Ms Abrish Nayyar is a student of BS Mass Communications at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST). Her subjects of interest are the history of the subcontinent, sociology, and mass media.
Despite a constant fuel hike in the last couple of years, it is almost surprising to see that there has been no significant reduction in the number of cars. As we look at these climate catastrophes and obvious consequences of global warming right within our own nation, it is essential to acknowledge our own role in them – however minimal it may be.
The amount of traffic on the streets in nearly every city is abominable – the pollution that comes, as a result, is something that everyone seems to have made peace with. In this regard, we can consider opting for public transport: after all, that is what people in other countries do!
However, for a number of people, public transport is not an option, primarily because of the amount of compromise one needs to make. Give up comfort in favor of being squashed into a corner, give up air-conditioning for hot air infused with all sorts of exhaust fumes, give up peace for the constant chatter and honks – the price difference rarely comes as a consolation when one is compromising so much.
Walkable cities and comfortable public transport seem like a faraway dream at times. We have seen that building more expansive and improved highways is perceived to help Pakistan manage its urban transportation issues. Contrarily, most people, experts and commuters alike, encourage sustainable transportation and promote the use of affordable public transport means that might function well in Pakistani cities with dense populations and diversified land uses.
The Infrastructure of Public Transport in Pakistan
Pakistani cities’ ongoing inability to design and run their public transportation networks in a way that promotes high levels of mobility, justice, and environmental sustainability may remain a topic of debate for a while longer, as is suggested by the number of projects that are underway and in the pipeline.
In terms of intercity travel, many people have made the shift to bus services like Daewoo, Faisal Movers, and the like, over the much more expensive airplanes. Trains are often opted as well by the lower class especially, however, their maintenance and punctuality remain the cause of concern for many.
In terms of cost and comfort, a true compromise is reached on buses. Compared to intra-city buses, these inter-city buses travel at a high speed, cover much greater distances, and are designed to carry much heavier weights. However, intracity commute seems to have become increasingly difficult, particularly for daily travelers.
At the time of writing this article, the petrol price stands at 224.8 PKR: not affordable by most, and yet, not the worst we have seen. The Metro bus, and its feeder lines, the blue, green, and orange buses are all functional across the capital now. Unfortunately, they are still not as convenient as desired.
The routes are limited, and often, people have to go out of their way just to reach a stop. Similarly, there is a shortage of interchanges, and many daily commuters find themselves changing buses multiple times. Wagons and Suzukis can still be seen racing across the highway, and it goes to show the influence or practicality of the Metro: though not useless, there is still room for improvement if one of the aims is to lower the traffic.
Public Transport in Karachi
In Karachi, many citizens are still utilizing decades-old buses that look like they are being held together by a thread. Aside from their grating street presence and the danger they have proved to be, the number of these buses has declined significantly in the last couple of decades, as the city of lights was ravaged by terrorists, and more than just one of these buses was set alight.
There was a time when more than 15,000 of these large vehicles plied the city’s highways, throughout the 1960s to 1980s, when buses made up a sizable portion of the city’s transportation fleet. However, as a result of government neglect and total reliance on private transporters, the situation deteriorated.
Only about 4,000 outdated, poorly maintained buses are currently on the road, and even then, only on a few heavily used routes. To add a cherry on top, these buses are frequently overloaded and crowded during rush hour and lack sufficient fitness certificates.
Recently, the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit line has been initiated, which has cleaner stations, and a much better make. There are several other projects in the line for Karachi, but discussion on them is often centered around the damage that will have to be caused to construct a proper transit system. Another Red Bus project has also been launched on the streets of Karachi a couple of week ago, and initial reviews sing praises.
Public Transport in Lahore
In Lahore, the public transport system is considerably better – mainly because of the headstart it got in terms of development. The investment and effort were greater in Lahore, and the orange line and the Metro bus truly prove it. Aside from being the pioneer in terms of comfort, and to a great extent, luxurious, public transport in Pakistan, the success of Metro and then the orange line truly reinforced the need and benefits of sustainable means.
The orange line competes with the metro trains of Dubai in terms of its appearance and design and is truly a gift to the people of Lahore. It has become a necessity for all governments and parties to overlook their differences in this one regard at least, and actually serve the people who have elected them.
The continuous politics on topics such as the Metro bus, its funding and planning only drag out such projects, and often end up causing greater inconvenience. Especially with climate disasters, it is time for our representatives to step up and try to lessen the environmental damage incurred by providing people with sustainable and affordable means of transport.
Of course, it is not just completion that the government has to oversee, but rather the entire project from its initiation, financing, policies, fares, infrastructure, and the rules and regulations as well. With much to be determined and a lot more at stake, it is almost disheartening to see the lack of care this topic seems to strike in the minds of our leaders and policymakers.
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