KARACHI: SHIFTING OF INTER-CITY BUS TERMINALS TO KTC DEPOTS

By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
July 12 - 18, 2004

Karachi is the business capital of Pakistan and the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) has been taking one initiative after the other to improve its physical infrastructure for convenience of the Karachiites as well as the tourists. One such initiative, according to recent press reports, is the shifting of nearly 150 inter-city bus terminals, which are causing hardships to the people especially by roadside parking, often against the rules. In the first phase, existing bus terminals would be shifted from residential and commercial areas to the existing depots of the defunct KTC at Model Colony, Orangi, Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Malir. These depots are to a large extent in the outskirts of Karachi. Facilities such as waiting rooms, toilets, telephone booths, restaurants, bus repair workshop, medical store, ambulance and fire fighting services, and other amenities would be provided at each terminals for the traveling passengers, bus drivers/conductors, mechanics and other visitors. The project has been estimated to cost Rs 15 million and the concerned department has been asked to initiate construction on priority basis. The CDGK has also called for arranging shuttle service for the people to reach their destination in the city from these new terminals.

In the second phase, these bus terminals would be shifted from KTC depots mentioned above to the highways in order to reduce traffic pressure on intra-city roads. The Karachi Nazim has reportedly asked for identifying suitable extracts of land for these terminals on RCD Highway for buses coming from Balochistan, and on National and Super Highways for buses from the NWFP, Punjab and Sindh. It may be mentioned that the CDGK has already invited competitive requests for proposal (RFP) from the private sector for the operation and management of the inter-city/inter-province terminals to be constructed in due course for the purpose.

Shifting of the inter-city bus terminals in the first phase from the city areas to the four KTC depots is an important project. On completion it shall have long-lasting impact on the city's traffic flow and environment. It is expected that the shifting would be carried out in a planned manner and that the whole process would be completed without undue hardships to the traveling public. In order to complete the shifting process smoothly, the CDGK is urged to also consider the following aspects that have strong bearing on the success of the project.

It is presumed that before deciding on the shifting project, the CDGK has surveyed all important aspects of the inter-city bus terminals including the number of buses leaving and arriving on each day, approximate number of passengers traveling in each direction, time schedule of buses starting outward journey or the schedule for the buses coming from other cities, type and extent of bus repair-work/maintenance carried out and the allied facilities available for the passengers as well as the drivers, conductors, mechanics and cashiers. Such data would be useful for proper planning and construction of facilities at each of the four KTC depots selected for the project. It is suggested that before the actual implementation starts, the CDGK might ascertain that location-wise each of the four depots of the defunct KTC are the best sites for the purpose and the inter-city buses will not be required to make long detours to reach these depots. The detours, if any, shall increase operating cost and total time for each round trip and thus might not be liked.

The depots located at Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Malir and Model Colony are easily approachable, at least for part of the journey, by using Shahrah-e-Faisal which also caters the VVIP movement to Karachi's Quaid-e-Azam International Airport. Apart from usual traffic comprising buses, mini-buses, taxis, rickshaws, etc the shuttle buses would be rushing passengers to one or the other KTC depot, using this important road for part of their journey. There are chances that during VVIP movement, vehicular traffic might be held up for some time or diverted to other roads and as a result the intending inter-city/inter-province passengers might be delayed. The CDGK is urged to look into this aspect as well and if justified try to locate some of the inter-city bus terminals at a place that has lesser chance of traffic congestion or delays due to frequent traffic diversion.

It is estimated that on an average buses and related personnel from 37 to 40 bus terminals in the city will require to be shifted to each of the four KTC depots. It needs to be ascertained whether there shall be enough of open space for properly accommodating large number of buses shifting from the city. If the available space is found inadequate for night parking or for properly regulating the departure or arrival of buses own by different operators, the CDGK might look for some other large extracts of land for shifting some of the inter-city bus terminals. The facilities being developed at each KTC depot should also be adequate for the traveling passengers as well as the people who would be visiting the KTC depots to see off the passengers or to receive them on arrival. Actual shifting of bus terminals might also be adjusting according to the progress in the physical construction of the facilities including waiting rooms, toilets, workshops, etc at each of the KTC depots. Introduction of proper shuttle service is similarly essential. Without these facilities and the shuttle service, shifting might face resistance and protests.

Moreover, the development of the city terminals for buses plying in the city including shuttle-buses, the inter-city terminals at KTC depots and the new inter-city terminals on highways might be coordinated for smooth implementation of shifting project without undue hardships to the traveling public.

One gets the impression from the press reports that the project for shifting the inter-city bus terminals to KTC depots will cost Rs 15 million. It is felt that this amount might not suffice for developing facilities such as waiting rooms, toilets, telephone booths, restaurants, bus repair workshop, medical store, ambulance and fire fighting services, etc at each of the four KTC depots. Chances are that each depot would cost much more than this amount and therefore this aspect needs to be further examined by CDGK authorities. In case additional funds are required, the same might be arranged well in time.

Congestion and traffic on roads might improve substantially if the operation of the shuttle-buses for ferrying passengers is regulated and monitored properly. Presently, the inter-city buses, mostly air-conditioned, plying on the inter-city routes are parked on the sides of the city roads and start the journey according to a given schedule with some flexibility for occupancy of all the seats and loading of the luggage. Due to shifting of these terminals from city areas to the KTC depots, these buses would not enter the city but large number of shuttle buses will operate on city roads carrying intending passengers from the KTC depots to the city bus terminals. Traffic flow could improve with better traffic management.

The inter-city bus operators in many cases might not be paying any fees to the CDGK for use of the road-side space as inter-city bus terminal. At KTC depots they shall be obliged to pay certain fee for each journey. They might not like it at all or they might protest saying the fee is excessive. They might offer resistance due to other reasons such as loss of prime location for picking of the inter-city passengers. It might not be a bad idea to start a constructive dialogue with the bus operators and convince them of the benefits of shifting to the KTC depots. In certain cases the authorities might have to offer incentives to the bus operators for shifting to the KTC depots within a reasonable time frame. The CDGK might consider allowing each of the large operators to operate a shuttle bus, from specified city bus terminal, to ferry the passengers booked with them to the respective KTC depots, for onward transfer to the inter-city buses operated by them. This can be one of the incentives from the CDGK to the existing inter-city bus operators. It will also save the CDGK from arranging independent shuttle buses for ferrying the passengers. The arrangements shall have better chances of success if the KTC depots with adequate parking space and allied facilities are provided as per the agreed plans. Besides, the CDGK might arrange facilities at KTC depots for security check of passengers as well as the luggage carried by these passengers.

The inter-city buses at present are mostly repaired by the mechanics who have set up workshops in and around the inter-city bus terminals. Some of the drivers and conductors get boarding and lodging in make-shifts hotels and restaurants in the vicinity. The shifting of the inter-city bus terminals to KTC depots will mean disruption of all existing arrangements to the inconvenience of all the people involved in bus operations or other services to the passengers as well as the bus operators. Due to this factor shifting to KTC depots might not be readily acceptable to the bus operators. The CDGK through a policy package involving offer of incentives and construction of adequate facilities at KTC depots might get better results through constructive talks with the bus operators.

The shifting of the bus terminals to the KTC depots has to be properly managed. It would be desirable if the shifting starts first of the inter-city bus terminals located in populated areas. In case facilities at KTC are not yet in place, the bus terminals in the populated areas might be shifted temporarily to the inter-city bus terminals in the commercial areas. The bus terminals in the commercial areas might be considered in the second stage for shifting to KTC depots.

Presently the inter-city as well as inter-province bus terminals are conveniently located and the intending passengers can reach there by hiring a rickshaw, taxi, car or public transport if available and considered convenient on case to case basis. After the inter-city terminals are shifted to KTC depots, the intending passengers would normally travel to the shuttle-bus terminals in the city or if the shuttle busses are not available they shall be traveling to the respective KTC depot, using other means of transport. This might cause more discomfort and might be costlier and more time consuming. Most inter-city passengers carry some luggage which would be causing inconvenience or get damaged during transfer from one mode of transport to the other. The CDGK has to ensure that the shuttle bus operations are polite and efficient, the fare is not excessive and there is enough space in each shuttle bus to store the luggage entrusted by the passengers for delivery to them at KTC depots. The passengers would be glad to use train services provided by the Karachi Circular Railways, the revival of which also on the cards.