Is there a solution to Karachi’s transport woes?
Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan houses an estimated population of more than 22 million people.
The city has enormous amount of issues, which involves sewerage problems, water problems, sanitation, electricity shortages and many more.
But the most critical of all and which needs instant attention from the government is the inefficient transportation system of the city.
Do you know in early 60s, Karachi was one of very few cities in the world that has its own mass transit system. More than 50 years later, it is the only megacity in the world without a proper mass public transport system.
So Where did it all go wrong?
A history of negligence, failure, inefficiency and lack of follow through in both government and public-private partnership projects, has lead city’s inhabitants crave adequate transport system.
In early 1950s, the government took some initiatives in order to deal with the city’s transport issue.
Karachi Improvement Trust (KIT), which was established in 1950 to plan the expansion and management of the city by the government. This particular initiative proved to be highly insufficient. In December 1957, the Karachi Transport Syndicate (KTS) was set up which introduced 280 busses in the city, a year later it was declared a failure and was disbanded by the end of December 1958. Many other projects like Karachi Road Transport Corporation (1959-67); Sindh Road Transport Corporation (1967-77); and the Karachi Transport Corporation (1977-96) were initially successful but most collapsed due to lack of finances and other reasons.
From 1970 onwards, the control of the government over the public transport system started to reduce. With that, the elite officers of both the civilian and military governments played roles in the ruin of the transport system.
The tramway met its end due to its sluggish operations and the increase of vehicles on the road but the termination of the Karachi Circular Railway and Karachi Transport Corporation was the result of corruption and negligence of officials.
By the year 1996, the government had realized that it was beyond their competence to cope with transportation crisis and had undertaken number of initiatives in partnership with the private sector, introducing Karachi Public Transport Society (KPTS), the Urban Transport Scheme (UTS) and the CNG bus project (2007). This cooperation with the private transporters didn’t exactly work out as by the year 2007, the government miserably failed to meet the demands of private sectors investors. It resulted in self-financing a project of 75 CNG buses as no investors were willing to join hands with them.
So is there an end in sight?
According to records of the regional transport authority, there were 60 bus routes in the city of which 30 routes have been closed in the past 15 years, leaving only 30 routes operational.
Mini buses had 236 routes of which 137 have been shut down and only 87 remain in operation. Coaches had 75 routes of which only 40 are operational while the rest have been shut down.
Only seven of the 53 routes of the Karachi public transport society remain operational. The urban transport scheme has witnessed a sharp decline with only one operational route out of its former 22 routes. Overall, out of the 446 routes of public transport in the city, 269 routes have been closed.
Some of the well-known routes of large buses that have been closed include 8D, 1C, 5, 5D, 5E, 11A, 1F, 72, 72A, 5A, 5B, 4M, 4H, and 6B. Some of the routes of mini buses that have been closed are A, A1, A2, B1, D2, F3, F4, G, G1, K, K1, M, M3, N2, N3, P2, P6, S, S1, U2 and U3. Among the coaches that are no longer functional are the Mehfooz coach, Umar coach, National Pakhtoon coach and New Ghazi coach.
Challenges being faced
Most of Karachiites rely on coaches and buses as a mode of transport as many of them can’t afford to own a personal car or bike, neither they can cope to travel on taxis and rickshaws on daily basis as their fare rates are extortionate.
City’s inefficient public transport sector is miserly falling apart.
There are not enough coaches and buses to cope with city’s population requirements. And the ones available on roads are in inadequate condition.
Because of lack of availability and poor condition of public transport, the citizens are left with no choice than using Rickshaws and other private vehicles. This causes more traffic on perpetually choked roads of the city.
Many have to travel into over crowded and dilapidated buses to reach their schools and offices.
They are forced to climb onto the roofs and hang off the sides of these buses, putting their lives on risk. The shortage of public transport widens the gap between the public demand and the availability of buses on the roads
While Karachi’s population is rapidly growing and this situation is unlikely to change in foreseeable future. With that, the situation will only get more difficult and harder to deal with as time passes.
Will upcoming projects make any difference?
There are mega projects such as blue line and green line under construction, and will make transportation conditions less inferior. Still these projects won’t make an immense impact as the infrastructure changes that will follow will be of little use to Karachi’s citizens who direly need a mass transit system on the city’s perpetually choked roads.
Research conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and renowned urban planners suggest that the Green, Yellow, Red, Blue, Orange Line BRTS projects and the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) will only account for merely 6% of the total public transportation requirements. The city will improbable have an effective transportation system by the year 2030.
The authorities still have time to start planning and working on projects which have the capability to extricate metropolis from transportation dilemma. A sufficient mass transit system will prevent traffic gems and save people’s money which they spend on private means of transport.