The government has been working on franchising a new transport system in Dhaka for two years.
What is popularly known as the colour-coded bus service will be operated by six bus companies and will aim to introduce a disciplined public transportation system.
According to the plan, all private bus operators will come under the six companies and operate bus services on 22 major routes, instead of the 100 existing bus routes that make the city chaotic. The bus services are supposed to be in six colours – orange, blue, maroon, pink, violet, and green.
The idea of colour-coded buses, originally conceived by deceased DNCC mayor Annisul Huq to remodel Dhaka’s broken transport system, appears close to fruition.
Despite many discussions between the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) and stakeholders to fix the mode of operation, a concrete decision has not yet been taken.
At a DTCA-stakeholder meeting on July 24, 2017, around 2,000 bus operators and workers agreed to join the colour-coded system in the presence of former mayor Annisul Huq and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader. Annisul negotiated with transport owners, but since his death, the progress of the project slowed down drastically and DTCA could not convince bus owners to follow through.
DTCA officials say they asked bus owners to join the colour-coded bus fleets for a trial, but a majority of them were not positive about the colour coding plan, even though some of the same people had agreed to the plan at the previous meeting.
“The majority of bus owners are considering joining the franchised fleets, but the delays by the concerned authorities put them off,” said Khandakar Enayetullah, secretary general of the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity.
How the service will be implemented
The DTCA has planned to start a trial run with a colour-coded bus service on the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Sayedabad route, with 105 buses of one company, but the authorities have not been able to proceed despite a year having gone by.
According to the plan, the government will provide support to bus operators by providing them with low-interest bank loans to buy buses. The new buses will then be incorporated into the colour-coded system and run the Airport-Sayedabad route.
However, given the progress so far it seems it will take an immensely long time for the project to get on its feet.
On the other hand, existing bus operators on the Airport-Sayedabad route have their operations up and running for some time now.
Moreover, the DTCA has decided to make a separate lane for the colour-coded buses on the existing road, which will delay the process further.
According to the decision, the colour-coded buses will travel a distance of 17km in the dedicated lane with stops at 11 places in Badda, Rampura, and Khilgaon. If the trial run is successful, the service will gradually be extended to other selected areas.
“If a dedicated lane is set, the original road will become narrower because there is no additional space in the four-lane Pragati Sarani. If a road already plagued by jams becomes a lane narrower, it simply cannot handle both city and long-distance traffic,” said Prof Sarwar Jahan of the department of urban and regional planning in Buet.
DTCA Executive Director Syed Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have already decided we will do a trial run with the dedicated lane. However, we are still trying to determine which lane we will select. We might just follow the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.”
Usually the BRT system creates a dedicated section for buses in the middle of the road.
The DTCA has not yet determined the 22 routes to be covered by the colour-coded bus services.
“The Spanish consultancy firm Eptisa is working on sorting out the bus routes, with the biggest areas of coverage being the focal point,” said Syed Ahmed.
According to one study, only 3,600 buses ply around the Indian city of Mumbai, but these carry an average of 4.8 million passengers a day. This means that a bus can carry 1,333 passengers per day if it follows the colour-coded system.
Moreover, according to another study by the civil engineering department of Buet, a total of three million passengers ride public buses in Dhaka every day, with each bus carrying only 500 passengers with about 6,000 buses and minibuses on the streets of Dhaka. This inefficiency is due to an undisciplined system and poor traffic policing.
DNCC considered both these studies when conducting their study on a possible colour-coded bus service for Dhaka in March 2016.
The study conducted by DNCC says a total of 6,116 buses and minibuses are registered in Dhaka city, with 3,212 buses and 2,904 minibuses. However, in reality around 4,500 buses run every day. If only 4,000 buses ran on the colour-coded system, the traffic problem would be greatly alleviated.