Four steps to change urban transport culture in Karachi

Karachi: After successful removal of illegal barriers from streets, and encroachments from congested area, Karachi is on the path of becoming an urban city in a real sense, and to accelerate this urbanization process it is logical to change the public transport culture of the city, for which experts suggest taking four simple steps.

The first step is to remove the roof-racks from all minibuses. As commuters traveling while perching on rooftops of crowded minibuses presents a very negative and harmful image of this urban city. It also shows weakness in governance and administration, as the apex court has already issued directives to remove the roof racks from the minibuses in Karachi. The Sindh transport department should request for assistance from the rangers and the minibuses and coaches of Karachi would go without roof-racks within three days.

The second step is to implement official color code of the public transport vehicles of the city. Even two decades back all minibuses of the city were used to be painted in yellow-white and wide-bodied buses in red official bus colors. However, due to weakness of the government departments, especially traffic and transport departments, today public transport bus in Karachi are seen painted in every available color. The city cannot be given an urban look without strictly implementing official color code for public transport vehicles.

The third steps would be to end the different fare between so-called coaches and minibuses, by terming all of them as minibuses with similar bus fare slab. The record of Sindh transport department would show that a new class of minibuses called coaches were created two decades back with the condition that they would run on seat-by-seat method and they would not allow any commuters to travel in them if a vacant seat is not available. However, from the day one this basic condition was violated and commuters do not only travel while standing but also on sitting their roof-tops. In these circumstances there is no logic to allow these so-called minibuses to charge more from the commuters. Hence, there should be no difference in the fare of a mini-bus or a coach. This is also the requirement of justice, equity and fair deal.

The forth step is to make a new fare slab based on the use of CNG, because buses, minibuses and coaches use cheap CNG but they charge bus fare on the basis of diesel use. This is not only immoral and unfair, but a plain fraud. Karachiites have been demanding for years to rationalize bus fares on the use of CNG, but they this old demand is yet to be met. It is high time that the Sindh government should realize that the commuters of Karachi are being exploited and fleeced on daily basis. This is mockery of law, justice, equity and good governance and it should be stopped. However, the transporters would be allowed to charge one or two rupees extra per ticket on the days when CNG is not available in the city, so that their profit margin is not affected.

Taking these four steps would bring a basic change in public transport system of Karachi and give it a respected look. However, these steps could only be implemented in letter and spirit if the Sindh government transport department and other related agencies get able and timely help from the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh), who have already won the hearts of Karachiites by helping in making their city free from illegal barriers and encroachments, besides their prime duty of nabbing law breakers and terrorists.

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