The need for mass transit: Legislating a viable transport solution for Karachi

Published: June 19, 2015
Karachi’s citizens get stuck in a traffic jam after every three kilometres on average. The one viable solution for the city is a mass transit system. PHOTO: FILE

Karachi’s citizens get stuck in a traffic jam after every three kilometres on average. The one viable solution for the city is a mass transit system. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: What Karachi desperately needs is a viable mass transit system. Today, people want to travel in their cars right up to the doorstep of every commercial or business centre — a practice that needs to be discouraged, according to NED University urban infrastructure department’s Prof Mir Shabbir Ali.

Instead, he suggested building parking plazas, where people can park their cars and continue the rest of their journey via public transport. He was speaking at a consultative workshop on the legislative perspective of the Urban Transport Policy, jointly organised by the Pakistan Sustainable Transport Project (Pakstran) and the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Station Owners’ Association of Pakistan. The professor highlighted ways to attract commuters to use public transport, instead of private cars to reduce the volume of traffic on Karachi’s roads. According to Ali, citizens of Karachi are stuck in traffic jams after every three kilometres. “A mass transit system is the only sustainable solution to address Karachi’s transport woes,” he said.

Sharing an overview of the principal guidelines of the urban transport policy drafted with the assistance of Pakstran, he said there was a dire need for an operational urban transport system in Sindh. “We need to develop a sustainable transport policy and draft the rules and regulations for implementing such a policy in the province,” he clarified.

Speaking on the population explosion in Sindh, Prof Ali said that in 2011, around 50 per cent of Karachi’s total population lived in the outskirts of the city. He estimated that by now, it must have reached 48 per cent. According to him, these urbanisation and migration trends in Sindh clearly indicated that there was inadequate communication network between the rural and urban areas. “When 52 per cent of the population lives in the city and 48 per cent in the rural outskirts, there must be a proper road network to connect the two segments of population.”

For Prof Ali, investment in developing and improving transport infrastructure must be prioritised, including wide-scale improvements in pedestrian facilities. “The public transport should be given priority on every signal to pass though first.”

He was certain that commuters will willingly shift to public transport from their private vehicles, which according to him will naturally reduce the burden of vehicles from the roads.

Speaking on the CNG-related issues, the chairperson of the CNG Station Owners’ Association of Pakistan, Malik Khuda Baksh, said that according to international environment reports, there has been a 62 per cent decrease in environmental pollution with the use of CNG in vehicles. “The CNG industry, which was at its peak in 2000, is now being forcefully pushed back by the government of Sindh,” he alleged. “15 years ago, you could not stand at Bandar Road or Saddar due to vehicular pollution, due to the use of diesel,” he recalled.

According to him, when the Oil Gas and Regulatory Authority was formed in 2002, it borrowed regulations from foreign countries, drafted its rules and then passed an ordinance based on those rules.

“The age of a car CNG cylinder is five years, according to those rules,” he said. “After continuous filling of gas in the cylinder, oil components start accumulating inside. If those components rise above 1.5 inches, the cylinder becomes very dangerous.” He claimed that in Karachi, there were cylinders that had not been tested since 1999. “They are no less than moving bombs.”

He added that buses had started installing cylinders below the seats. “In case of leakage, the gas starts accumulating below the seat, as it does not find an escape and then the cylinder explodes,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2015. 

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Reader Comments (2)

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Jun 19, 2015 - 12:35PM

    Karachi could be just about the only mega city with a population of nearly twenty-five million, which does not have a decent mass-transit system. The added misfortune of the city is that it once had a circular railway system which ran more than one hundred trains daily. Unfortunately, it was closed down, ostensibly for making a small loss while other entities making astronomical losses were kept going by injecting massive subsidies. And even the small loss it made was due more to neglect, inefficiency and deliberate attempt to run it down at the behest of private bus owners who carried sufficient influence with the decision makers and were also prepared to offer incentives for doing their bidding.

    An attempt was made during Gen. Musharraf’s tenure to revive the KCR, and the Karachi district government even built some overhead bridges in Liaquatabad and Gulshan-e-Iqbal in anticipation of KCR revival, in order to ensure smooth running of the normal road traffic. However, in his absolute wisdom, Gen. Musharraf rejected a moderately-price rehabilitation project for KCR, declaring it to be too costly.

    And twice during the Peoples Party’s current tenure which is in its seventh year, attempts were made not half-heartedly, but perhaps one-hundredth-heartedly to revive Karachi Circular Railway. And as per plan, the attempts proved unsuccessful because the provincial government – led by an aged gentleman well into eighties – failed to complete the preparatory work, like retrieving the heavily-encroached KCR land. Perhaps it was thought that as illegally-grabbed land put to some other use, the railway land could prove far more valuable as compared to being used for relaying KCR tracks on, which could hardly be a wise move as it would only benefit the worthless people of Karachi who commit on regular basis the added indiscretion of not voting for Peoples Party candidates. So, both the attempts to revive KCR failed, and the loan offered by the Japanese government on very attractive terms because of project being for public welfare, just lapsed. How nice.

    We now hear that a city railway system will be built with Chinese collaboration. Let us wait and see how the matter progresses or regresses.


  • Timorlane
    Jun 19, 2015 - 9:52PM

    As long as waderas are ruling Karachi and looting it

    24 hour round the clock there’s no hope for any

    development in the wadera occupied cityRecommend

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