[Orginally published in The Nation]
ISLAMABAD – The Federal Capital has been witnessing a boom in the construction of wide avenues, convenient underpasses and wonderful flyovers apart from the expansion of existing roads, and all of this has made commuting around the capital increasingly convenient and fast.
However, the city planners need to realise that instead of providing greater opportunities for the increase in the number of cars in the city, an efficient transport system needs to be formulated. There are several reasons for this need.
Firstly, with the skyrocketing prices of oil and the increase in price of CNG, maintaining a car has become increasingly expensive for the general public.
Taxis also charge exuberant rates for even shorter routes, with the CNG ‘off days’ adding (the otherwise scarce) fuel to the already high rates. “I often have to wait outside my college for 15 to 20 minutes looking for a taxi on the days CNG is not available. I cannot afford a car, but the inconvenience the unavailability of taxis causes is adding to the trouble of paying high rates,” said Umair Mir, a student.
Secondly, the current transport system is inadequate and inefficient, with only a few routes being covered by mini-vans that are in bad conditions. Thirdly, the carbon emitted from a large number of cars around the capital is a cause of pollution in the otherwise green and clean city. Moreover, there is a need to conserve oil to the optimum considering the fast-depletion of the natural resource.
There is a problem of parking space for cars as well, with public playgrounds being used as parking lots in one sector of the capital, and cars often parked on the roadside around most commercial areas. With a transport system, the commercial centres of the city can be declared ‘no car areas’ for the convenience of visitors. “Sometimes I risk a parking ticket by parking my car in no-parking areas, only because there is no space available to park my car!” said Waleed Ahmed, a frequent shopper at the Jinnah Super Market.
An efficient transport system will enable the public to commute around the city without having to worry about the cost of movement, minimise pollution, and save them the worry of finding a convenient parking spot.
A ray of hope appeared in the capital last year with the commencement of a CNG-powered long bus service administered the traffic police, but the sight of it is as rare as a blue moon. Taxpayers would benefit immensely from investment by the authorities in a reliable public transport system apart from the liberal expenditure on the construction and expansion of road networks.