Wednesday October 05, 2022

For public transport

February 23, 2017

Congested roadways make it difficult for people to reach office on time, adding more burden in their stressful lives. At the end of the routine drudgery, people just want to go home and relax or go out and have fun. It becomes frustrating when they find themselves stuck in traffic.

The stress factor of being locked in a practically stationary vehicle for hours on end also aggravates the misery of those who are more susceptible to neurotic mental illnesses. According to several psychologists, actions that cause irritable behaviour everyday like waiting in traffic can eventually lead to anxiety and mood disorders.

Nowadays, traffic jams and congestion have become very usual in Pakistan, particularly in Lahore and Karachi. The reasons for this are many: the increasing number of vehicles on the roads, irresponsible driving, bottlenecks on the streets, construction work on roadsides, lack of implementation of traffic rules and protests and rallies on roads.

When a person is filled with negative emotions due to the stress of confinement and traffic, he/she tries to get out of it at any cost and so runs the risk of ending up in accidents. Such incidents pose another challenge for traffic wardens as accidents then serve as impediments in the smooth running of traffic.

Apart from all the causes discussed above (which obviously require answering), there is a dire need to work on public transport; taking it to a level where every person, regardless of the class he or she belongs to, could and would want to travel in public transport. I recently visited Hong Kong and in my two weeks there, did not witness a single traffic jam.

Even the flow on main roads and streets was smooth despite it being the busy Christmas and New Year time. There I got to know that even people who earn more than Rs1.5 million a month prefer to travel in public transport. The reason behind this was the efficient and effective service of their Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and buses. Their public transport is easily accessible, well-maintained and sanitary. Minor delays of even a minute are an extreme rarity for the Hong Kong public transport.

Repair and proper maintenance of the buses we already operate is the way to kick-start the revival of public transport in Pakistan. Furthermore, to avoid the extra burden of taxes on people, the government can work on a public-private partnership model and bring Pakistanis falling in the ultra high net worth index (owning total wealth of more than 55 billion dollars according to Wealth X and UBS World Ultra Wealth Report 2014) to invest in developing such infrastructure by following the policy of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) – the model that every developing country follows.

The concept of the Metro Lines and the Orange Lines is fine, but the way it is being executed is adding stress on the economy and people. Firstly, these should have been built underground to avoid unnecessary construction of bridges. Secondly, they should not have been done at the expense of civilians whose houses are being demolished. To create space and raise money for the construction of these bus lines, people were forcefully relocated and more taxes were imposed.

These steps, instead of offering solutions, created problems. Moreover, this work should have been done through a public-private partnership and not from the already strained budget of the government. If (and only if) the underground system is not possible due to the seepage problem, a system of buses can be introduced on the main roads, linking the whole city.

Improving public transport is one of the ways of tackling the issue of traffic in the main cities of Pakistan and subsequently saving our people from falling prey to endless frustration and potential psychological disorders.


The writer is an organisational