TODAY -

City bus for the high end of society? Why not?

WL Hangshing *



Even without delving into statistics, by simply observing the traffic movement within the length and breadth of Imphal City, one can tell that the bane of Traffic congestion in Imphal has its genesis in the municipal area and the manifestation of this problem is most evident in the lanes and by-lanes of the urban “leikais” and their arterial roads.

The point is that beyond these municipality limits traffic congestion dissipates and disappears. These limits are Chingmeirong to the north, Singjamei to the South, lamlong/Wangkhei to the East and Sagolband/Uripok to the West and Kwa Keithel to the South-West.

If you drive from the heart of the city radially to the outskirts you will notice that, more often than not, as soon as you go beyond these Municipality limits the traffic thins out and you find yourself driving and competing for road space with none but with the next vehicle following only 50 metres behind; quite a contrast from the choc-a-bloc congestion a kilometre or two back in the municipal areas you just passed through.

This indicates that there is a lopsided ownership of cars within the city, with the bulk of cars being owned by households within the municipality, and the ownership of cars being thinly spread in the periphery of the city. Resultantly, the traffic congestion gets confined mainly to the urban ‘leikais’ and arterial roads within the municipality.

There also seems to be a lopsided usage of roads, in terms of area of roads occupied by vehicles at any point in time. In the municipal area most households have at least one car parked in its courtyard and many households have two or more cars. If these are added to the number of vehicles already on the roads within the municipality at a given point in time, the lack of road- space would be accentuated, and traffic within the municipality would be tough to manage.

Resorting to a city-bus system seems to be the best answer to mitigate this problem. Since road space occupied per person is minimum in bus-travel as opposed to car-travel, efforts will have to be made to promote bus-travel and at the same time discourage own-car travel. For this to happen a clean, efficient and a high standard city-bus system is needed where one can board the city-bus practically at one’s own leikai.

The buses should be of high-end quality, well maintained and compulsorily air-conditioned. They should be clean and should be kept in tip-top condition so that you feel proud to be seen sitting in these city buses rather than feel miserable about it.

In this scheme of things the targeted persons to become passengers of these city buses will be owners and passengers of cars, hence city bus travel should be attractive, comfortable, convenient and of a standard high enough to entice the car owner to travel by the city bus, even though the comfort and convenience of his own car is available.

The main thrust would be to wean away these private cars from the city roads and kept at home by providing an alternative public transport which is clean, comfortable in all respects, has practical timings and of a high standard that one feels dignified travelling in. To avoid pollution, electric buses could also be introduced in specific routes within the municipality.

There are drastic measures taken by City States like Singapore where it is made compulsory to destroy one old car if one needs to buy a new car. However, this drastic measure may not be required for Manipur, as the problem is of a lop-sided density and not of absolute density in the number of cars.

Along with the actual means of travel, Bus Waiting Sheds also need to be comfortable, posh and preferably provided with clean washrooms. These modern washrooms could be provided with latrines depending on the locational feasibility.

The latrines (wherever they are located] could also be linked to the Imphal sewerage project and Water Supply. Waiting-Sheds could also earn revenue by serving as Bill-Boards for advertisements, as well as being attractive and eye-pleasing by themselves.

A modernised Public Transport system would not only make life much more comfortable and convenient for the Imphal citizens, but it will also raise the appreciation level and make it much more attractive for visiting tourists to come again and again to Manipur.

One issue, permanent residents don’t realize but which can cause much inconvenience to the common tourist or the traveller in any city, is a lack of a proper and well organized public transport system. The crucial importance of this in any city cannot be overemphasized. With good facilities the cost of bus travel will also be high, but this it-self will make the proposed city-bus meaningful for mostly high end users and will raise the standard of travel.

Usually City-bus systems cater to passengers who cannot afford to own and travel in self-owned motorcars. What is envisioned here instead, targets the high-end passenger, since the intention is to wean away car-owned passengers from their cars to the bus. Therefore, the aim is to provide high-end buses which will cater mostly to high end users so that the number of cars on the road is substantially reduced.

The frequency of buses should be at the optimum. The bus ticket prices should be high so that the bus cannot be afforded by riff-raff. The existing Public Transport system, which is already in place, will remain in service for the general public. The idea is that these high standard city buses will only supplement the existing system and not replace it.

The implementation of this idea would be an obligation to be fulfilled by the richer, car owning segment of society. It is they who will leave their cars at home and ride in high standard city buses.

There are of course many factors that one can point at for having come to this, like shoddy or no Planning of Imphal city. However, eventually, it may only be a little driving etiquette from all drivers that would do the trick.

The number of cars will keep increasing without fail as has happened in all cities, especially in this era where cost of cars, both new and used ones, have become affordable to almost all sections of society. With this, it becomes all the more imperative that drivers know and religiously follow rules and regulations and also drive with etiquette, patience and care.


* WL Hangshing wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a retd IAS
This article was webcasted on November 11, 2018.



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