The Metrobus opened on 4th June 2015, covering a distance of 22.5km between Pak Secretariat in Islamabad and Saddar in Rawalpindi. The construction began on 28 February 2014 and was completed by June 2015, with 60 buses running initially. The whole project cost approximately 420 million dollars i.e.44.31 billion rupees; such a high cost of the MRT will lead to the passengers paying higher fares in the future.
In the first part of this essay, I will explain what the Urban transport model is and how it is associated with the Metro bus project. The Urban transport model is a model that has been used for many decades now, not only for research but also as a rational tool to help in planning and decision making. It takes into account the representations of complex transport systems and presents them in a simplified manner. It also permits close interaction between transport and land use because of their complicated relationship and points out the competition amongst the different modes of transportation. There are various forms of the Urban Transport Model, one such form is known as the Spatial Interaction Model, which focuses on the perception of locational accessibility which acts as a catalyst in spurring the relationships between the place of work and residence and between the place of residence and the place of service activities. The Metro bus project can be seen as an example of an Urban Transport model, since it has stimulated the local population’s relationship between their place of work, service activities and residence.
I will now analyze the arguments considered by the city for and against installing the Metro bus. When the news broke out about the construction of the Metro bus, the general public had mixed views; some wanted a new form of transport, whereas, the rest thought that there were cities in Pakistan despite Rawalpindi, that could benefit from the Metro bus; these cities did not have adequate and efficient public transport system, and had higher levels of population than Rawalpindi. Therefore, they believed that cities like Lahore and Karachi were more in need of a Metro bus system rather than Rawalpindi due to their rising population.
Alternately, this decision of the urban infrastructure investment of the Metro bus has faced public perusal as it has been a popular view that before starting such projects, those in charge of its decision making process should evaluate such types of public transport investments with the help of informed and objective processes. Also, the public speculated that since the Metro bus would form a direct route between Rawalpindi and Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan), this would lead to a massive volume of trees being cut down in Islamabad, which is one of Pakistan’s most green cities to live in and is referred to as
‘Islamabad, the beautiful’. Thus, Islamabad may never be able to recover from this loss of trees, despite the extensive number of tree plantation drives, resulting in loss of habitat for thousands of species, along with climate change and other negative effects associated with the depletion of trees.
Lastly, another reasoning for the disapproval of the Metro bus was a popular belief that alternate methods of public transportation could be used or an economical project could be built in which the CDA would operate the public transport at a cheaper rate, which would run throughout the city. This would help save money while at the same time, this will provide access to public transport in areas that are not as mobile and accessible, due to lack of transport facilities available to them. Therefore, such a public transit system would be able to connect the various areas of the city such as commercial, business and residential areas, reducing the high levels of segregation and breaking down the hundreds of various sects scattered throughout the city.
On the other hand, even though some of the population was not supportive of the government spending a vast majority of the money on a public transit system, when it could have been spent on other sectors of the economy such as education, a chunk of the population was eagerly awaiting for the project to be completed. One of the reasons being that the Metro bus would cost $0.19 (approximately 20 PKRs) per journey which is cheaper than most of the other means of transit and the general population would be able to get to their destination in half the time it previously took them to travel on other modes of public transport.
In addition to this, another factor for the population’s fervent expectation of the Metro bus project to finish, was due to the reasoning that it would support local economies while at the same time, encourage business investments as well as international businesses to settle down in Rawalpindi. As a result of this, new employment opportunities would be created and thus, it would flourish Pakistan’s economy, increasing people’s standard of living. This would lead to a higher amount of human capital being utilized and hence enhance economic growth. Also, a part of the population was of the view that this domino effect would attract tourism and so fourth, the net foreign income coming into the country would increase.
Nonetheless, the public’s differing views went unheard and the construction of the Metro bus started. Shortly after, a research was carried out and it showed that even though 150,000 passengers were expected to ride the bus, only 80,000 passengers in the long run, were utilizing the benefits of the bus. The aftereffect of this discrepancy lead to it being problematic for the management to handle the fuel costs for 68 buses, when only 35 of the buses were being utilized. Therefore, this cultivated congestion in the Metro buses that were currently running, during peak travelling hours.
A further research showed that due to the considerable entrance time, passengers who travel short distances prefer not to commute via the Metro bus and customers who travel long distances, only do so while going to their offices. Thus, this does not produce as many passengers as the management had officially anticipated it would. Due to such a minor portion of the population travelling via the metro bus, the bus is going into a loss, since a single bus trip costs approximately 9,100 PKRs, whereas, it earns only about 2,600 PKRs and this generates a loss of 6,500 PKRs per each trip.
Therefore, the aftermath of this loss resulted in the government of Punjab taking heavy loans in order to pay for the subsidies and thus decided to split the amount amongst itself and the CDA (capital development authority). However, the capital development authority did not concede to pay for the losses. This situation also occurred again in 2017, due to which many questions arose about the financial burden associated with this project as well as the long term losses. On the other hand, it can also be noted that the general population might require some time to get accustomed to this project and will gradually start commuting via the Metro bus.
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