Underutilised Metrobus service fails to address congestion issue

Underutilised Metrobus service fails to address congestion issue

Synopsis

The buses reach full capacity at their starting point, making it difficult for other commuters who want to board from other stops

Underutilised Metrobus service fails to address congestion issue
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Undoubtedly the Metrobus service caters to the needs of a large number of citizens commuting between the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on a daily basis. But at the same time it has not been able to not fully resolve the public transport issues as well as the growing traffic congestion.

Starting off with a cost of Rs44.31 billion, the first phase of the Metrobus service linking the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad was formally inaugurated for commuters on June 4, 2015 with a maximum capacity of carrying around 150,000 passengers daily in a total number of 68 air-conditioned buses.

The service was operational at an elevated structure in Rawalpindi passing over Murree Road — the main artery linking the twin cities — while as soon as it enters Islamabad it merges with the city roads covering a total distance of 22.5 kilometres from the starting point, in front of a local hotel in Rawalpindi while culminating at the Pak Secretariat in Islamabad.

The aim of the service, a joint venture of the federal and Punjab governments, was to provide comfortable public transport to the commuters of the twin cities and their adjoining areas and also to reduce the traffic congestion on the city roads, especially Murree Road.

There are a total number of 24 stops of the Metrobus — 10 points in Rawalpindi and 14 points in Islamabad. The stations in Rawalpindi include Saddar, Marrir Chowk, Liaquat Bagh, Committee Chowk, Waris Khan, Central Hospital, Rehmanabad, Sixth Road, Shamsabad and Faizabad while in Islamabad the stations are located at the IJP Road, Potohar Road, Khayaban-i-Johar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz Road, Kashmir Highway, Chaman Road, Ibn-e-Sina Road, Katchehry Station, Centaurus, Saudi-Pak Tower, 7th Avenue, Shaheed-i-Millat Road, Parade Ground and the Pak Secretariat.

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It was envisaged at the time of the launch of the service that it would resolve the traffic congestion, especially at Murree Road and adjoining areas as most commuters would stop using their private vehicles for plying between the twin cities. But the anticipated results could not be yielded as the intra-city bus service lacked the necessary facilities to attract commuters.

Firstly, to reduce the running cost of the service, the buses were not run on optimal level which resulted in the commuters’ rush, making it unattractive for those using their private cars for commuting between the twin cities.

Overcrowding issue

Secondly, it was noted that the buses reached full capacity and even beyond at their starting point, and it became very difficult for other commuters who wanted to get on board from other stops en route. The mismanagement compelled the commuters to use their own vehicles, consequently resulting in traffic congestion on Murree Road.

Mohammad Jamal, a resident of the Waris Khan area, informed Bol News that the Metrobus station is hardly a few minutes’ walk from his house and so is the shop in the Blue Area where he works as a salesman, but he could not use the facility because of the overcrowding in the buses during the morning.

It is a common complaint as during rush hours it becomes extremely difficult to get space on the bus from the middle section stations, particularly from Committee Chowk to Faizabad, as the buses get full to capacity at the first couple of stations.

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Most of the people living in downtown Rawalpindi, who get on board somewhere in the middle of the route, have suggested that the officials of the bus service should ensure sending every third or fourth bus empty from the starting point, so that citizens waiting for the buses at the third or fourth station that falls en route get a chance to avail the facility without hassle.

They further said that all the stations falling on the route of the service are linked to the main offices of the Metrobus through computers and the officials are aware of the rush of the commuters at each station. Therefore, the authorities are in a position of managing the problem.

Although the officials of the service claims that they are running all the 68 buses that are carrying up to 120,000 commuters between the twin cities on a daily basis, the sources in the department have informed that 68 buses have never plied on the track at a time.

Cutting corners

Insiders in the department informed that to reduce the operational costs they tried to reduce the number of buses on the track and that was the reason of rush on the vehicles.

According to a rough estimate, the annual subsidy for the bus service is Rs2bn and by reducing the number of buses on the track, the department has tried to slash the subsidy amount.

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Initially, there was a plan to build parking plazas near the main stations of the Metrobus service, but due to some unknown reasons the plazas could not be established making it unfeasible for the people coming from the nearby localities to use the service, compelling them to use their private vehicles for travelling up and down from Islamabad.

The Metrobus officials have said that they were aware of the plan with regard to the construction of parking plazas near the main bus stations, but were not sure of the reason why the plan could not see the light of day.

Therefore, with the nonexistence of the parking plazas, the commuters who wanted to use the bus service were not able to use it and were left with no other option but to use the city roads for commuting between the twin cities resulting in traffic congestion.

Moreover, it was noted that the escalators and lifts at the stations remained frequently non-functional making it difficult for the elderly and ill people to use the service.

Therefore, in order to make the bus service a state-of-the-art facility, the authorities will have to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to solve the problems, most importantly of the traffic chaos that is experienced by the public.

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