie
    Jul 26, 2012 - 6:55PM

    Saying that why the rapid transit should start from lahore and not anywhere else in Punjab reminds me of my daadi. She always said we dont need motorway from lahore to islamabad, they just need to repair the roads from chichawatni to sahiwal.


  • popsaeed
    Jul 26, 2012 - 7:00PM

    PTI supporting PPP by criticising every positive step pf punjab goverment instead of giving tough time to PPP they giving tough time to PML N Please mr Faraz and company just see the result of NA-151 PPP will come again in power with the help of PTI and people like you comments baseless without any proper logic opening the way to PPP Come in power again.Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood
    Jul 26, 2012 - 7:59PM

    @faraz see on a map Gt road and motor way are not parallel. Which major road connected Sargodha region bulk of citrus producing region with Lahore?


  • Yasir Mehmood
    Jul 26, 2012 - 8:10PM

    @Ali metro will cost about $3Bn in Lahore and at least five years to complete and BRT will cost $300 million and will be completed in much less duration. Up till now we haven’t developed proper bus transportation how can we develop a subway?


  • gp65
    Jul 27, 2012 - 1:18AM

    @Mountie: “Saying that why the rapid transit should start from lahore and not anywhere else in Punjab reminds me of my daadi”

    I do not think Faraz is asking why there should be a rapid transit i Lahore instead of other Punjab cities. His point appears to be that is there was a choice between rapid transit in Lahore vs. a sanition or clean drinking project in Southern Punjab, the latter should be prioritized.

    I do not live in Pakistan and have not seen the motorway, so I have no independent knowledge. The points made by Faraz about the motorway, seem reasonable from the perespective of judging the return on investment on an infrastructure project. What am I missing? Why is Faraz getting so much flak?


  • stenson
    Jul 27, 2012 - 2:21AM

    @popsaeed: Anyone who thinks the Motorway is a failure obviously does not understand how vital it has become to travel in that part of Pakistan. I use the Motorway frequently and it has made travel between Punjab and KPK a breeze. No nation can develop without good infrastructure. I may not like the Sharifs but I applaud them for at least developing the motorways of Pakistan. This will remain an enduring gift to the nation.


  • Jul 27, 2012 - 3:51AM

    @ faraz, you’re a genius, no one can argue with you.


  • Hammad
    Jul 27, 2012 - 1:33PM

    For years, development funds allocated for Multan’s airport were spent on Lahore airport. Multan looked more like a village than a large city, with broken roads, heavy loadshedding, poor economic opportunities and low industrialization. This treatment of South Punjab is always meted out by PML(N), and that’s why Gillani’s son won the elections. PTI, PPP, MQM. Anybody but PML(N). Period.


  • Jul 27, 2012 - 6:55PM

    @ Hammad, deprivation of Southern Punjab is not related to any particular political party, as long as they’ll keep voting Makhdums, they will remain in these conditions. Kindly watch the episodes of program “Frontline with Kamran Shahid” where they travel to the constituencies of these Makhdums and you’ll see how ignorant they are and what is their voting criteria.


  • Ali Rizwan
    Jul 28, 2012 - 4:06AM

    @Faraz: Do you even know the difference between a motorway and a Highway?


  • Z.K.
    Jul 29, 2012 - 3:24AM

    @Faraz…Motorway built for what, PKR 20bio, now an asset worth PKR150 billion, which international financial bodies are keeping as a collateral against our loans, you call such a project a fail project. Recommend

  • Sep 4, 2012 - 12:29PM

    I highly encourage Punjab Govt. to bring mega projects to provide comfort to public. It is most needed system in megacity Lahore. I used to live in Lahore and I always wish to have modern transport system. If you travel across the globe you will find all the mega projects bringing huge investment and financial activity. Long Live Pakistan…


  • Aftab Zahoor
    Sep 22, 2012 - 5:13PM

    I live in lahore by born. I have also traveled other parts of punjab including south and west regions of punjab. The difference b/w lahore and these of punjab is like that of America compared with afghanistan. It is very mourning condition that Punjab govt. spend 90% of budget in lahore and 10 % in rest of punjab. I think we should equally developed other areas of punjab too. We should also construct roads, hospitals, schools , universities , carpeted roads , air ports , etc to improve lives of people living of these areas. People living in these areas are living below poorty level bcz no facility, no opportunity. This effort would equally strenghtened rural areas of Pakistan. This approach would moderaniise all parts of province rather than making a single city new york. This would also reduce the burden of heavy traffic and congestion in lahore too. But what to do, Politicians dont want independent community.


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