A colleague of mine once told me that professionals who were responsible for designing public transport policies never used public transport themselves. This thought has been entrenched in my mind ever since. As a transport professional myself, I always try to use public transport whichever part of the world I visit, be it London, Delhi, Accra, Helsinki, or Colombo. It is one of the best ways to get a sense of how the public transport system operates in a particular city.
I joined the World Bank Nepal office some three years ago. I booked my temporary residence in a hotel through one of my friends. I had no idea how far the hotel was from my office so I took a taxi on my first day. Then I discovered that my hotel was close to a public transport route so I started using microbuses to commute to the office. On my way to work the microbus would never be full, so I could travel comfortably. But I hated my return journey as the microbuses would already be filled up at Shahid Gate and I would never get seats. Often I had to change buses and sometimes, if I stayed at work late, I had to take taxis as there were no buses after dark.
A lot of my Nepali colleagues also shared their experiences with me. A male colleague told me how he was mugged once. I also heard many unpleasant stories from my female colleagues on the experience of using public transport. I have to admit after this, I used public transport less frequently.
Transport is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We use transport to access facilities and services - jobs, educational institutions, health facilities, banks etc. Quality and availability of public transport make an impact on the welfare and income earning potential of people. Good quality and targeted public transport also helps in pulling people away from cars. Intensive public transport use not only contributes to people’s welfare but also helps enhance urban environment. For women in developing countries, public transport plays an even more important role, providing access to social, economic and life enriching activities and services. In the above context, cities in Nepal need safe, efficient, reliable and affordable public transport to achieve equitable and sustainable development.
The World Bank in Nepal is working with the government of Nepal to develop a National Transport Management Strategy. The strategy will address issues linked to broader transport management, as well as gender and public transport related issues. Findings from the recent gender and transport study is being incorporated into the National Strategy so that the various issues the women and men of Kathmandu face while using public transport will be effectively addressed in the coming days.
Read the recently released report: Gender and Public Transport in Nepal
Photo: Dee Jupp/World Bank
Dear Dr. Ahmed. Nice to read your blog on public transport. As a person soon to be shifting to Nepal to work at ICIMOD, your blog caught my imagination immediately. I have been visiting Kathmandu for a long time and have taken public transport many times. One thing which strikes me about public transport in south asia is the power associated with it. Public transport is meant to be for people who do not possess or can not possess private transport. This means that there is no feedback mechanism between the commuter and the people who makes those policies. This disconnect is seen across south asia and is one such reason why we do not have improved and safe transport in the region. I wish your initiative will change some of these. thanks again for your views. Anjal Prakash
Yes, it is true. The real story of public transportation is more worse in the rural area.The limited number of public vehicle,in which most are out dated,hardly maintained and are forced to drive in risky way makes the passenger unsafe of traveling. The public transportation are more challenging for the women who travel with her little kid. The transportation facilities are at minimum level during the morning and the evening period as number of passenger increases dramatically,and they are forced to travel in hood(top part) of the vehicle.
The public transport is worse and anarchic in Nepal cities because no traffic and transport rules are ever enforced. If you do not enforce any rules, reform and improvement in the rules can not be thought of. As a matter of fact, the public transport in Nepal reflect the same inequity and corruption that endemically prevail over Nepal's political economy and governance.
I hope the upcoming strategy would be able to advise the concerned authorities solving the transport problems that the ever crowding cities like Kathmandu are facing. So far I know, there are no plans or programmes as such suitably accommodating the incremental population pressures, because the transport is almost left in the hands of private operators who always count profit rather than the good standards that assure comfort, safety, security and time needs of the travelers.
Dr. Ahmed,there is a dire need to address the transportation issue in the country, which is not going to be a smooth ride. The problem has its roots to the unexpected influx of people from all over the nation to find sanctuary in the capital from the insurgency. No one knew how many would permanently call it home. Moreover the government was too busy fighting its own people to even pay attention to the limitation of infrastructure or need to upgrade the same to accommodate the growing population. Now the problem has grown into a cat, which no one wants to "BELL".
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