Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Improving Dhaka's traffic situation: Lessons from Mirpur Road

Improving Dhaka's traffic situation: Lessons from Mirpur Road


On 17 December, rickshaws were banned on Mirpur Road from Russell Square to Azimpur. The reasons given for the ban were that rickshaws cause traffic jams because they take up too much road space and move more slowly than cars and buses. The move to ban rickshaws was pushed by the World Bank, which also pushed the government to ban rickshaws from various other roads in 2005. Roads for People applauds the efforts of the government of Bangladesh to reduce traffic problems in Dhaka City. We agree that it is wisest to separate non-motorised transport (NMT) from motorised transport (MT) on main roads, and that a reduction in traffic jams would decrease suffering of Dhaka's inhabitants. However, much of the work to date appears ill-advised, leading to negative consequences in terms of traffic flow, travellers expense, livelihood of the most vulnerable, and pollution.Research suggests that women in particular are suffering from the rickshaw bans, finding no adequate replacement transport and often experiencing greater travel costs in terms of both time and money.

The ban on non-motorised transport on Mirpur Road has had the following effects resulted in at least a 10 per cent increase in monetary costs per trip (actual increase seems to be much higher as evident from the experiences of the focus group discussions), induced at least a 50 per cent increase in average journey times per passenger per trip (our estimate using HDRC and DTCB data), caused 32 per cent loss of net income by rickshaw pullers, forced one forth of passengers from rickshaws to walking, left no options but to take shelter in more expensive and unreliable modes, such as baby taxis and taxicabs, even for short trips, for more than one third of people, and caused untold sufferings for the most vulnerable road users like women, children and the disabled.In this paper we set out some thoughts on some of the current directions of transport policy, and our suggestion for improvements.

The ban on NMT on Mirpur Road from Gabtoli to Russell Square meant non-motorised transport was banned on this stretch of road in December 2002 as a pilot project. Several more streets are slated for NMT bans. As of December 17, 2004, NMT was also banned on Mirpur Road from Russell Square to Azimpur. Human Development Research Centre (HDRC) was commissioned by the Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB) to investigate positive and negative consequences of the ban and make recommendations for further potential bans. This section summarises the findings of that report, while also raising a significant question: to what extent is it acceptable to increase poverty among the poorest for the sake of a small perceived benefit in travel time, and also at the cost of higher transport costs and some decreases in mobility? Put another way, how much are the poor and middle class expected to suffer for the convenience of car owners to drive a bit more quickly (except in cases where the jams quickly revert to previous levels, as appears to have happened on the Russell Square-Azimpur corridor) and to park where they wish along the streets and on the footpaths?Economic and other impact of ban on NMT pullersThe HDRC study found various impacts on NMT pullers (rickshaws, vans and hand carts) when comparing their situation before and after the ban. These include:Average monthly net income of rickshaw pullers decreased by 32 per cent, from 3,834 to 2,600 taka (see Table 1 and Figure 1 below). Overall, income for NMT pullers declined by 34 per cent. The amount of money sent back to their villages also declined following the ban. Before the ban, on average rickshaw pullers spent 64 per cent of net income and sent the rest (36 per cent) to his village. Following the ban, the amount spent in Dhaka decreased by 27 per cent, while the amount sent to the village decreased by 41 per cent.

Similar patterns follow for other NMT pullers (see Table 1 and Figure 2). Pullers compensated for loss of income by reducing food consumption, particularly of fish, meat, and cooking oil: for NMT pullers overall, 85.9 per cent decreased their consumption of fish, 87.5 per cent decreased consumption of meat, 65.1 per cent decreased consumption of cooking oil, and over half (55.3 per cent) decreased consumption of vegetables. There was an increase in the number of income earners in the family from 1.24 to 1.37. This suggests that some children have been taken out of school to compensate for lost income, or that the burden on wives of the pullers have further increased as they must earn money as well as do all the family and household labour. Average number of working days per month for NMT pullers increased by 1.1 days (from 23.67 to 24.78 days a month), and for rickshaw pullers by 1.3 days (from 23.18 to 24.44 days a month). Average number of working hours per day also increased, from 10.33 to 10.97 hours overall, and from 10.16 to 10.70 for rickshaw pullers.

More rickshaw pullers worked full-day than half-day shifts: 60.5 per cent after the ban, and 56.7 per cent prior to the ban; the figures overall were 65.1 per cent after the ban and 61.5 per cent prior to it. Only about five per cent of pullers reported a second income, and that second income was insufficient to compensate for the loss of income from the ban. Almost all the pullers (81.6 per cent overall) were affected by loss of income; 86.1 per cent of van pullers reported decreased income. Although HDRC recommends training in driving of MT for displaced pullers, only 1.6 per cent of pullers overall suggest that they be provided MT driver training, while 55.9 per cent asked for alternative rehabilitation and 31.6 per cent suggested construction of special lanes for NMT. , while only six per cent wanted an alternative profession in MT, 36 per cent would like to take on petty trading, 27 per cent return to agriculture, and 23 per cent take on day labour. Only four per cent of pullers supported NMT withdrawal on other major arterial roads; fears expressed by them included hardship for the pullers and their families, and concern that the move would lead to further deterioration of the law and order situation in the country in general and Dhaka in particular.

www.dhaka-rickshaw.blogspot.com/ Dhaka Rickshaw
www.dhaka-transport.blogspot.com/ Pro-people Transport Plan www.dhakanewspapers.blogspot.com/ All Newspapers on one click

Syed Saiful Alam Save the Environment Movement shovan1209 [at] yahoo.com

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