Karachi: An urban public transport system is still a distant dream for Karachiites when the commuters of Lahore enjoying comfortable commuting in metro buses of their modern bus transit system. The obsolete public transport sector in Karachi comprised junkyard class rusty old buses, narrow-bodied minibuses/ coaches and makeshift Chingchi motorcycle rickshaws is a shame for the seventh largest city of the world. Every day millions of commuters of Karachi travel on rooftops of overcrowded minibuses in a pathetic and risky manner. Even the public transport systems of poorest African cities are comparatively better than the public transport system of Karachi.
The successive governments during past four decades have continued to neglect the urban public transport system of the city and these government sadly included the coalition governments where political forces having mandate from Karachi were at the helms of affairs but they could not give attention to get the public transport system of Karachi improved and facilitate citizens. Two different city Nazims of Karachi, Niamatullah Khan and Mustafa Kamal introduced their own Green bus projects but they vanished when these mayors completed their tenures. There is no proper audit about the funds spent on these buses and where these buses went after the stepping down of their introducing mayors. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) bought yet another 50 Green buses but their fate remained not different from the previous green bus schemes.
The long overdue project of revitalization of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is still in limbo despite passage of one decade. The ruling political leadership is not taking any step to initiate this vital project despite soft-term Japanese loan to finance it is readily available.
The importance of urban public transport is economic and industrial growth of any city cannot be ignored. Mobility of labour force is amongst the main inputs for industrial growth and only efficient and cost-effective urban public transport systems provide this labour mobility. Strangely, if we look back four to five decades back Karachi did enjoy the modern public transport systems in the shape of tram-cars, Karachi Transport Corporation buses and KCR local trains, but with the passage of time instead of further improving these urban transport systems they were systematically eradicated leaving Karachi to become a ‘Chingchi city’.
Nowhere in any other big urban city, are public transport buses allowed to ply without following proper colour code. Nowhere in the world public transport buses get fare from commuters by not issuing bus tickets to them and nowhere rickshaws and taxis are allowed to run without a fare-meter, but in Karachi these civic regulations are not bothered to be followed. Here the public transport sector is free for all, because the provincial government does not see transport sector a priority area. Even the provincial government has not bothered to appoint a proper minister to run the transport department.
The Karachi commuters dream having a modern bus transit system; they dream local trains running in the city and they dream ouster of old rusty smoke-emitting buses and minibuses from their city to be replaced by new wide-bodied CNG buses and they dream no risky and ridiculous public transport mode of Chingchis ply on their streets but these are all distant dreams which cannot be materialized unless the rulers show political will to modernize the urban public transport system of this neglected city.