Bus and Rickshaws

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Vehicle Mix and Road Space in Dhaka: The Current Situation and Future Scenarios

Debra Efroymson Mahabubul Bari

June 2005

WBB Trust

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Summary Traffic is an enormous problem in Dhaka, and important decisions need to be made about reducing traffic jams. While many officials and others blame rickshaws for Dhaka’s traffic problems, it is important to look at the actual situation on Dhaka’s roads, in terms of how many people are getting about and how much space they require to do so. Only through an analysis of our streets can we make sound decisions about traffic management. This paper looks at the percentage of passengers being moved by different modes, and the amount of road space those modes require. Analysis of number of passengers per mode, road space required, and other factors reveals that while rickshaws take a significant amount of road space, they also move a similar share of passengers to the space they require, while cars take up a similar amount in order to move very few people. It is thus clear that it is private cars, not rickshaws, that are the main contributors to our traffic jams, and that while policies to reduce rickshaws will be of little effect, policies to reduce the use of private cars will greatly alleviate the traffic jams—benefiting current car drivers as well as all other road users. This paper also shows how a shift from private cars to public transport (buses) and non-motorized transport will result in a number of other significant benefits to our environment, economy, health, and society. While it is easy to blame all our traffic problems on the rickshaw, it is important to make our decisions based not on personal prejudices but on the facts. After all, allowing our policy to be based on biases towards elite groups will hurt not only the masses, but the very elite that were meant to benefit. How much wiser to develop policies that allow for freer movement of everyone, while also improving other aspects of our lives, health, environment and economy.

International experience Let us remember that no city in the world has eliminated or reduced traffic jams by banning rickshaws, though some cities certainly have tried it—including Bangkok and Jakarta, both famous for their intolerable traffic jams despite having long since banned rickshaws. In fact, traffic jams are a dominant feature of car-dependent cities, be they rich or poor, Western or Eastern. Better traffic control, more roads and flyovers, and more lanes in existing roads do not eliminate traffic jams; car traffic simply expands to fit all available space. Meanwhile, the extra road space will have been built by tearing down destinations that then move farther apart, creating more need for travel. In addition, investment in roads means less money available for investment in public transit and improvement of footpaths—and thus more reliance on cars, more need for roads, and the building of yet more roads. The vicious cycle never ends, and traffic only worsens. Cars, Fuel, and Government Expenditures: Lessons from Indonesia “In the revised 2004 state budget, currently being deliberated by the House of Representatives, the government proposed a whopping 63 trillion rupiah (EUR 5.6 billion) fuel subsidy, almost equal to the 69.6 trillion rupiah proposed for development spending throughout the year. The ballooning fuel subsidy has caused

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concern as it has hampered the government's efforts to promote education and health programmes. Critics note that it has been enjoyed by car owners rather the poor, and a large volume of the subsidised fuel has been smuggled out of the country.”1

Los Angeles, California is the most car-centric city in the United States, and has the worst traffic jams in the country. The average commuter spends 93 hours a year, or almost four whole days, stuck in traffic.2 An astounding 70% of space in downtown Los Angeles and Houston, Texas is devoted to the car: roads and parking.3 That leaves only...
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