Karachi: The dream of making Karachi a true urban center could not come true till the city gets urbanized public transport, an old demand of the Karachiites.
This city without more than 24million population is larger than many small countries but it still lacks proper urban transport. It citizens depend mostly on makeshift motorcycle rickshaws called Chingchis and hence Karachi itself is known as the Chingchi city. All other urban centres of the world have developed their public transport system, but in Karachi even its half-century old rail-based public transport system, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has been non-functional for last one decade.
Provincial transport department is supposed to solve the public transport issues in Sindh province, but it has failed to deliver in this regard. The officials of this department mostly lack vision as well as strategy of how to modernize the public transport system of the city.
The Karachi commuters’ rights campaign (KCRC) has been demanding for long to take efforts to give the Karachiites a respectable public transport, as travelling on the rooftops of the crowded old and smoky minibuses is an insult of the citizens of this mega city. The demand of the citizens, as well as, the directives of the apex court to remove the roof-racks from Karachi minibuses have been thrown behind the back by government officials and private transporters, who are hand in glove to run the public transport system of the city in virtually mafia style to fleece Karachi commuters.
KCRC suggests four basic steps to revolutionize the public transport system in Karachi: 1. To remove the roof-racks from all minibuses, 2. To implement official colour code of the public transport vehicles of the city, 3. To end the different between so-called coaches and minibuses, by terming all of them as minibuses with similar bus fare slab, and 4. To base the bus fares in the city on the use of CNG.
Taking these four steps would bring a basic change in public transport system of Karachi and give it a respected look. However, these four basic steps need strong political will, as the corrupt nexus of bureaucracy and private transporters would never allow implementation of these four basic steps.
However, the revival of the KCR holds a linchpin position in public transport system of the city. The provincial and federal governments are not serious to run the dysfunctional KCR and they wait for some foreign help to revive it. However, Chairman of Pakistan Railway Workers Union Manzoor Razi believes that the Pakistan railway workers could repair and run the KCR system within three months, provided they are given budget and a free hand. He said it does not require any foreign assistant to run the KCR, as its basic infrastructure including tracks, signals, and railway stations are present and need just repair and renovation before the local trains are run on the KCR loop.
KCRC demands to give attention to both the KCR and road-based public transport. As the KCR also needs the nod from the federal government and it may take some time before the provincial and federal governments come on the same page; however, the minibus system of Karachi could be improved within weeks if the provincial government shows political will and it could take the first step by removing minibus roof-racks, implementing official colour code of the public, ending the fare different coaches and minibuses, and finally recalculating bus fares on the basis of CNG use.