The much-hyped Mass Rapid Transport projects will hardly ease traffic congestion in the capital because by 2035, when the projects are expected to be fully implemented, only one-tenth of the commuters will be using the trains, an expert said yesterday.
When the population increases and more vehicles hit the streets, the congestion will worsen, said Tanwir Nawaz, member of advisory committee of the government's Strategic Transport Plan.
Addressing a seminar on The Future Planning of Urban Transportation in Dhaka at Krishibid Institution Bangladesh, he said the city had grown over 20 times its size since 1971.
But the number of commuters has grown from less than a million to over 28 million, he told the event organised by Mukto Akash, a magazine.
Quoting from the government's strategic transport plans, he said the population of Dhaka will be around 38 million by 2035 and there will be a daily demand of 61 million to 65 million trips.
That means almost 35 million will need to commute by motorised transports, he said, adding that the metros will be able to provide mass rapid transport to less than 8 percent of the commuters.
Tanwir, chairman of Urban Habitat consultants, said the number of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles will grow more than the number of public transports does.
The bus and the mini buses are expected to carry 45 percent or more of the commuters, he added.
One of the major causes for traffic congestion is the inadequate allocation of land for roads, he said.
Less than 4 percent of the urban land area will be used for roads in 2035, he estimated.
"This is a recipe for disaster," he said.
The authorities' priority had always been on flyovers, expressways, and metros. But if more roads are constructed and Bus Revitalisation Programme is implemented, the initiative will be eight time more cost effective and congestion will be eased.
Former chief architect at Department of Architecture Kazi Golam Nasir said, "In implementing projects, we give more times in implementation and less on planning. As a result, the projects are revised several times and the cost escalates…. At the end of the day, when the project is implemented, our dreams remain unrealised."
Raising his concern on pedestrian movement, he said, "Every 10 to 15 minutes, about 2,000 commuters will be added to the number of pedestrians. And there will not be enough room on the footpaths."
Professor of Department of Architecture at BUET Zebun Nasreen Ahmed suggested taking steps to decentralise the capital city.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said traffic congestion was a disastrous problem.
Mannan admitted that the government had shortcomings in implementing projects.
"We couldn't elevate ourselves to a [satisfactory] level in implementing projects," he said, adding proper decentralisation process will play a vital role in reducing congestion.
Executive Director of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority Khandakar Rakibur Rahman said they were working on a bus route rationalisation programme to solve traffic problems.