Government mulls launching circular bus service from Agargaon to Farmgate
Once the authorities start partially operating the country’s first metro rail service in December 2022 between Uttara and Agargaon, experts say, it will likely lead to a chaotic situation at the Agargaon point due to various reasons.
As the Agargaon station has no additional surrounding space, passengers will flood the area and block the existing narrow road if the metro train carries passengers at full capacity, some planning experts fear.
According to Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd (DMTCL), each train has six cars that can carry a maximum of 2,308 people at a time.
As one metro train is expected to leave every five minutes, thousands will likely flock to the Agargaon station. It is estimated that some 20,000 passengers will be picked up and dropped off every hour as people are intrigued by the new service, on top of the significantly reduced travel time. It will take just 20 minutes to commute between Uttara and Agargaon.
Iqbal Habib, a renowned architect and urban planner, said: “If hundreds get off at Agargaon, which is not a major point like Farmgate, Karwan Bazar or Motijheel, passengers will find it difficult to manage transport to go to other destinations.”
The situation could lead to people seeing Metro Rail in a negative light even before it started functioning fully, tainting the image of the landmark service, he added.
“Metro systems are comfortable throughout the world,” he said, adding that the authorities ought to ensure similar ease of travel in Bangladesh as well.
Prof Musleh Uddin Hasan, head of Buet’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, said: “Agargaon is not a major destination, nor does it have an intersection. From Uttara to Motijheel, Farmgate is the first major destination for picking up and dropping off a large number of passengers.
“Once hundreds disembark at Agargaon, where the road is too narrow due to the metro system, it will cause a hassle for the passengers.”
People on the road would be annoyed by such a disruption despite metro rails being widely regarded as a better transport system, he told Dhaka Tribune.
Circular bus service between Agargaon and Farmgate
In light of the possible drawbacks, the Dhaka metro rail authorities are considering launching a circular bus service between Agargaon and Farmgate in order to alleviate passengers’ sufferings.
Metro passengers would suffer a great deal if they did not get transportation after getting off at Agargaon, said DMTCL Managing Director MAN Siddique.
DMTCL planned to discuss the launch of the circular bus service with bus owners and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRCT), he said, adding that a bus would leave every minute if the service were initiated.
However, Dhaka Road Transport Owners' Association General Secretary Khandaker Enayet Ullah was critical of the idea.
“Bus owners will not agree to operate the service for such a short distance because it will be unprofitable,” he said.
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Meanwhile, BRTC Chairman Md Tazul Islam said the corporation could allocate the required number of buses for the circular service. “A discussion is ongoing,” he added.
It may be recalled that several circular bus services initiated by the BRTC in Dhaka have already been suspended due to not being passenger-friendly or commercially sustainable.
“Buses of circular services should have wide doors and open spaces so that passengers can be easily picked up or dropped off as people only use them for travelling short distances. However, the BRTC uses its long-route buses for the service,” explained Prof Musleh Uddin Hasan.
Iqbal Habib said launching a circular bus service would not fix anything if the authorities did not properly control the road traffic situation. “If the cars and motorbikes on the route are not managed, the whole road network will become paralyzed.”
MAN Siddique of DMTCL said the circular bus service was only a temporary fix as the metro rail system from Uttara to Motijheel would be fully functional before 2024.
Once the total link is completed, the metro rail — with 16 stations — will be able to carry 60,000 people an hour, reducing travel time from Uttara to Motijheel to around 40 minutes, from about two hours by common transport on regular days.