The government is going to form a company to oversee bus operations in the capital, provide people with better services and reduce traffic congestion.
As planned, at least 105 modern articulated buses would initially run on two routes under a pilot project of the company -- Bus Network Management Company.
One of the routes would be between Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and Saidabad (17km via the airport, Khilkhet, Kuril, Nadda, Natun Bazar, Badda, Rampura, Malibagh, Bashabo, and Kamalapur) and the other between Kuril and Rajuk Purbachal Model Town Sector-2 (10km via Kuril, Bashundhara, Mastul, Yousufganj, and Purbachal).
The buses would carry 10,000 people an hour. If the pilot project did well, more routes would be brought under the plan.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) at a meeting yesterday, chaired by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, decided in principle to form the government-owned company.
The meeting, held at the Nagar Bhaban, also formed a committee, led by DTCA Executive Director Syed Ahmed, for laying out the plan after consulting all stakeholders.
Representatives of the two city corporations (DNCC and DSCC), Rajuk, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, bus owners and transport workers associations would be included in the committee, Syed Ahmed told The Daily Star after the meeting.
The company will sign contacts with bus operators, and fix fares, bus service intervals, and other issues, according to the working paper of the meeting.
The move comes as the city's traffic congestion continues to cost Bangladesh billions of dollars and thousands of wasted manhours.
In the last 10 years, average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21kmph to 7kmph, which is slightly above the average walking speed, said a World Bank analysis. The speed may drop to 4kmph by 2035, slower than walking speed, it added.
"Congestion in Dhaka eats up 3.2 million workhours per day. This cost the economy billions of dollars every year," said the analysis shared at a high-level international conference in Dhaka in July last.
The working paper of the meeting yesterday said traffic jams would be reduced once the service was introduced on the two routes, touted pilot corridor. The speed of the buses would also increase to 15-17kmph from the current 5-7kmph.
As per the proposed pilot corridor, two groups of bus operators would be created from the bus operators who run their buses on the two routes.
Operators uninterested in getting connected to the system could be allowed on other routes, it said.
Syed Ahmed said they would discuss with all stakeholders and hope to complete preliminary work within two-three months.
“However, it will take time to go for implementation [of the project] as it involves finance and several other issues,” Syed Ahmed said.
Khandaker Enayetullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Samity, who was at the meeting, told The Daily Star that they would take part in the discussions.
According to the DTCA, people of Dhaka and its suburbs generate 30 million trips every day and buses are used for 47 percent of these trips.
When five Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects come into effect by 2035, it would reduce 17 percent demand but the rest 40 percent has to be mitigated by buses.
For this reason, Strategic Transport Plan (STP) and the revised STP recommended reorganising the bus management and rationalising bus routes.
More investment was needed for restructuring of the bus transport sector and to bring discipline, it said.
The Bus Network Study-2016, which was carried out under a project financed by the World Bank, also recommended a separate government company to monitor bus companies in the capital.
Cities like New Delhi, Singapore and Seoul have such companies.
At yesterday's meeting, Obaidul Quader directed the DTCA to carry forward the initiatives of late DNCC mayor Annisul Huq. At a meeting on transportation and communication in Dhaka city on June 1 last year with the prime minister in the chair, Annisul had placed a proposal for rationalisation of bus routes and running private buses under six companies.
On several occasions, Annisul had said buses in the capital would be brought under a few companies, each to be provided with permits for respective routes and made responsible for proper public transport management and minimising congestion.
Asked, Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor of the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said yesterday's move was a “good initiative”.
He said that after taking route permits from Regional Transport Committee, the buses go to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority just once a year. “There is no single authority to look into the sector. I think this [forming a government company] will be good for bringing discipline in this sector.”
The DTCA was established on September 2, 2012, to prepare strategic transport plan, provide regular supervision, and coordinate all possible planning for transportation infrastructure development within Dhaka city and nearby districts.