Karachi awaits megacity-class public transport

Karachi: Megacity Karachi is yet to have a megacity-class public transport system to cater the growing needs of its citizens and spur local economy by providing quick and efficient means of transportation and commuting.

Any city with a population of 10 million or more is called a megacity and these cities enjoy special attention and funds to upgrade their civic facilities to provide ease to their residents. Presently, in Pakistan there are only two megacities: Karachi and Lahore.

Interestingly when the citizens of the other mega cities of the world are enjoying modern surface and underground time-efficient commuting systems, the Karachiites are still doomed to commute while perching on the roofs of overcrowded minibuses. Even the other megacity of Pakistan, Lahore, is far ahead of Karachi in terms of modern commuting and public transport systems, as the completion of metro train, Orange Line, would send it to the rank of the megacities with modern public transport systems.

Karachi was the first city of Pakistan that got surface rail-based commuting system, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) about half a century ago, but instead of developing the KCR, the rulers abandoned it to the agony of Karachiites. Now the citizens hear time and again that the KCR would be revived under the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) but nobody knows when.

An important bus rapid transit system of the federal government, Green Line, is going ahead with snail pace speed and it is expected that it could be opened before the coming general elections. However, no deadline is there of the bus rapid transit systems announced by the provincial government and some real estate tycoons.

The public transport experts have suggested banning all small-bodied minibuses and coaches in Karachi on urgent basis and giving new bus routes only to those transporters who are willing to run wide-bodied buses on the city streets. However, powerful private transporters’ lobby so far has managed to refrain the Sindh transport department from taking this much awaited decision.

It is expected that public transport systems would be amongst the powerful political slogans before the coming general elections and the PML-N is all set to showcase its metro bus and train projects of Punjab, as well as, the Green Line of Karachi, with a much fanfare. However, the PPP-led Sindh government has so far no big public transport project to compete with these slogans.

Experts suggest starting spadework on the KCR before the general elections, even the first step to remove encroachments along the KCT track, and banning small-bodied minibuses at least on main routes of MA Jinnah Road, University Road, Shara-e-Faisal and Korangi Road to give this megacity some urban look in terms of commuting sector.

However, Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar has said that the port city needs modern public transport facilities, especially mass transit projects on urgent basis.

Chairing a meeting in his office previous day to review the revised plan and design of the underground portion of the BRT Green Line project, he said this mass transit projects are very important for the city and early completion of the BRT Green Line would provide better commuting facilities to the Karachiites.