Dhaka, Bangladesh
Commuting: From bad to worse

Commuting: From bad to worse

Road digging, coach services, non-motorized vehicles add to woes

Md. Manzurul Alam Commuters in the capital seem caught in a double bind as they suffer from inadequate mass transport and also traffic jam with zillions of smaller and non-motorised vehicles. Spot reports say dug-out roads and occupied or wrecked footpaths also hinder pedestrian movement, adding to the city-dwellers' woes. Sufferers say traffic-jam situation in Dhaka metropolitan city is going from bad to worse, defying all protests and efforts for keeping this menace under control. The traffic congestion in Dhaka is eating up precious working hours. Many reasons are cited for such situation of commuting and pedestrian passage in the city. Illegal parking is one of the main reasons. Many intra-city and inter-city buses, trucks, cars and other vehicles are parked on the roads and roadsides. A good number of inter-city buses are parked at many intersections in the capital city, Dhaka, all day long, especially in the morning and night, occupying a good portion on both sides of the roads.Covered vans of some big courier-freight transport services also feel free to share much of the road space in respective neighbourhood. It has become a regular phenomenon that such indiscriminate parking of hundreds of inter-city and inter-district buses aggravates traffic congestion and suffering to the commuters in the capital. A mushroom growth of transport companies and their bus and covered-van counters set up on different roadside spots inside the city is making the main roads narrower, disrupting normal movement of traffic and passers-by, many a survey finding says. A recent investigation found out that traffic jam is turning for the worse daily due to unauthorized terminals and stands set up on the main roads allegedly with blessings from influential quarters. It is an open secret that such quarters are running these illegal bus depots and wayside stands with impunity. The agencies concerned apparently overlook this nagging public nuisance. Sources in the Traffic Department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said members of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association managed to set up the bus terminals and stands in breach of standing government rules against opening transport counters inside the overpopulated metropolis. The government set up only three bus terminals on the city fringes at Mohakhali, Gabtoli and Sayedabad about three decades ago. But the power-wielding lobbies occupied, and in many cases, set up terminals and their depots for buses on the rental places ignoring the terminal rules of government, transport experts said. The bus owners' association leaders and owners also informally set up thousands of ticket counters in the city, and on-drive bus checking for realizing their slices of the hotcake-hard cash flowing hourly, daily. They set up these establishments at and around Technical Morh, Darus Salam, Shyamoli, Kalyanpur, Asadgate, New Market, Kalabagan, Mirpur Mazar Road, Mirpur Section 1, Rainkhola and Mirpur Section 2 centering Gabtoli Bus Terminal. Also set up are depots, terminals and ticket counters under the Mayor Mohammad Hanif Flyover, Fakirerpool, Motijheel, Plassey Square, Maniknagar, Basabo, Malibagh, Arambagh, Kamalapur Khilgaon, Rampura, Badda, Nardha, Jatrabari, Postagola, Jurain, Signboard and Chattogram Road centering the Sayedabad and Gabtoli bus terminals. Sources also said that they set up establishments for terminals, depots and ticket counters at Airport, Uttara and Abdullahpur points centering the Mohakhali bus terminal. The sources said that "musclemen and so-called transport workers have established their reign of terror" at these three terminals even in the presence of those who are to prevent it all. On a visit, Fulbaria, Joykali Mandir, Fakirerpool, Maniknagar, Arambagh and Golapbagh Biswa Road were found affected by the haphazard parking of passenger buses. Around 1,000 buses ply a day different routes, including Dhaka-Mawa, and Dhaka-Dohar, from Fulbaria bus terminal, while over 500 operate between Joykali Mandir (Gulistan) and Gazipur, Dohar, Demra, Munshiganj and other districts. A Fire Service and Civil Defence official said, "As the buses are occupying the road in front of the fire department headquarters at Bangabazar, we often face difficulty in getting out to reach the spots of fire incidents." A number of Chattogram- and Cox's Bazar-bound buses of different companies operating from Fakirerpool, Motjheel and Arambagh are causing severe traffic jams in and around the areas, especially at night. "Innumerable buses remain parked on both sides of these busy roads, triggering huge gridlock almost all the time," said Moshiur Rahman, a resident of Arambagh. Jashimuddin, a roadside furniture trader in Maniknagar Biswa Road area, said around 100 bus counters of different transport companies have been set up within a half-kilometre Commuting: From bad to worse From Page 1 Col. 7 stretch from Sayedabad Janopad to Maniknagar Biswa Road. About 30 to 40 buses of each of the transport companies usually park for passengers in front of their counters from morning to midnight. Some have blamed railway level -crossings for interruption to free flow of road traffic during passage of trains, and have suggested the shifting of Dhaka Railway Station from Kamalapur to Tongi or Gazipur. A train needs 2 to 3 minutes to cross level -crossing gates. But interruption of road vehicles at railway traffic signals is much more; sometimes taking 15 or 20 minutes in a single event. According to railway traffic department, there are 31 rail crossings in the capital through which 51 inter-city trains pass 102 times a day, contributing to the nagging traffic jam. The traffic congestion caused by railway level-crossings eats up 306 minutes or 5 hours and 6 minutes. Digging and construction of roads and footpaths is another cause of traffic jam in Dhaka. Digging is done all over the year for water supply, sewage line, gas and electricity supply lines, telephone and internet -providing lines. Long-term mega- projects like Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (metro rail project) construction works in the middle of the road are creating huge tailback on both sides. Residents of Mirpur, Sheoraparha, Kazipara and Taltola are witnessing massive traffic congestion every day. Hard barriers (fences made of concrete and steel) have been installed around construction areas. Soil has been piled up after digging in several key areas and the piling of construction materials turning roads narrower. Abul Bashar, a Mirpur resident, said after the construction of metro rail had started it took sometimes three hours to cross Kazipara-Press Club stretch, which earlier would take about 40 minutes. Sadia Afroze, a Mirpur resident and student of the Holy Cross College, said it takes her more than two hours to reach college from home. Earlier it would just take an hour. Commuters say the road digging has also polluted air in the area alarmingly. "While crossing the road, I can hardly see anything due to the dust. This can lead to accidents anytime," said Sadia. Currently, construction of MRT line 6 is ongoing on Uttara-Motijheel route, which is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Mofazzol Hossain, director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (Metrorail), admitted that their "inexperience" and "attempt to finish all tasks at a time" has led to problems for commuters. So, it takes a lot of beating to beat the city traffic into good shape and civic life into a sort of norns that are expected of the capital of a developing country. First and foremost, the failed cleanup drive to free the occupied footpaths and drive out ramshackle and slow-moving vehicles from the congested roads must succesd, say urban and transport experts, including architect Mobasher Hossain. And to trim the roads and discipline the weird traffic the first task to begin with is introduce company bus service under the long-stalled road franchise. Mayor Syed Khokon's pledge to begin where Annisul Haque of Dhaka North City Corporation ended up generates hopes. However, necessity classes a two-year spell in such exigency as a long view.

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