I’ve been traveling on the newly introduced CNG buses in Karachi for the past few days, and am pretty impressed. Another excellent initiative by the CDGK to make life better for the ordinary Karachiite. Of course, they’ve been met with furious opposition from the transport mafia, and most people I’ve met aren’t too blown away for a number of reasons which I’ll mention later. Let’s take the positives first, though.
The buses are clean, spacious, controlled, and airy. This last feature is crucial, because one of the biggest issues with traveling in public buses is that they are very stuffy at times (usually during rush hour from 5 onwards). And it’s a feature that is likely to remain constant. The buses are clean because they are relatively new (the service launched on July 28) – spacious because the public hasn’t fully embraced them yet – controlled because the system is very small right now and easy to manage. But the buses are likely to remain airy because of the large windows that ensure that the interior of the bus remains tolerable even when the buses are ultra stuffed. There is less sweat and stink in the air even when you’re being pressed from all four sides – partly because the clientele is mostly composed of salaried workers in offices and not daily-wage laborers. But it definitely has to do with better ventilation as well.
Negatives: Because there are so few buses right now, it takes quite some time for one to come along. On average one has to wait ten minutes for a bus to come after purchasing the ticket. Secondly, since there’s just one route right now, there’s only a limited market that it caters to. And it’s competing against the old buses that go to Saddar, Paposh Nagar, Soldier Bazaar, and everywhere in between. This bus sticks to the main road. Since it’s a big bus and provided by the government, it can’t speed through traffic and blatantly break laws the way minibuses like the W11 or Khan Coach do. So once you’re on it, you just wait. That’s a good thing in my opinion, but our people are spoiled and want the bus to go and stop wherever they want it to. Finally, it’s just as stuffed as any other bus on the way home – that’s when I hear the most complaints – around the 7-8pm time when there’s hardly space to move inside the bus. It’s not air-conditioned or anything, so the only real advantage to traveling on it is that it’s clean and that you won’t be kicked out for no apparent reason (as is common on the 2K, for example).
Enough with my opinions – here’s some basic information. Gleaned off the official brochure, which has been attached in the pictures.
The CNG Bus Pilot Project is a brainchild of the City District Government Karachi and seeks to introduce a better mass transit facility than the one presently available.
Two routes – Surjani Town – Tower and back.
50 buses being operated currently (although one of the operators at a booth said it was INITIALLY 50 but now there are 500 buses running.)
E-ticketing – you buy prepaid cards worth 100, 200, and 300 and then just go to the machines in the booths and get a ticket issued. Haven’t seen anyone using these yet – so far the system is pay as you go.
No bus conductors inside – just the driver.
Bus takes and drops passengers only at predetermined stops. (Although I have seen this being violated twice).
The buses have separate entrance and exit doors. (Again, our nation is too lazy to go to the exit door and lots of people just stay at the entrance door, crowding it, and then get off there. Pretty pathetic.)
I realize I’m a little late as Raja Islam at Karachi Metblogs already has a few posts on this project, but this is an effort to deal with it a little more comprehensively.
At the Haidery bus stop.
The old bus…
..and the new one.
There’s a route map at every ticket counter that tells you where you are and where to go. Useful for those who don’t know when to get off where.
The closed ticket counter. Pay 15 rupees and collect your ticket by the man inside, which will be checked by the man OUTSIDE before you get onto the bus. Eventually this system too will be largely automated.
The operator and ticket checker handles bus stops and helps – actually helps – people who don’t know what to do.
Not a lot of rush – but this is around 4pm. At 7 the same bus is jam packed.
The operators are smartly dressed and, so far, helpful.
Actual shine! Even after a month!
The shaded windows block the sunlight well.
The button on the pole is used to signal bus stops – the bus only stops at its designated stops and the exit door only opens if someone rings the bell. And you can’t exit from the entry doors.
Actual handles instead of having to hold the bar – slightly less taxing on the arms.
The ticket – printed with the time and point of purchase using an automated machine, ensuring you can’t reuse tickets.
The official brochure!
Describing the service – 1
Describing the service – 2
Back cover of the pamphlet