Public transport has been getting worse in the commercial hub of the country, Karachi, as nearly 12,500 mini-buses have stopped operating in merely nine years, a study from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stated.
The size of the bus fleet in Karachi has been declining as the number of mini-buses in the city has also fallen from 22,000 in 2010-11 to around 9,500 at present.
The deficit of public transport has caused inconvenience to commuters at large, however, alternate options such as private vehicles (cars and bikes), carpooling ride services, and rickshaws are replacing the buses to meet the need of the public.
The existing buses are overcrowded and have become highly risky and uncomfortable for the public, as around 45 passengers compete for a single bus seat in Karachi, compared to just 8 passengers in Hong Kong, China, and 12 passengers in Mumbai.
The roads are also overcrowded. To be specific, 110 percent of the total capacity of roads in Karachi is utilized, as implied by an average volume-to-capacity road traffic ratio of 1.1.
In terms of the number of vehicles on the roads, public transport has a share of 5 percent, while cars and motorcycles have a share of 84 percent. Yet, it is public transport that shoulders the burden of 42 percent of travelers, while cars and motorcycles only account for 40 percent of the commuters.
Alternate Ways of Commuting in Karachi
When public transport fails to meet the demand, citizens prefer owning and commuting via private vehicles instead. This idea receives support from the data, with sales of passenger cars, motorcycles and three-wheelers all on an upward trajectory for the past few years.
Carpooling services particularly Uber and Careem have been popular among middle and lower-middle income groups. These services offer rides not only through cars but by rickshaw and now bike as well.
According to the SBP study quoting World Bank’s statistics, an estimated 8,000 additional buses are required to meet the immediate demand alone. The introduction of various transport systems such as Orange Bus and the proposed Karachi Circular Railway may help meet the deficit of public transport in Karachi.
These projects will not be enough and more such projects should be introduced. Ideally, public transport should replace private transport in the city which will improve the overall environment of the city with fewer carbon emissions and also reduce the consumption of petroleum products that will also ultimately ease the burden on the imports bill.