The number of vehicles on the streets of Dhaka are increasing alarmingly. In the last six years, the number of registered vehicles has doubled in this megacity. Currently, 78 percent of the country’s private cars, 16 percent of the motorcycles, and 37 percent of all registered vehicles are running on Dhaka streets. This large number of vehicles is causing perennial traffic congestion and air pollution in the capital, and city dwellers are suffering from these problems on a daily basis.
Since most development activities, along with educational and job opportunities in our country, are pretty much centered in Dhaka, every day thousands of people are moving into this city. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the population growth rate in the country is 1.47 percent, the rate is 3.82 percent for Dhaka City. It means the population growth rate in Dhaka City is 2.35 percent higher than the rest of the country. The city supports 10 percent of the country’s entire population. Growth in population evidently increases the number of commuters as well. To support the growing number of commuters, new vehicles are being launched daily. According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) data, a total of 2,842,319 vehicles were registered countrywide up until November 2016. During this period, 1,050,124 vehicles have been registered in Dhaka City alone. By international standards, at most 2 lakh 16 thousand vehicles are supposed to run on the streets of a capital city.
According to BRTA data, 101,241 vehicles were registered in Dhaka in the first 11 months of last year. By this estimate, an average of 303 cars are being registered in Dhaka every day. BRTA statistics show that up until 2010, the number of registered cars in Dhaka was 593,077, which means that the number of registered cars has doubled in the last six years. Of the 22 types of registered vehicles, most are private cars. The registration of big buses, minibuses, and microbuses was significantly lower. As a result, even though there are more vehicles running in the city streets now, they are not of much help to general commuters. The increasing number of small vehicles such as private cars and motorcycles cannot carry more than a couple of passengers, but they occupy most of the road space. As a result, traffic congestion is reaching an oppressive level day by day. Sometimes the congestion is so intense that people cannot even walk on the footpaths.
Experts say that to reduce dependency on private cars, the establishment of public transportation systems such as metrorail and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are an absolute must. Currently, 17 million people reside in Dhaka city. This figure will increase to 26.3 million by 2035. The Revised Nation in the News TRAFFIC Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) has made recommendations to build as many as 5 metrorail routes and increase the number of streets by 2035. More than 0.2 million new motorcycles have hit the roads across the country in the first nine months of 2016, according to statistics of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). The registered motorcycles make up 48 percent of all registered vehicles. At the same time, bus registration stood at 3.2 percent, minibuses 0.14 percent, and private cars 16 percent. On an average, a bus can carry at least 51 passengers and a minibus 28. However, a private car can hardly make room for more than four passengers. 78 percent of all registered private cars in the country are on the streets of Dhaka.
Dhaka megacity consists of Dhaka North and South city corporations, Narayanganj, and Gazipur city corporations, as well as Savar and Keraniganj areas. From last May, Dhaka north and Dhaka south city corporations have been expanded from 129 square kilometers to 270 square kilometers. 16 unions have been added to the two city corporations. However, the number of roads and streets within this expanded area remains unchanged. In the main metropolitan area, some roads in the Kuril, Banani, Hatirjheel, Zillur Rahman flyover, Mayor Mohammad Hanif flyover and adjacent areas have been expanded. Yet, the traffic police are having a hard time controlling the load of vehicles. Additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Traffic Police, Mohammad Moslehuddin Ahmed, said, “The pressure of small vehicles is hard to control. The situation gets worse when we have to shut down traffic on the airport highway for VIP transportation even for a short time.”
BRTC sources said they are operating 171 buses in the city while at least 200 buses are left out of order. The number of broken down buses in Dhaka is not less than 150. According to BRTA’s ninth circle sources, there are 37,496 registered buses and minibuses operating in Dhaka. Of those, only 6,800 cover 210 routes. On September 29, 2016, at a meeting of the Regional Transport Committee, 24 companies were given permission to launch new buses and minibuses on Dhaka roads. Some buses and minibuses have already been introduced on various routes including, Mirpur-Abdullahpur, Gabtoli- Abdullahpur, Mirpur-Demra, etc. The Padma Bridge is projected to be completed within 2018. Keeping that in mind, a number of new bus services will be launched on the Dhaka- Mawa route. To connect Purbachal with the Kuril flyover, RAJUK has built a 300 foot road. This world-class street will have service lanes, which is a big attraction for mass transport owners. However, they are not eager to launch new buses or minibuses on the main roads of Dhaka City. Dhaka Road Transport Association leader, Khandakar Enayetullah, said, “Due to the lack of government assistance and reduced trips, many owners are selling their buses and minibuses and switching to other lines of business.” The latest BRTA statistics shows that the number of auto rickshaws registered in the last 11 months make up 0.57 percent of the overall vehicle registration in Dhaka. One-third of the 9013 registered auto rickshaws are out of order. The decision to launch 5,000 new auto-rickshaws has been pending for months now.
In 2016, more trucks were registered than buses. Of the total registered vehicles, 3.9 percent were trucks, 3.9 percent jeeps (for personal and /or business purpose), 4.8 percent microbuses, and only 0.70 percent human haulers. While Dhaka has 36,471 taxis on paper, only around 600 taxis are running on a regular basis. 4,816 human haulers are carrying passengers every day, and 718 of them were registered last year. According to a survey conducted by Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA), the public transport of Dhaka needs 2.1 million trips every day to meet the demand. In reality, not even half of those trips are being carried out due to an insufficient number of vehicles. The streets are crowded with small vehicles that cannot carry more than a couple of passengers at a time. An ideal city should have streets covering 25 percent of its entire land area. However, only 7 percent of the land is covered by roads in Dhaka. With the increase in population and expansion of the city, the need for more road space and proper traffic management has become a pressing issue.
The Road Transports and Bridges Ministry is trying to bring the issue of car registration directly under government control. The ministry sources said a draft of the Road Transport Act 2016 has been issued, which includes specific directives about the number of private cars owned by individuals, families, and organizations. The government will be able to limit the number of private autos per family/individual/ organization by issuing notices. On November 8, the ministry issued an order not allowing route permits to buses with less than 42 seats. Despite these initiatives, the public- friendly transportation system is not being ensured in Dhaka. Lack of coordination among Dhaka north and south city corporations, RAJUK, LGED, DTCA, traffic police, BRTA and other associated organizations, coupled with the absence of government control in the transport sector, are further complicating the problems.