Kathmandu’s public bus service is a constant source of irritation for all who live there. The harmful fumes that public buses discharge forces people to wear face-masks or clutch handkerchiefs to their faces. Furthermore, these buses seldom run on time. As a result, passengers have to stand for long hours at bus stops, waiting for a bus to arrive. In newspapers and social media, people complain incessantly about overcrowded public vehicles. These are indeed dire situations for me, being a minister of transportation, to witness.
Rapid migration from rural areas to Kathmandu has outpaced the availability of public buses. In other words, there are too few buses for too many people. The poor scheduling and timetables of buses discourage loyal ridership. Inside the buses, overcrowding and fear of theft make the journeys unpleasant and personally risky. Outside the buses, poorly filtered exhaust pipes allow dangerous levels of lead, nitrous oxide, and carbon monoxide to seep into the air. It seems almost everyone living here has several respiratory issues every year.
However, the use of buses has been declining for a few years due to more people owning private vehicles. Further, buses in Kathmandu only cover short journeys and thus, top-notch facilities are not needs but want. Some buses even stop at unassigned stops, hindering the road traffic and supporting congestion. Thus, would it be wise to proliferate and revamp something that is not only being used less but also causing some trouble?
Improved bus services can, however, solve many of Kathmandu’s transportation challenges.
Currently, the number of private vehicles seems to rise unchecked, but this only adds to congestion on the roads. Good quality buses not only can diminish this congestion, but also provide a low-cost means of transport for lower-income people who cannot afford personal vehicles. Thus, I definitely feel that the current condition of Kathmandu’s bus service needs quick amelioration. index
I have several ideas that would improve public bus services in Kathmandu. For one, older buses must be phased out and replaced with cleaner models, strictly regulated in terms of emissions. In the early 2000s, the introduction of the “Safa” (clean) vehicles was a positive step, but they couldn’t provide the capacity to meet Kathmandu’s public bus needs. So, more buses featuring comfortable seats and baggage holders would be introduced. Consequently, buses would arrive more frequently at stops and every passenger inside the bus would feel very relaxed.
Secondly, I would also be bold enough to take the advantages provided by modern information technology. Thus, I would install a few closed circuit (CC) cameras in the buses to catch wrongdoers such as those who pickpockets or harass other passengers. The cameras would also allow surveillance to ensure that the buses do not take in an excessive number of passengers.
Thirdly, to create a defined schedule for public buses, I would distribute GPS tracking units to all of them through the assistance of the Nepal Traffic Police and the Department of Transport Management.
Fourthly, I would also hasten to look at bringing changes from the social and behavioral perspective. There is a need to educate the drivers and the passengers. For instance, making aware the drivers not to stop wherever they want other than at assigned bus stops or the passengers to queue up before getting into the bus. So, I would run an awareness-building campaign in parallel.
The results would indeed be robust. People would be less susceptible to respiratory inflammation, air borne diseases, and cancer due to the intake of cleaner air. Healthy human resources are the best assets leaders like me can ask for. The improved quality and monitoring of buses would contribute to greater public safety. As the number of private vehicles on roads decreases, the demand of fuel also decreases. Thus, issues like fuel price hikes and fuel shortages that we have faced several times already would have a slim chance of reoccurring. Likewise, more efficient scheduling of public buses would enable real-time monitoring of bus punctuality, such as its time to arrive at a particular stop.
Regular monitoring of bus services is equally important. I would form specific monitoring groups from the public in the areas where the buses would run. They would report back periodically on the effectiveness of the changes made. To guarantee these changes and make them sustainable, I also seek cooperation and a sense of responsibility from all stakeholders.