Most of Dhaka’s residents will agree that traffic jams are the number one problem that they face in this city, but major transport system developments are expected in 2019.
A recent World Bank study shows that Dhaka’s average traffic speed has dropped from 21km/h to 7km/h in the last 10 years, slightly above the average walking speed. Traffic gridlock eats up 3.2 million work hours per day.
Another study conducted by the Copenhagen Consensus Center says that the speed in Dhaka is now 6.4km/h, and that if vehicle growth continues at its current pace, without substantial public transport the average speed may fall to 4.7km/h by 2035.
Concerned government departments may disagree about the numbers, but they agree that traffic is slowing down. The government has already revised the Strategic Transport Plan for 20 years (2015-2035) to enhance traffic speed.
In 2019, the traffic situation in the capital is expected to get a major boost with the completion of three major infrastructure projects and other major changes in public transport system.
“The government has massive plans for Dhaka city to increase traffic speed and improve living standards in an integrated way,” said Local Government Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain.
Even though Dhaka represents only 1% of the country’s total area, it contributes over 36% to the GDP and creates 44% of the country’s total employment, he said.
“We have already begun projects to improve Dhaka’s traffic gradually. The improvement will be seen within a short time after the completion of the metro rail, Rapid Transit Bus and other projects,” said MAN Siddique, the Road Transport and Highways Division secretary.
Officials say that Dhaka’s traffic will become faster and traffic management system will improve in the coming years.
According to the RSTP, the government will build five metro rail lines, two rapid bus routes, 1,200km of new roadways, six flyovers and three ring roads in Dhaka by 2035.
However, a metro rail line between Uttara and Motijheel and a rapid bus line from Gazipur to Mohakhali will be built by 2019.
Metro rail and BRT
The metro rail will carry 60,000 passengers per hour while the BRT buses will carry 20,000 people. This will speed up Dhaka’s traffic and ensure that journeys are completed on time. If a commuter gets on the metro from Uttara at 9am, they will reach Motijeel by 9.38am. The BRT bus will run through dedicated road corridors without any interruption by other traffic.
Once the MRT and BRT begin operating, they are expected to reduce pressure on existing roadways. Both projects are scheduled to be completed by 2019.
Dhaka Elevated Expressway
The Bridges Division is implementing the first Dhaka Elevated Expressway for smooth traffic between the airport and the Dhaka-Chittagong highway. The project will be implemented by 2019. The 21km flyover will have 24km ramps landing at different places in the city.
Vehicles will move over the elevated flyover without any level-crossing or intersection.
Colour-coded bus service
The government will form six transport companies to operate 4,000 new buses on six major routes.
Currently, around 4,500 buses run through Dhaka on 165 routes and are owned by nearly 2,000 small businessmen. These buses engage in aggressive competition on the roads, raising the risk of accidents. By incorporating these owners into six companies and reducing the number of routes, the authorities aim to bring order and better service to Dhaka’s public transport and cut down on inefficiencies.
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Passengers will be able to pay their fares through smart cards that will be useable on the metro rail, BRT and water transportation systems.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has already started work to introduce a “rapid pass”, a digital fare collection system for commuters. Initially the rapid pass will be introduced on BRTC air-conditioned buses on a pilot basis, and will be finally rolled-out by the beginning of 2019.
The rapid pass will be designated as “One Card for All Transport” and 50,000 cards will be produced at a cost of Tk39 crore in the first stage. A commuter will have to pay Tk400 to buy a rapid pass.
Digital traffic system
The Dhaka North and South city corporations are implementing a digital signal system. The project is being implemented under the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) project funded by the World Bank.
The traffic police will be given remotes to control the lights under the new system and will be able to decide when they change to green or red.
The government has already started the water taxi service in Hatirjheel linking Moghbazar, Rampura and Gulshan. The service will be extended to Gulshan 2 and Baridhara.
The service has already gained popularity, but people have yet to take it seriously as a means for daily commute.
After Uber was launched in Dhaka, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) began drafting a set of guidelines for ride sharing in the country. Two other local ride sharing companies are gaining popularity. Alhough as of yet unauthorised, authorities have welcomed the businesses and believe they can contribute to reducing congestion in Dhaka.
BRTA Secretary Muhammad Sawkat Ali said: “Ride sharing will increase day by day. As per our estimation, around 50% of private car owners will be involved in these app-based networks.”
“When MRT, BRT and the colour-coded buses start operating in the city, traffic speed should improve,” said Shamsul Haque, professor of civil engineering at the Bangladesh University of Science and Technology.
“BRT or MRT can ensure that a passenger will reach their destination on time. But the big question is whether the government will operate these systems properly,” he added.