Public transportation in Pakistan

Public transport is known in many words- public transportation, public transit, mass transit, or simply transit, is the system of transport for passengers by group travel systems available for use by the general public unlike private transport, typically managed on a schedule, operated on established routes, and that charge a posted fee for each trip. There is no rigid definition; Encyclopaedia Britannica specifies that public transportation is within urban areas and air travel is often not thought of when discussing public transport dictionaries use wording like buses, trains and etc.

Examples of public transport include city buses, trolleybuses, trams (or light rail) and passenger trains, rapid transit (metro, subway, underground, etc.) and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.

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Most public transport systems run along fixed routes with set embarkation and disembarkation points to a prearranged timetable, with the most frequent services running to a headway (e.g. every 15 minutes as opposed to being scheduled for any specific time of the day). However, most public transport trips include other modes of travel, such as passengers walking or catching bus services to access train stations. Share taxis offer on-demand services in many parts of the world, which may compete with fixed public transport lines, or complement them, by bringing passengers to interchanges. Paratransit is sometimes used in areas of low demand and for people who need a door-to-door service.

Urban public transit differs distinctly among Asia, North America, and Europe. In Asia, profit-driven, privately owned and publicly traded mass transit and real estate conglomerates predominantly operate public transit systems. In North America, municipal transit authorities most commonly run mass transit operations. In Europe, both state-owned and private companies predominantly operate mass transit systems. Public transport services can be profit-driven by use of pay-by-the-distance fares or funded by government subsidies in which flat rate fares are charged to each passenger. Services can be fully profitable through high usership numbers and high farebox recovery ratios, or can be regulated and possibly subsidised from local or national tax revenue. Fully subsidised, free of charge services operate in some towns and cities.

Most of Karachiites rely on buses and coaches as a mode of transport as many of them do not own personal cars or bikes and the fares of taxis and rickshaws are also unaffordable for them. Commuting by bus is a relatively cheaper mode of transportation and caters to the needs of varied social classes from a labourer to a middle-class white-collar worker.

However, keeping in mind that the current transport route system makes people change several buses to reach their destination, the buses which move around the city are unreliable, poorly maintained, worn-out with zero-safety standards, like emergency exits, etc. They have limited seating capacity. Hence, most of the time, the buses are overloaded, accommodating more passengers than its capacity, who are then forced to cling to the doors or perch on the roofs of the buses to take a ride.

Moreover, reckless driving by bus drivers often leads to deadly accidents, while the overloading causes an imbalance resulting in overturning incidents. Furthermore, there is limited seating capacity especially in the ladies compartment of the buses. This allocation of less space for women in public buses causes seating problems for women and they often have to sit right next to the bus driver. The recent past has seen a phenomenal rise in political lying ranging from grand lies that have caused wars and large-scale destruction to small and innocuous-looking lies but causing grave difficulties to the common people. Taking a cue from Christopher Marlowe’s line from Dr Faustus: The face that launched a thousand ships, around 18 months ago, the then transport minister of Sindh had announced with much ado that 1,000 new air-conditioned buses would be run soon in Karachi, and an agreement had been reached with the Daewoo transport company for the purpose.

Finally, during the past 12 years not a single public bus has been launched in the metropolis, according to press reports. This seems an underestimate as a Sindh government official has admitted that in the past 16 years no new bus scheme has been launched in the city. Ironically, all the new buses that had come out on the road earlier have gradually disappeared. No one knows what became of these buses and those of the defunct KTC. In 2017, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had okayed a plan to introduce 600 new buses for Karachi and for intercity routes. But so far nothing has come out of these promises. For the past several years, commuters have been left to fend for themselves as a result of a near-total absence of public transport in the biggest city of the country. I request the local government to address this problem by increasing the number of public buses on the roads and ensuring that the criteria set for the safety standards are met.

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