PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: BULL'S EYE TO OIL PRICE SHOOTS
IS INCREASING TRANSPORT FARE JUSTIFIABLE?
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (email@example.com)
Mar 31 - Apr 06, 2008
As government is increasing price of petroleum products every fortnightly public transporters are also looking ahead to raise transport fares. Although the proportion is not decided the increase may add up to monthly expenditures of regular commuters on public transport particularly in the mega city like Karachi where approximately 70 % population travels in the public transport. The rise in prices of diesel and petrol automatically increases the cost of travelling from one point to another for public and private transports. However, given the service quality of public transports, increase in any proportion of travel-fare is incongruent. Since, public transports carry passengers-load in excess of predefined limit in violation of motor vehicle act they already earn more fares per travel than made-for. Instead of seat-by-seat travelling travellers like inanimate objects are stuffed in buses and coaches to travel. Therefore, it gives additional profits to the transporters. The nightmarish experience of commuting in public transports in Karachi emanates spate of problems not only for common people but also for administration and environment. Nevertheless, the transport fare is directly proportional to the growing cost of inputs. According to Dr. Tahir Soomro, Former EDO Transport & Communications rise in public transport fare is inevitable as long as cost of rendering transport services increases. Increase in transport fare is justifiable; however, delivery of adequate transport services to the passengers must be ensured by the governing administration and must be adhered to by the transporters.
Undoubtedly, public transports run by private businessmen have relentless impact of price rise of diesel and have expensive traveling for public, but government should have evaluated the impact density prior to show compliance to fare-raise of Rs. 2 per kilometer of taxis and rickshaws as this would have shown that actual increase in cost of a diesel-run taxi per kilometer following latest revision in diesel price had exceeded not over Re. 0.20. However, Rs. 0.20 per kilometer fare-raise was allowed to inter-city bus transports. With a rough estimate, a diesel-run taxi gives 10 kilometers average mileage per liter and the mileage increases with the decrease of horsepower; before being revised to Rs. 38, 10 kilometers spent Rs. 36 vis-‡-vis Rs. 38 as of now, a rise of only Rs. 2 per 10 kilometers. Eerily permitted Rs. 2 per kilometer fare-raise transport ministry seems to have desultory price determination formula.
Oil price hike is an international phenomenon and transport sector is the direct hit of resultant diesel or motor gasoline price up per litre. Transportation is one of the crucial and dynamic sectors, which derive economic growth and malfunction of which dismantles trade and industrial activities as well as societal decorum. Commendable are the measures taken by the CDGK that heavily and holistically is spending on road infrastructure and planning to revitalize transportation systems of the mega polis all in all. However, public ethos, lack of institutionalization, mismanagement, and decentralization remain few of the holes that need to be plugged at once. Besides, vehicular traffic congestion is increasing the time wastage ratio substantially. Only traffic congestion in central business district causes unnecessary wastage of gasoline. It is as important that element of morning peak hour is made of study trips. According to JICA-a Japanese organization-study conducted for traffic situation in Karachi in 2005 revealed out of total 24.227 million trips made in a typical weekdays, 60 percent is made by students in public transports. International experience has proved mere road expansion can not solve traffic congestion problems instead road improvements can solve it. The city is in dire need of not only road and routes expansion but also hurdles in the way of smooth traffic flow should immediately be removed.
ALTERNATIVE MODES OF TRANSPORTS
In developed countries average commuters, if losing more time on traveling, bear a less burden on pockets than commuters of developing countries do because of difference in the income level, said Dr. Tahir. According to an international survey conducted mainly for cities in the Middle East, an average office worker spends one hour and forty five minutes a day on account of traveling in Dubai that is the highest traveling time compared with the other major cities. He said in Pakistan 60 percent of public commute in private vehicles whereas in USA this figure is 90 percent. Gain saying is the fact that there vehicular traffic is operating under stringent rules and regulations and people are dutifully abiding by the laws nonetheless time-spend on travel is high.
Spread well over an area of approximately 3,600 Square Kilometers, Karachi is the backbone of the national economy and ranked on 21st amongst largest cities of the world and 13th in Asia. Attracting a significant chunk of migrants from upper Sindh and all over provinces, its population of over 15.5 million is growing annually at a rate of 6 %. With road networks of 9,944 KM, the city has a 45 percent of the total vehicles in Pakistan. So far, there are briefly three transit services being used by commuters in Karachi: public transports including para-transit services (rickshaws, taxis); private vehicles and defunct Karachi Circular Railways (KCR), which is scarcely being utilized by the public majority of them formed by office workers. There are 16 Railway Stations along the existing KCR system constructed in between 1960 and 1964.
Law enforcers should restrict public transports not to cross minimum passengers sitting limit according to the motor vehicle ordinance that states a certain passengers-load limit for a public transport and imposes heavy fine on flouting. Unfortunately this law breaking is common with impunity. The complex web of multifarious government authorities to implement the traffic rules incapacitates the effectiveness of the implementation. The conflict in command is the cause of diversified or incomplete control. Dr. Tahir said traffic law enforcers have no administrative backup in implementing laws, which exist only on papers. In practicality, traffic rules violation is not controllable because of the division of commands, he added.
He advocates of unity in command to run city administration. He said traffic police should be answerable to city administration that can implement traffic rules and regulations in a better and systematic pattern. He said presently transportation department is responsible for issuing permits to public transport while it rarely cancels permit of traffic rules violator. Basically, complete power is not enjoyed by the authority, he said and added metropolitan transport authority should be established with an independent judicial transport administration control. He preferably favours first class magisterial power to the city transport department in order to wield unison in law enforcement from the single authority.
According to Syed Jawad Hussain, Traffic Engineer, Engineering Consultants International Ltd., which was a co-designer of Master Plan 2020, Karachi is the only mega city where public transportation sector is operated by the private transporters. Government should head public transportation administration to make it more formalized.
Dr. Tahir said removing private sector role from transportation would not prove effective measure as in past government-run transportation services failed owing to ever-increasing cost in relation to subsidy that put immense burden on governmentís development expenditures. He argued therefore participation of private sector in transportation is very important.