According to a survey, around 6% of the population with private cars occupy 76% of Dhaka roads
The transport coordination authority has encouraged the use of public transport over private ones, citing the limited capacity of the roads in Dhaka city.
The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has been campaigning for people to use public transport, while World Car Free Day was observed globally on Wednesday.
World Car Free Day is celebrated worldwide on September 22 to encourage motorists to give up their cars for a day.
“Discouraging people to ride private cars is the main motto of the car free day campaign,” said DTCA Executive Director Khandakar Rakibur Rahman.
He added that the increasing number of private vehicles were contributing to the huge traffic congestion in the city for which commuters had to suffer.
However, experts say that campaigns like this will remain ineffective unless the public transport system has been significantly improved in the capital.
“Without ensuring comfortable public transport, campaigning for less use of private cars will never be successful,” Prof Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, told Dhaka Tribune.
“A bus can carry 20 times more passengers than a private car. Therefore, many countries in the world, including Singapore and Japan, strictly discourage the registration of new cars in order to manage traffic,” says Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) Professor Hadiuzzaman.
Professor Hadiuzzaman, who serves as director of the Accident Research Institute (ARI) at the university, added that the aforementioned countries only allowed replacement of cars and had improved their public transport system to ensure smooth traffic.
While countries like Singapore and Japan strictly impose their private car policies, the scene is completely different in Bangladesh.
As of August 2021, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) registered 8,396 private cars and 54,139 bikes. At the same time only 149 buses and 97 mini-buses were registered.
The data show clearly that private vehicles are dominating the roads due to the scarcity of public transport.
According to a Democracy International survey in 2017, around 6% of the population with private cars occupy 76% of the roads in Dhaka.
On the other hand, public transport such as buses and minibuses occupy a mere 6-8% of the streets. The remaining space is occupied by other vehicles, illegal structures, and unauthorized parking, according to experts.
According to the ARI, currently some 3000 buses are being operated in Dhaka, carrying out more than 30% of trips.
However, most of these buses are dated and in dilapidated condition, forcing nearly 40% of the people to make the commute on foot.
The fact that Dhaka footpaths are either uncomfortable for walking or occupied has also contributed greatly to the rising number of private cars in the city.
Meanwhile, the government has been playing a dual role on the public-private transport issue.
On one hand, it has been providing civil officials with car loans without interest and slashing fees for bike registration; and on the other it is campaigning for people to use less private transport.
“Many countries follow a ‘trip plan distribution function’ with rationalizing operation of vehicles but there is no such plan in Dhaka. For example, people pay fees to drive private cars at peak hours in Japan,” Professor Hadiuzzaman told Dhaka Tribune.
He added that Dhaka, which has already developed without following a plan, needed a traffic management system that would improve the transport system.
“But the authorities concerned love to take on mega projects rather than managing the traffic system efficiently,” he said.