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OP-ED: Is there an end in sight to our traffic-related woes?

  • Published at 01:30 am January 16th, 2021
Traffic road

We will need to modernize our system for controlling traffic on the roads

hat is the most talked-about problem in megacities? City-dwellers may take just a moment to answer such a question. If the answer is traffic congestion and the pitiable transport system, then there is some good information to share with you.

Do you know that the government is shaping Dhaka with a new transport system? Yes, many people might be partially informed through newspapers, but they hardly trust the implementation. Dhaka will get a metro rail, a bus rapid transit (BRT), a franchised bus company, and a sensor-based traffic system within a couple of years. All these initiatives are to be inaugurated for the first time in Bangladesh.

The metro rail will take 37 minutes to travel 20 kilometres between Uttara and Motijheel once the metro rail service is launched. It will be quite an experience for all commuters, as travel time would be set with a software-based commuting system down to the minute. So I am personally really optimistic that the metro rail service will bring an enormous change to Dhaka’s transport system, as it will be able to carry 60,000 passengers per hour, which is around 5% of Dhaka’s commuters.

We are getting the installation of another new transportation system named BRT, a new experience for Bangladesh. The under-construction BRT corridor will connect Dhaka and Gazipur, two important cities of the country. The BRT will take only 30 minutes to travel 20 kilometres, as it is a dedicated corridor only for selected buses. There is a proposal to connect the BRT and metro rail by building a new corridor from Housebuilding to Uttara Third Phase.

The BRT system is expected to improve the quality of life in a megacity like Dhaka, by saving travel time and reducing air pollution. BRT systems have gained worldwide popularity as an option for public transport systems due to their capacity to deliver low cost, quickly implemented, flexible, and high-quality solutions to developing cities’ transport needs.

We know how lacking in discipline the transport systems we are operating now are. Developed countries mostly follow the franchised bus service, which is going to launch in Bangladesh now. The government has also taken initiative to rationalize the bus route to bring discipline to the transport system.

The piloting of bus route rationalization will start from April 1 between Gatarchar to Motijheel. The existing routes will be converted into nine clusters with 42 routes to operate 7,335 buses under 22 companies following the franchising method. Among the nine clusters, six will be urban clusters, which will be colour-coded as green, red, blue, yellow, pink, and purple.

The three others will be under suburban clusters to connect Dhaka with neighbouring cities like Gazipur and Narayanganj, nearest municipalities like Tarabo, Savar, and Madhobdi, as well as suburbs. Once the new modality of transport starts, 35% commuters will benefit from the new system.

Globally, it is very rare to have traffic be controlled manually by traffic police; but unfortunately, it has been happening in Dhaka for long. The management is simply the worst in Dhaka, as we cannot operate signals automatically, using digital systems. The government has installed software at two points of Dhaka city to examine new methods. The software can automatically calculate traffic, and is capable of fixing the time for a road according to priorities of traffic, which is now done by traffic police.

Once we get an automated traffic system, the chaotic situation will improve, I hope. But there are myriad challenges to implementing these new systems, as commuters are mostly unaware of rules and regulations in Dhaka. Agencies tasked with implementation are also unskilled, and are not held accountable for their faults.

Shohel Mamun is a Senior Reporter, Dhaka Tribune.

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