For the people of Peshawar getting to work means getting into a bus from 1956 or a Ford van that putters along at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour. This is why the idea of a sustainable Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor is worthy of some hope—if it is successful it will mean the swift movement of 450,000 people each day, which could change the life of the city.
What has been clear for a long time is that Peshawar’s traffic needed to be handled. The city, which is an economic hub, had a population of roughly 2 million in 1998. This has gone up to an estimated 2.8 million by 2016. Experts assume it will hit 4.4 million by 2033. As the city grows economically, spatially and in terms of density, demand for housing, public transport and basic urban services will go up.
Right now the people of the city have a hard time getting around, whether it is because of a lack of proper pedestrian space, old buses or congestion. “The magnitude of the problem is very big,” Mayor Asim Khan has said in a documentary. “We have a population of about 3 million residents and about 3 million cars in the daytime.” Peshawar was pegged as the world’s second most polluted city with 23ppm in the air compared to the safe maximum level of 10ppm, a WHO report said in 2013.
Work has yet to start on site and the deadline is January 2018. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf which heads the provincial government, will have to pack up in May 2018
Globally, well-done BRT systems have proven to radically change the quality of life in cities. BRT is just one type of mass transit, or system to move mass numbers of people, but it has proven to be the most effective and cheap. Bus rapid transit caught on the world over since its famed success in Brazil’s Curitiba in the 1970s. (By 1995 that system was moving 1.5 million people a day). The idea is simple: section off the centre of a road just for buses. It’s like a subway on the surface. The only catch for Peshawar is that the government has to try to get it on the ground before its tenure ends.
Work has yet to start on site and the deadline is January 2018. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf which heads the provincial government, will have to pack up in May 2018. It is therefore understandable that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has put all his weight behind it. He has pegged his deadline at 12 months for the completion of the construction work which is expected to kick off in July 2017. As with most projects, however, it would be unfair to treat these deadlines and dates as fixed. In Karachi, for example, one project ran into delays simply because they discovered masses of tangled utility lines under a major road.
What matters, perhaps is that Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s goal is to transform how people move, how to move Peshawar more efficiently. He has been pushing for the development of a bigger transport vision, part of which is an urban mobility authority and a BRT company called TransPeshawar. The key message is that the KP government does not see the project in isolation, which would be a mistake given what the experts are saying in global conversations; the experience of cities the world over has changed people’s outlook on urban planning and one of the directions in which it has moved is to holistically treat BRT. This is why changing how people move around Peshawar is linked to “urban regeneration”, economic transformation and transit-oriented development. If you build a system that allows people to cheaply, safely and easily get around, you can open up entire neighbourhoods and with them economic life.
After surveys, feasibility studies and a lot of legwork, the design for the project was settled at 30km long to run from Chamkani to Hayatabad. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is behind it. The project is estimated to cost around Rs55.9 billion which includes Rs48 billion in a soft loan provided by the ADB. KP will foot the remaining Rs7.7 billion bill.
Mayor Asim Khan is the focal person for the BRT project. He is confident that they will be done before the government is out the door. “We will make it functional within the present government’s tenure,” he has said. The approval of the Central Development Working Party has come through. “We need to get approval for the project from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council,” he added. Also awaited is the green signal on the ADB loan.
On the KP government’s request in 2013 the ADB studied the feasibility of Peshawar having a mass transit system. The study, which was conducted through the ADB’s Cities Development Initiative for Asia wrapped up in May 2014, and it identified six corridors for development in the next 20 years.
The KP government’s first priority is Corridor-2 which is 25.8 kilometers long. It starts at Chamkani on GT Road and passes through Pir Zakori Bridge, Peshawar Bus Terminal, Hashtnagri, Hospital Road, Khyber Bazaar, Soekarno Chowk, University Road, Board Bazaar, Jamrud Road and ends at Hayatabad Phase-V. The corridor would be 14.9 kilometers at grade or on the ground, 6 kilometers elevated and 4.9 kilometers in underground tunnels. It will have 31 stations including 26 at grade or on the ground, five elevated and one underground. Its fleet would include 450 buses in three categories of nine, 12 and 18 meters long.
“It is touching all the main addas, all the hospitals, it is going through the heart of the city,” CM Khattak said in a documentary. Zubair Qureshi, the secretary for transport for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, added that they were talking about catering to 60% to 70% of Peshawar on a daily basis.
There are 30 bus stops on the route and about 100 on the feeder routes. This means it is a third-generation BRT system that has never been implemented in Pakistan so far, David Margonsztern of the ADB said in the documentary. He was referring to the “direct service” part of the system which means the buses will go inside the corridor and outside.
The Asian Development Bank studied the area where the BRT corridor will be built. It discovered that 535 households will have to be resettled because 117 Kanal of private arable land has to be taken over. The government also has to demolish two underpass markets with 84 shops, four commercial toilets, three kiosks and 12 stores, a horizontal structure of 14 shops, one store room of a business, and two mosques. It will also impact the livelihood of eight non-titleholders of agriculture land, 86 formal businesses and shopkeepers among others. All formal and micro businesses need to be relocated. The silver lining is that the ADB’s detailed study of these people and their businesses means that the government has to deal with their cases. And on April 7, it was reported that CM Pervez Khattak has allocated Rs193 million to pay for the rehabilitation of these people. However, the ADB rules are such that until this part of the picture is properly dealt with, the project cannot go ahead. The ADB rules are extremely stringent in this regard.
Peshawar’s car craze
is how fast the number of vehicles went up in Peshawar from 1998 to 2009 but
is how much the road network has expanded in that time.
of Peshawar’s vehicles are private cars, whose numbers have gone up 228% (1998-2009).
SOURCE: South Asian Studies; Lahore27.2 (Jul-Dec 2012)
The project also includes the construction of 68 kilometers of seven feeder routes integrated with the main corridor covering major trip generation areas of the city which include Charsadda Road, Warsak Road, Kohat Road, Bara Road, Ring Road and Jamrud Road. A feeder route is basically one that branches out from the main corridor and snakes into other parts. They allow transport to feed into the main corridor. Thus the BRT will not only pass through most of the city’s commercial spots but will also be connected to crowded localities through the feeder service. The short buses will be set on these routes while the long ones will be set on the main corridor.
Almas Khan, the president of the bus association, has backed the plan. The existing bus drivers and owners are a major stakeholder in the system and disenfranchising them serves no one. He stressed that their men be included. This tackles the concerns expressed by Dr Shafiqur Rehman, a former chairman of the department of Environmental Sciences at University of Peshawar. “I don’t see any positive environmental impact of the project if the government does not ban the outdated, smoke-emitting and noisy vehicles which provide public transport on the road,” he said. “It has to make the registration of public transport vehicles strict and set up age limits for public transport vehicles to achieve the environmental impact of a mass transit system. Otherwise the billions of rupees investment would provide good transport to the public but with no positive impact on environment.” This is precisely why the Peshawar BRT is working with the existing transport system that will be integrated with the new one and all these elements are being addressed.
The project is 30km long and runs from Chamkani to Hayatabad. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is behind it. The project is estimated to cost around Rs55.9 billion
The project is expected to help control environmental pollution as it will encourage a shift from a few people using many private cars to many people using one bus. A key aspect is reduction of CO2 emissions from vehicular movement in Peshawar city with almost 31,000 tons of reduction in CO2 emissions expected in the first year of operation and 62,000 tons by the year 2026.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Report submitted by the Peshawar Development Authority cites two main reasons for the decline in the carbon emissions, one is the drop in the number of private vehicles used by people to get to their destinations and the second is that fuel efficient and cleaner buses will be operated in the BRT.
The BRT would provide safe and comfortable transport to over 482,000 people and if the plan works out, around 21,000 people are expected to use the service every hour. According to the PC-1 plan, 520,000 people or approximately 17.5% of the city’s total population will live and work in a one kilometer radius of the corridor.
The plan is to install automatic fare collection systems at the stations. This would include automatic gates and readers, software communication systems and a smart card system. The maximum fare for the BRT would Rs50. A parking plaza will be constructed at the Lady Reading Hospital and the plan includes a bike-sharing scheme at the University of Peshawar, segregated cycle lanes along the length of the BRT corridor. The BRT main corridor also includes stations equipped with facilities to park bicycles and a water filtration plant.