4 reasons Islamabad does not need the metro bus service
The PML-N government recently launched the metro bus service in Islamabad amidst much pomp with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurating the project himself. The project will connect Islamabad and Rawalpindi by widening the existing roads to accommodate a separate lane for the metro bus to run on without any traffic interrupting it.
However, the bus service has not been met kindly by the residents of Islamabad for a host of reasons, the most prominent among them being the fact that it violates the master plan of Islamabad and will cause destruction to the trees the city is known for.
I think Islamabad doesn’t need the metro bus service due to the following reasons:
1. Islamabad doesn’t have a traffic problem
According to Isloo-ites, Islamabad is a planned city unlike Lahore and under its master plan, there is well-maintained road system which has expanded immensely over the years. Excellent roads such as the Seventh Avenue and Ninth Avenue provide commuters with relief during rush hours.
Also, unlike Lahore, the city has a significantly smaller population which, when combined with its excellent system of roads, means that Islamabad is probably the best city in Pakistan in terms of traffic management. You will rarely hear of a traffic problem in the city and even when one arises, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is quick to fix the problem by expanding the problematic section of the road or making an overpass such as the one at Zero Point.
This lack of a traffic problem makes the metro bus service absolutely unnecessary in the city.
2. Islamabad’s trees are being cut down
The city, often called ‘Islamabad: The Beautiful’ takes great pride in its large population of trees which are not only beneficial for the environment in a time of increasing climatic changes but also give the city its scenic beauty that makes it one of the most green cities to Pakistan to live in.
But if the metro bus project is implemented, Islamabad may very well lose this moniker.
The carefully laid out master plan of the city allows for a greenbelt on the sides of each avenue separating the avenue from the service roads. However, the bus project aims to expand these avenues and since the potential for inward expansion has been exhausted, the only solution is to expand outward.
This means that the greenbelts will have to be cut down in order to expand these roads. The city has already lost a large chunk of its trees due to projects such as the Zero Point flyover for which a number of greenbelts had to be cleared. If the metro bus project is carried out, Islamabad may never be able to recover the number of trees cut down even through extensive tree plantation drives.
3. The commuter problem can be solved far more cheaply
As I already mentioned, Islamabad does not have a traffic problem even though a large chunk of the population owns cars. And the people who rely on public transport can be better served through a cheaper project where the CDA operates public transport at a cheap rate all around the city, thus saving money and giving transport access to people living in areas that are not served under the initial metro bus plan since a bus is easier to operate in different sections of the city.
The metro bus project costs a staggering Rs38 billion which is expected to rise even higher in the coming months. The money saved from not implementing this project can be better utilised to provide basic necessities such as education and health care to people. I think these are bigger problems hounding the country than traffic and commuter issues.
4. Other cities will benefit more from the metro bus service
There are other cities in Pakistan facing traffic problems of a much more severe nature than Islamabad. Cities such as Multan and Karachi, where the metro bus will be constructed at a later stage, need this service more than Islamabad does. The metro bus has proved effective in reducing Lahore’s traffic woes; Karachi and Multan, among other cities, suffer from a similar problem which can be very adequately addressed by the project.
These cities lack an adequate and quality public transport system, with a large portion of the cities either not being served at all or insufficiently since both cities have a larger population. On the other hand, since Islamabad has a smaller population and a significant proportion of it comprises of private car owners, it is not as affected by these problems. Therefore, priority should be given to other cities.
This is why I think Islamabad doesn’t need the metro bus service, at least not at this time. Why not use these fund were they can accumulated constructively?
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.