Dhaka is a unique city in many respects. It witnesses serious traffic jam on the one hand, and on the other, the crisis of transports makes the life of the city-dwellers miserable. The office-going people, commuters and children on way to school and back face the problem routinely without any respite. The number of vehicles is far fewer than the population of the city needs.
It's a common scene every day that thousands of commuters and passengers crowd in at many spots to catch vehicles. They are to wait impatiently, and as soon as a vehicle arrives they frantically try to get on board. This abnormal situation contributes to an increasing number of private cars. To have a private car means some kind of commuting independence. How can you expect to go to your destination with your wife or kids or both when the traffic situation poses so abnormal? CNG run auto-rickshaws and paddling rickshaws will not go to your destination even if you wait for hours. Rickshaws are for short distances but they are not allowed on all the roads, which further discourages them to take passengers to all the destinations. To mitigate the sufferings of the city dwellers the authorities must introduce large buses on the streets from very early hours to late at night at a regular interval.
The numerous bus companies and the CNG owners can get united to form big companies. Already it is learnt from newspapers that the mayor of Dhaka North has talked to 190 transport companies to squeeze them into five to bring about discipline in the transport sector. It must be done immediately and more government and private partnership endeavours should be in place. The government is reportedly trying to implement some long-term projects to solve the traffic congestion but to meet the scarcity of transport no tangible effort is noticeable as yet.
The authorities hold unawareness of the people about traffic rules, narrow roads, unfit vehicles, reckless driving and disregard to traffic laws responsible for traffic jam. People, however, have a different experience in this regard. The members of the armed forces were invited previously to control the traffic of Dhaka City and 90 per cent traffic jam disappeared when they stood on the roads despite the problems mentioned. It clearly indicates the inefficiency of the traffic police. The authorities must take this into serious consideration.
During the period of 1991-2002 Dhaka city saw many buses on almost all the main roads and the passengers had to ride on those buying tickets from the ticket counters available at the roadside. Passengers developed a good habit to ride those buses. Unfortunately, uncontrolled 'toll collection' by mastans and chasing off ticket counters by traffic sergeants on charges of occupying footpaths have killed the good system. When comfortable and efficient transport will be available in the city, people will feel discouraged to buy private cars. If private cars take less space on the streets, the traffic situation will improve significantly.
All the educational institutions should have their own transports to take children from certain spots to schools. They need not wait for public transport, which increases their tension and they cannot manage time to reach classes and concentrate on their lessons.
Hundreds and thousands of private cars, office cars ply on the streets without any passenger except the driver or one or two passengers. At the same time, hundreds and thousands of school-going children are seen appealing to rickshaw pullers or CNG drivers to take them to school.
The city has miserably failed to establish the commuters and passengers' right which is a fundamental right of the citizens. What happens in other countries? The passenger tells the driver to go to his destinations after riding vehicles. Thus they have established the right of the passengers. More importantly, the traffic police keep standing to help and control the whole affair. What about the traffic police here? You see them everywhere but their business is different. They don't bother whether a passenger or commuter or children gets the vehicle or not. They just bother about stopping the cars, CNGs, trucks, pick-up vans for reasons known to all.
It should be made mandatory for vehicles - public or private - to give lift to students waiting for transport for going to school and coming from school. Any vehicle must stop to take any student with uniform when he/she raises hand even if the guardians are with them. This will not only develop fellow feeling, it will also help minimise traffic jam.
The writer works in BRAC Education Programme.