How long does it take to go from Bangladesh Television to Motijheel or Shahbag? Or to the opposite direction, say, to Uttara via bashundhara-kuril-Bishwaroad? 4 or 5 years ago, the answer would be-- 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the traffic. But now, only God knows. Even if you are fortunate enough to thrust into a bus, it is quite impossible to reach motijheel before 1 hour and a half, and if the destination is Uttara, sometimes it would take almost 2 hours. And if you need to go to Ghazipur or Mirpur, you can easily take the whole day’s fuel with you, prepared to take a nap too, may be you will reach there by evening.
Now, who, or what are responsible? The reason is obviously “traffic congestion”. And the calculation of time given here only applies if you can get on board a bus or a taxi. The first question comes to any commuter is, shall I get a transport? There are many pompous names of the bus services like “sitting service”, “Direct” etc., but all in all they all are beyond capacity. The gentlemen can somehow manage to get into a bus after failing to catch the handle of 5 or 6 buses, but the condition of the ladies beggar’s description. Having seen the opportunity, the cng-drivers or rickshaw-pullers escalates the fare sky-high. There is no limit of fares, and the commuting people are agreed even with this unfair means, still they cannot get a transport.
What is the amount of loss because of this delay due to traffic jam? In a word, it is irreparable. A study conducted in 2010 by Roads and Highways Department of Bangladesh said that Traffic congestion in Dhaka eats up approximately 19,555 crore taka ($3 billion) every year (http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=147756) which includes travel time cost, cost of excess fuel burnt, revenue loss by passenger transport operators, environmental damage and cost of traffic accidents. The environmental pollution and physical damage deserves special attention, which can be observed if we look at our children. Most of them have to use spectacles, many of them are suffering from asthma, no need to mention that we are losing our hearing power by high level of sound pollution, which eventually affects the citizens psychologically, the impact of which cannot be measured in monetary value. Bangkok can be a good example of this damage. When they were considered as “emerging tiger”, their transport system could not cope with the rapid development, and the severe loss caused by traffic congestion almost stalled their economic growth.
What are the reasons behind this intolerable traffic congestion? Anyone would say that we have got too few roads for too many people. Well, that is true, we have got approximately 16 million people in Dhaka, and when we add the fact that all the major commercial organizations, industries and garments factories are built up in this city along with cantonment and Border Guard Headquarter, the reason becomes obvious. And people are coming like tidal wave; everything is centered in Dhaka and they believe that if they somehow manage to come here, there will be something for livelihood.
But one fact everyone ignores is the mismanagement of transportation and traffic system in Dhaka, and the rest falls upon us. Let us look at some examples and a model route, say, Rampura TV center to Shahbag. When you see the procession of thousands of brand new private cars, would you say that Bangladesh is a poor or under-developed country? It is tough to find the slightest gap in between cars, and thousands have been parked by roadside. These parked vehicles occupy at least one-third of each side of the road, creating a “bottleneck” which is a major cause for traffic congestion. Not to mention that most of the cars have only 2 or 3 passengers inside, what wastage of space! A private car takes 4 times space of a rickshaw, carrying one-fourth of the passengers. Similarly, a double-decker occupies the space for 4 or 5 private cars, carrying 100...
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