The Dhaka north and south city corporations launched the service on two routes: from Dhanmondi to Azimpur, and Abdullahpur to Motijheel
The newly launched BRTC circular bus service is yet to draw the attention of commuters as expected, mainly due to poor publicity and high fares.
Visiting several busy intersections of Dhaka, including Azimpur, City College, Kalagaban, and Russel Square, on Thursday and Friday, it was found that many people were unaware of the new bus service. Two traffic policemen, who spoke with this reporter, also said they did not have complete knowledge of the service.
There are currently no designated stoppages for the service from Russel Square to Azimpur.
Several commuters on separate BRTC buses running under the service, complained of excessive bus fares, and said this was making them less interested in the service. BRTC bus staff members echoed the commuters’ sentiments.
In the New Market area, elderly trader, Shukkur Muhammad said, he had been looking for the BRTC buses on Friday afternoon, but could not get hold of any.
Highly enthusiastic about the service, Shukkur said: “I heard of the newly launched BRTC buses, but I don’t know any details about them.”
Ruhul Amin, a businessman, who was waiting for a bus at Dhanmondi-32 intersection on Thursday, said he knew the new bus service had been launched, but did not see much publicity about it.
Claiming that fares on the new bus service are excessive, private university student, Fazle Rabbi said: “Taking a bus from Azimpur to the City College intersection usually costs Tk5, but buses under the new service charge Tk10. Paying double for such a short distance is way too much for us.”
The service was introduced in Dhaka city on Wednesday, with the aim of bringing discipline to public transportation and easing the sufferings of commuters.
The Dhaka north and south city corporations launched the service on two routes: from Dhanmondi to Azimpur, and Abdullahpur to Motijheel.
The move came in the wake of student protests, demanding road safety, following the recent death of a private university student at Kuril, after he was run over by a bus. This was the second such mass agitation since last August, when nearly the all of Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh were brought to a standstill amid protests following the death of two college students, who were also run over by a bus.
Four AC buses are currently running on the Dhanmondi-Azimpur route, and the same number of double-deckers on the Abdullahpur-Motijheel route.
On the Dhanmondi-Azimpur route, passengers are charged Tk10, Tk20, or Tk30 depending on the distance travelled. The route includes 36 stoppages.
Although the BRTC said, the buses will be available for commuters at 5-10min intervals, an inspection at Azimpur on Friday afternoon revealed that the buses were delayed by 15-20 mins due to stoppages.
Tanzil Shahriar, who was on a BRTC bus at Azimpur, said that passengers had no choice but to wait in their seat for more than 10 minutes before the driver would leave the stoppage.
He added, there were few passengers on the bus, more ridership could be generated, if there was a well-planned campaign about the service, which runs from 6:30am-8pm.
Echoing that the number of passengers was lower than expected, Bus driver Abdur Razzak said: “Since this is a new service on the route, the commuters are not well informed about it yet. Moreover, the bus fare is an issue, as most people want to commute at an affordable cost.”
Poor response from passengers
AK Azad, ticket seller at the makeshift Azimpur counter of BRTC circular buses, said the number of commuters using the new service is not very high at this point.
“In the course of time, the situation will improve,” he hoped.
Azad said, he sold about 200 out of 300 tickets on Thursday, the first day of the service. The figure stood merely at 100 by 3pm on Friday.
What do officials say?
DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon, who on Wednesday, promised the highest standard of service at the lowest possible cost. The next day, he said that the service was yet to be fully functional.
The service should be fully operational in two weeks, he added.BRTC Chairman Farid Ahmed Bhuiyan said fares on the fully air-conditioned buses are comparatively low.
“The Azimpur-Dhanmondi circular route has a 10-km stretch and, considering the distance, the fare is relatively lower than that of Dhaka Chaka (the city’s maiden circular bus service),” he said.
When asked about the issue of low publicity, he said, the BRTC had already uploaded information about the service on its website.
However, there was no such information on the notice board of the website as of 7pm on Friday.
Saying that initiatives for publicizing the service will be taken, the BTRC chief said, the service may be expanded to Mohammadpur.
Recalling that a similar service launched for schoolchildren, a few years ago that eventually failed, Ashis Kumar Dey, general secretary of the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways, said the service must not embrace the same fate.
Nevertheless, he is optimistic that the service may still help curtail road fatalities.
What is in the offing?
On Wednesday, Md Almas Ali, deputy general manager (operation of buses) of DSCC, said they will gradually add at least 10 more AC buses on the Azimpur-Dhanmondi route.
“The service will start from 6:30am and may continue until 10pm, subject to commuter demand,” he added.
Meanwhile, a BRTC press release, the same day said, 20 more double-deckers will be added to the Abdullahpur-Motijheel route in the next two weeks.
On Sunday afternoon, Sohrab Hossain, an official of BRTC’s Motijheel bus depot, said, they will set up ticket counters after assessing the response from commuters on the Dhanmondi-Azimpur route.
“Our staff members are selling tickets at temporary counters, but we will very soon set up proper counters, at the spots where there is high demand,” he said.
Regarding the low turnout of passengers, he said the buses are making trips with half their seats empty in many cases, but they are also filled to capacity on some occasions.