The public transportation system in Dhaka is falling apart. Not a shred of order can be seen at any level of the transportation system. The discrepancy in bus fares, deception in the name of sitting, gate-lock and special services, mistreatment of passengers, traffic mismanagement, etc., have turned public transport into machines of unbridled public suffering. The syndicates of transport owners only protect their own interests, completely disregarding the problems of the masses.
Chaotic city service Dhaka city has been struggling with its uncontrollable traffic and dysfunctional transportation system for years. Over 550,000 vehicles are running on the city’s streets. Compared to the massive population and growing number of vehicles, the city has only about 88 kilometers of roads. Onethird of the existing roads have already been illegally occupied. By international standards, any city should have roads over 25 percent of its total land area, whereas Bangladesh only has 8 percent in roads. As a result, traffic congestion has become a routine experience in the daily life of Dhaka city dwellers.
A large number of new private cars are taking over the city streets every day. According to a 2013 survey, only six percent of commuters in Dhaka use private vehicles but they occupy nearly 80 percent of the streets in the city. Last year, 18,010 new cars ran on the streets, which means 57 new cars were released to the roads every day. In the first two months of the current year, 347 new cars followed suit, at a rate of 57 cars a day. Alongside, over 150 motorbikes are added to the streets every day. Last year, over 53,738 new motorbikes were introduced to Dhaka streets, at the rate of 149 per day. In the last two months, 100,079 motorbikes took to the streets at a daily rate of 167. Without controlling the number of private cars and bikes, and implementing a proper traffic management system, the chaotic condition in public transportation will not stop, experts said.
The capital's bus owners are charging passengers fares as they wish every day, ignoring governmentset fares. In the absence of monitoring, city bus operators are charging passengers higher fares in the name of “sitting”, ”gate-lock”, “nonstop”, and other so-called special services. Passengers are being forced to pay long-distance fares even if they travel a short distance. Abdul Hakim, an executive in a private company goes to his Motijheel office from Sheorapara every day. He said, “Every morning, going to the Nation in the News TRANSPORTATION office is like a war. Most buses on the Mirpur-Pallabi route have taken up new branding such as “sittingservice”, “gate-lock”, “non-stop”, “time-bound”, “speedy service”, and “counter service”, etc. These buses deliberately keep their doors shut, and zoom by right in front of us every day. Passengers from Taltola, Sheorapara, and Kazipara cannot board these buses. If their office time is 9.00am, they have to get out of their home before 7:00 in the morning.”
According to a bus fare chart prepared by Dhaka Metro's Regional Transport Committee, the fare for buses and minibuses is BDT1.7 and BDT1.6 per kilometer. The minimum fare was fixed at BDT7 and BDT5 respectively. However, most bus companies pay no attention to the fare chart and demand extra fare from passengers. The maximum fare from Jatrabari to Motijheel, only three kilometers apart, should be BDT5 but passengers have to pay BDT10 for the ride on a so-called sitting-service bus. Meshkat and Gabtoli Link (sitting service) both charge BDT20 per passenger on the Jatrabari-Farmgate route. Many buses charge BDT10 from Gulistan to Farmgate but Himachal and Swadhin bus services charge BDT25.
According to the BRTA website, the fare should not be more than BDT8 for short distances on large buses. Some of the buses have a “direct fare system” where a passenger has to pay the full fare for the last stop destination even if she or he is supposed to gets off the bus way before that stop. Some charge extra money in the name of sitting service. During rush hour, these “sitting service” buses turn into regular buses with people standing in the aisle. Despite taking extra money from the passengers, these buses provide the lowest quality of service. Most of these buses do not even have proper seats. The female passenger seats are usually above or beside the hot engine of the bus, which is not only uncomfortable but also very unhealthy.
The drivers and conductors of the buses stop their vehicles countless times and take on passengers until the buses are packed to the gills. Almost every day the conductors, drivers and passengers get involved in heated arguments over bus fares. Most of the local buses on various routes including Choice, Bikolpo, Bihangya, Shikhor, ETC, United, Dishari, New Vision, Super Seating, and Shikor on Mirpur route; Dipon on Mohammadpur and Gazipur routes, and Provati, Azmeri, etc., on Gazipur route are charging passengers extra money in the name of special service. Even the local mini buses claim to be sitting service when there is a shortage of transport. During the off-peak hours, the same vehicles operate as local buses.
The irregularities in the transportation system are going on right under the public eye, and the authorities seem to be completely oblivious to the problem. BRTA is yet to take strict action on most of the complaints they received this year. Although they sometimes conduct mobile court raids, due to the lack of police support they often remain unsuccessful. The transport owners and workers are ruthless in protecting their own interests.
Mozammel Haque Choudhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kolyan Samity, said, “The passengers have nowhere to go. There is no representative for passengers on the Dhaka Metropolitan Regional Transport Committee (Metro RTC). Due to the monopoly dominance of transport owners, irregularities in this sector continue unabated.