- Passengers increase, suffering decreases
- Although it takes time to get a bus, many people travel regularly
- 225 buses will run on three new routes
- Nagar Paribahan is in profit
- The salary structure of drivers and employees has not been fixed yet
- Most of the about 38 bus stops do not have passenger sheds
- Many passengers do not know counter locations
- Dhaka Nagar Paribahan – rolling out about three and a half months ago with an aim at bringing order in the city transport system – has come out successful in providing better passenger service, although only on a single route so far. Commuters now want this transport system on all routes across the capital by resolving minor problems.
Transportation experts say the city's traffic system needs to be restored to regain public confidence in public transport. They think a planned transport system along with an increase in the quality of service can reduce the traffic congestion in the capital.
In the first phase of bus route rationalisation, the Dhaka Nagar Paribahan started its journey on 26 December with 30 BRTC double-decker buses and 20 Trans Silva buses from Ghatarchar in Keraniganj to Kanchpur on a 22-kilometre route.
Although the number of buses on this route was supposed to increase after the launch of the service, it has unfortunately decreased. The number of buses dropped by half in February. Currently, 45-48 buses are plying regularly, said the Nagar Paribahan authorities, as two to three of them stay off-road for maintenance.
The authorities said in addition to providing more buses on this route, the service will be launched on three new routes soon.
Passengers complained that the number of buses on this route is low and they have to wait a long time for a bus to arrive.
"I use Nagar Paribahan regularly. The comfort we get from travelling here, many may not find that even in private cars," Tulip Akhter, of the Science Lab area, told The Business Standard.
"However, if the number of buses increases, there will be no need to wait so long for a bus," she added.
Passengers also complained that the number of buses continues to decrease in the evening and many times no bus is available from Kanchpur after dusk.
The transport is scheduled from 8 am to 12 pm with a peak time of 8 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 10 pm. But in reality, it often seems to deviate. Most passengers complained that Nagar Paribahan was not available after 8 pm.
Shibu Das, a passenger waiting to go to Kanchpur from Mohammadpur, told TBS that he was happy to get the service with a ticketing system, stop-based movement and fixed fare but was forced to take other buses to travel to other destinations.
Passengers never had to stay standing in Nagar Paribahan while it often gets difficult to find a space for standing in other company's buses.
Shibu complained that he could not get a bus from Kanchpur at night.
By travelling on several Nagar Paribahan buses on the Ghatarchar-Kanchpur route and visiting counters, the TBS correspondent found the presence of passengers waiting.
Although it takes 20 to 40 minutes for a bus to arrive at some counters due to traffic congestion, regular commuters are not interested in travelling on other buses, they said.
Buses of other private companies on this route were supposed to be stopped from 1 January but that did not happen. Several companies such as Rajanigandha, Malancha, Midline and Somoy Transport are operating their buses in full swing, undermining the target of bringing order on the route.
Nagar Paribahan drivers said they had to go through competitions from buses run by other companies on the road.
"Buses of other companies come in front of our buses and stop. Even they get passengers from Nagar Paribahan bus stops," Abdul Jabbar, a Nagar Paribahan driver (BRTC), told TBS.
Driver Md Masud (Trans Silva) told TBS that at least 200 buses were needed on the route and that it was necessary to stop buses of other companies at the same time.
"It must be ensured that passengers get a bus every minute. Besides, if this service is introduced on other routes, there will be no competition among buses at all," he said.
Professor Shamsul Hoque, of civil engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and a transport expert, told TBS that the bus rationalisation initiative to restore transport order needs to be implemented across Dhaka. Besides, buses from other companies will have to be stopped on the routes.
Mentioning that this initiative can restore the confidence of the city dwellers towards public transport, he said, "If the number of vehicles is not increased in this transport to restore order on the roads, the project will come to a standstill like the previous initiatives. And if it is implemented, the anarchy in the transport sector will come down."
A few days ago, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, mayor of the Dhaka South City Corporation and president of the Bus Route Rationalisation Committee, said, "We have decided to increase the number of buses. Trans Silva will be able to launch 20 more buses on this route by April."
The mayor said 225 more buses will be launched soon on three new routes.
Member of Bus Route Rationalisation Committee and Chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) Md Tajul Islam told TBS, "Since it is piloting, we will identify the problems from here, solve them and increase the scope of service quickly. A few more buses from private companies will be added to the current route this month. Besides, buses will soon be launched on three new routes".
In Trans Silva buses, there is one assistant with the driver, but in the double-decker buses of BRTC, only the driver has to handle it. As a result, most of the time there is little chance to check the tickets of passengers.
"Our BRTC double-decker buses have an auto gate lock system so there is no need for helpers. The purpose of Nagar Paribahan is to restore order so after a while there are checkers and they check the tickets," Tajul Islam added.
Drivers complained that passengers travel far with tickets for nearer stops. This situation occurs most often in unmanned BRTC buses.
They also expressed frustration that the salaries of Trans Silva bus drivers, assistants and persons in charge of counters have not been fixed yet.
"Even though we are on duty for eight hours, we have to drive from 4 am to 8/9 pm. It takes us a lot of hard work. Besides, our salary structure has not been determined yet. As a result, many drivers do not want to stay here," Driver Md Masud (Trans Silva).
Shahbagh counterman Zahirul Haque told TBS that the number of passengers of Nagar Paribahan is increasing day by day. Before the start of Ramadan, tickets worth Tk7,000 to Tk8,000 were sold at this counter every day. During Ramadan, the sale has dropped to Tk3,000-4,000.