Passengers unwilling to use sheds made for them for a litany of reasons
While both the city corporations in Dhaka are eager to build passenger-sheds by spending crores of taka, they are reluctant to monitor that these sheds are actually utilised by their intended users.
Visiting some passenger sheds in the capital, this correspondent found that most of them were completely unusable and were being used by drug addicts due to a lack of monitoring by the city corporation. Drug addicts use most of these sheds at leisure, while some are used as temporary accommodation for homeless people and others as markets by small business owners and hawkers.
Most sheds are covered in various types of posters. Worse, they reek of garbage and urine.
Passenger sheds are built to give shelter to passengers from rain or sun while they wait for transports. But in reality, passengers hardly use these sheds. Many of them have complained that most sheds were built neither properly nor at the right spot.
One such passenger, Asad, was waiting on the footpath at Farmgate bus stop to catch a bus.
“I am standing here as buses do not stop at the shed, and it takes some time to reach here from the shed. By the time I arrive, the bus will get going,” he explained.
Mentioning the distance from the shed to the footpath, a woman waiting there said she would not be able to get on a bus let alone secure a seat if she was even a few seconds late.
“Besides, there are a couple of people stretched out on the shed. So I feel it is safer for me to stand here,” she added.
Such is the situation at passenger-sheds not only in Farmgate, but throughout the capital.
There are a handful of slightly useful sheds in Hatirjheel, but on Airport Road, there are a few more sheds built by the Roads and Highways Department that are used by no one.
The passenger shed at Kuril Bishwa Road bus stop has also been commandeered by vagabonds, street children and drug addicts. Buses do not stop near the shed or the overpass, but stop near the rail gate.
Number of sheds
Following the students’ road safety movement in 2018, the authorities took an initiative to build 130 passenger sheds along with bus stoppages under the two city corporations, in line with Dhaka Metropolitan Police specifications.
Of these, 70 were listed in Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and 60 in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC).
Rajib Khadem, the executive engineer of the DSCC Traffic Engineering Circle, said: “We have already built 40 passenger sheds according to DMP’s requirements.
“Thirty were built under a DSCC mega project while 10 were constructed under the CASE (Clean Air and Sustainable Environment) project. DSCC will build another 30-33 sheds soon.”
“There are probably 10-12 passenger-sheds that were built before the new ones, but the old sheds are unusable now,” he said.
“As our Bus Route Rationalization program [buses will have to stop at specific places] will get underway soon, we will probably have to relocate some of the sheds,” added the DSCC executive engineer.
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Meanwhile, the DNCC said it had constructed nine passenger sheds and bus stoppages under the CASE project and the construction of 50 more sheds was underway.
Responsibilities end with construction
Additional Commissioner Md Munibur Rahman of DMP’s Traffic Division said passenger sheds were not useful as bus drivers were unwilling to stop at fixed stoppages.
“Drivers are desperate to get more passengers by competing with one another, violating traffic rules in the process, but we are trying to control it,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Mohammad Sirajul Islam, director of the CASE project, said: “We have fulfilled our duty by building 20 sheds under the two city corporations. It is the responsibility of law enforcers to monitor and maintain them.”
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samiti General Secretary Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said: “We have sheds but we do not see them being used properly.”
Most sheds were occupied by vagrants and there was no authority to look into the matter, he said, adding that it went without saying that no woman would consider it safe to sit beside a drug addict vagabond.
DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said he had signed an order a couple of days ago for the passenger sheds in his city corporation to be repaired.
“This time around we will do a campaign and invite young people to volunteer because it is impossible to monitor the sheds without the help of locals,” he added.
‘Refusal’ to disclose expenditures
Dhaka Tribune had contacted both city corporations to know the total spending for the sheds but the officials concerned declined to specify the amount.
Md Farhad, the executive engineer of the DNCC Traffic Engineering Circle, provided Dhaka Tribune with a copy of a document that stated that DSCC would not be able to specify the cost of the nine sheds made under the CASE project and it was not possible to confirm the construction cost of the 50 new ones as those were currently underway.
Later, this correspondent contacted the project director of CASE, who said the Estate Department knew about the cost and suggested requesting necessary documents by taking recourse to the Right to Information Act.
DSCC Estate Officer Md Muniruzzaman also claimed ignorance, stating that only the Traffic Engineering Circle knew about the cost.
Rajib Khadem of the DSCC Traffic Engineering Circle said he was unaware of the construction cost as well.
Prof Musleh Uddin Hasan, head of Buet’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, said that the problems lay with design, planning and enforcement.
“Passengers do not use sheds because buses do not stop near the fixed stoppages, which is why vagabonds, addicts and hawkers get the opportunity to misuse them. It could be the other way around as well. Maybe passengers are reluctant to use the sheds because they are used by vagrants, as a result of which buses do not stop where they are supposed to,” he remarked.
The Buet professor continued: “And if passengers start using the sheds, hawkers will start crowding the spots as well. We have to design the sheds properly by keeping the hawkers in mind and including the provision of facilities like WIFI, water, etc.”
Before launching any such project, the city corporations should take more time and discuss the matter with experts in the field in order to make their endeavours sustainable, he suggested.