The terrible condition of public transport in Bangladesh is one the most disappointing things that the country is yet to be rid of. Too much dependency on road where buses dominate the public transport services, daily commuting for most of the people is nightmarish. It is time consuming, costly, unhealthy, unhygienic and troublesome. When most of the cities in developing countries are gradually introducing decent and green buses to make daily commuting comfortable, Dhaka is still allowing ramshackle and old buses to ply on the roads.
The idea behind introducing green bus is to reduce carbon emission and provide environment-friendly decent public transport. This is not a very ambitious thing to do anymore. It is a necessity of time and the outbreak of Covid-19 makes it one of the top priorities in the public policy domain.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN) already stressed on providing 'access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.' Target-2 under Goal-11 also stressed on 'improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons decent public transport.' The broad indicator to measure the success of achieving the goal and attaining the target is 'proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities.'
Bangladesh is still far away to achieve the goal. Nevertheless, it has 10 years in hand to meet the SDGs target on decent public transport and a well-planned move will help to reach the target by 2030. What is needed is a serious push and strong political will.
In fact, the policymakers may take a comprehensive initiative to fully restructure the bus-oriented public transport in Dhaka by focusing on both decent and green bus. They also need to come out of the thinking that only air-conditioned (AC) bus is the decent bus. Commuters in Dhaka need both AC and non-AC buses and they will chose the transport according to their ability.
What is important is gradually to replace the existing buses by electric buses. High capacity batteries and solar PV generation may be used. Experts argue that electric buses would be the lowest-carbon option available for heavy-duty public transport today and the future is also on E-bus.
Instead of investing very expensive infrastructure projects like elevated express way or bus rapid transit (BRT), planed investment on green bus will give a better return in the long-run. Ensuring smooth, decent and safe mobility will improve the productivity of all. It will also reduce the dependence on private vehicles.