Transport is an important part of Bangladesh’s economy. Since the liberation of the country, the development of infrastructure has progressed rapidly and a number of land, water and air transport modes exist. However, significant progress must be made to ensure uniform access to all available transport. Unlike other nations, Bangladesh has four ministries responsible for transportation in the country:

  • Road safety – Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges
  • Rail transport – Ministry of Railways (Bangladesh)
  • Civil aviation – Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism
  • Maritime transport – Ministry of Shipping (Bangladesh)

The Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges has two divisions: Bridges and Road Transport and Highways.

Though the country has made good economic progress over the years, urban experts think the capital city still lacks quality bus fleets to match the people’s improved lifestyle.

They said almost all the existing 8,000 public buses in the city are completely unfit for running in a capital city like Dhaka and those should be replaced with high quality and standard and comfortable ones working out a comprehensive phase-out plan like the one that replaced thousands of two-stroke auto-rickshaws with CNG-run ones in 2003.

Noted urban expert and former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof Nazrul Islam, Buet’s Accident Research Institute (ARI) director Prof Moazzem Hossain, Buet’s Urban and Regional Planning department Prof Dr Sarwar Jahan and urban expert and architect Iqbal Habib came up with the observations while talking to UNB.

Prof Nazrul Islam said the buses in the capital must have acceptable standards. “The existing bus services in Dhaka are far below the minimum standard. We must ensure quality and comfortable and passenger-friendly bus services to reduce people’s dependence on private vehicles.”

Once known for its beautiful natural setting and charming lifestyle, the city of Dhaka today offers a lamentable spectacle of environmental degradation. Polluted air, unsafe water, free flowing fumes and dust, deafening noise, breath-stopping filth and many other forms of negative impacts of pollution on this city are posing serious habitation threats. Demographic explosion coupled with enormous opportunities created by administrative and economic developments in the last few decades have not only propelled a massive agglomeration of people in this city but expansively urbanized its periphery as well.

Dhaka is one of the fast growing metropolitan cities with a highly dense and increasing population in the world. Haphazard urban expansion with a minimum attention to the living environment has been the most common scenario here and existing transportation system has become hazardous for the entire city system due to its inherent transport as well as road network deficiencies. Although, the city mainly depends on road-based transportation system, the amount of road network is far apart from the minimum requirements. Only 9 percent of roadways and 6 percent of pavement area is available, in which 62 km functional primary and 108 km secondary and 221 km connector road serve the city transport service. It is evaluated that bus service plays the dominant role in providing public transport facilities (58 % passenger by only 8% trip) but lack of proper land use and transport planning, uncontrolled development and due to post planning approach; about half of the area do not have the bus service facilities.

Traffic congestion is the major problems for most of the Asian major cities. The problem of traffic congestion make life miserable in Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh, causing threat to economic loss as well. The study is based on secondary information and aims to explore the existing public transport situation of the city, major transport problems and their causes, and policy failures of government to combat congestion. Dhaka is perhaps the only city of its size (over 9 million populations in 2000 sq km} without a well-organized bus system or other mass public transport. Like previous decades, if appropriate policy measure for public transport is not taken at government level to tackle the large amount of travel demand (24 million projected population by 2021), it will be disaster for the city. Among the various causes of congestion, the mix of fast moving vehicles with slow moving non-motorized vehicles is the major one.  It was also found that the failure of appropriate government policy in different times also encouraged congestion. The study found rapid bus transit is the most suitable form of public transport for the city and in-time appropriate policy decision and proper implementation for promoting public transport can reduce congestion.

Urban Transport in Bangladesh

Transportation facilities are a fundamental need in modern societies. Therefore the provision of a transport system that the majority can benefit from is a requirement. Transport contributes to economic growth but also to problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution, accidents and a number of other side effects. Today the basic need of access and mobility is badly provided for in Dhaka. Family members of lower income households need to make long and dangerous walks daily. Almost 50 percent of the population is poor and approximately 60 percent of them use walking as their main mode of transport. To begin with today’s traffic congestion, insecurity and misuse of street space poses serious threats to urban development. Lack of relevant measures and firm decisions to cope with the complexity of traffic has created chaotic conditions. Different types of modes using the same road space characterize traffic environment. Delays have tripled in the last three years. Inadequate traffic management, conflict of jurisdictions, poor coordination among organizations and increasing air pollution are some other main problems. Dhaka is perhaps the only city of its size that almost totally lacks bus transport with reasonable capacity, let alone other form of mass transport system. Today, public transport based on a multitude of private operators has grown out of control. The combination of a large number of slow-moving cycle rickshaws, approximately some 600.000 and an increasing number of motorized three wheeler auto rickshaws create serious problems. These vehicles fight for street space and negotiate constantly with cars, buses and pedestrians.

It is likely that the problem will grow even worse considering the still low levels of motor vehicles per thousand inhabitants. According to a survey made it is estimated that the number of motor vehicles in Dhaka is 240 000 which means that there are about 30 motor vehicles per 1000 inhabitants. This can be compared to almost 700 per 1000 inhabitants in the US. So far only 3 percent of trips are made by cars. The majority of the inhabitants are poor but the economy is growing by approximately 4 percent per year.

This growth will surely be reflected in a growing fleet of private vehicles in Dhaka as in most other sites. Still, the majority of people will continue to travel by public transport or walk. In 2004 almost 89 percent of trips in Dhaka were undertaken by walking, rickshaw or bus (STPP). According to Fjellstrom 2004, 60 percent are on foot. The need for transport options is reflected in the increasing fleet operated by minor entrepreneurs. Deteriorating traffic conditions have prompted several popular public campaigns to find urgent solutions. Women and urban poor are particularly and severely disadvantaged in accessing the existing facilities due to extreme over-crowded buses. Bus drivers simply do not let them on the bus.