Naim Ahmed, Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Dr. Sultan Hafeez rahman, Professor Nazrul islam and Dr. Shanawez Hossain are seen at the launching ceremony (from left)
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University launched one of its annual flagship research report titled State of Cities 2016: Traffic Congestion in Dhaka City - Governance Perspective on 27 December 2016 at the BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka.
Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Vice Chancellor, BRAC University and Professor Nazrul Islam, Chairman, Centre for Urban Studies (CUS), have attended the event as the Guests of Honour. Mr. Naim Ahmed, Former Commissioner, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, discussed on the report, while Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD chaired the event. Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow of BIGD presented the findings and recommendations of the research report at the event.
Learned participants and professionals participated at a Q/A session followed by the formal launching.
The event was also attended by relevant professionals, academics, experts and media who also discussed on the report and shared their opinions.
This is the fifth report of its kind which focused on the problem of traffic congestion in Dhaka city. The study's main objective was to examine the governance and institutional issues underlying traffic congestion in Dhaka, and develop proposals to tackle the issues and strengthen the institutions responsible for Dhaka's transport management.
The study focused on the Dhaka Metropolitan area and six key government agencies in particular – Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) and Rajuk. Based on 'governance perspectives' the investigation was conducted adopting a 'political economy framework'. Data was collected from both primary and secondary sources through key informant interviews, a 'score-card' survey of the six institutions, case studies and site observations. A major questionnaire survey of 774 transport users was also carried out to obtain people's views of the main traffic issues and priorities for action.
The survey of transport users found that most people identified management issues as the main causes of traffic congestion, particularly: (1) haphazard parking, (2) streets occupied by private transport, and (3) violation of traffic rules. Therefore effective traffic management, including restraining the demand for private transport, is crucial for reducing Dhaka's congestion.
The report also examined the institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms for transport in Dhaka. There are over 30 agencies involved in transport in the metropolitan area, which makes coordination very difficult. However, the main transport coordinating authority (DTCA) is significantly under-staffed and lacking authority. Similarly, most of the key institutions are internally challenged due to limited human capacity (number and skills of professional staff), limited equipment, poor internal accountability mechanisms and lack of transparency. They are also externally challenged in their co-ordination with other organisations as they are all responsible to different ministries, four of which are mainly responsible for Dhaka's transport management: Home Ministry (police); Ministry of Local Government (city corporations and upazilas); Road Transport and Bridges (DTCA and BRTA) and Ministry of Housing and Public Works (Rajuk). This diffusion of responsibility together with DTCA's weakness is considered the single most important challenge for improving transport co-ordination in Dhaka.
The study found that despite many laws and much activity by the enforcement agencies, drivers frequently break the rules and likewise pedestrians. On the other hand, survey respondents reported weaknesses and poor practices in traffic law enforcement. People's knowledge of the traffic laws was patchy, with less than half of interviewees knowing about parking rules, speed limits or requirements for official documents. A high proportion of road users admitted they sometimes broke the traffic laws, and bus drivers were considered more likely to break the laws than private drivers. However, people identified the main causes of traffic law violations as competitive pressures on bus operators, and poor police enforcement.
The study examined institutional issues relating to enforcement. Regarding BRTA, it was noted that the driver and vehicle licence system is dominated by 'brokers' who charge substantial fees and can even arrange a licence without a test. In 2015 there were nearly 2 million fake licences, according to the High Court. Regarding police enforcement, despite the official activity, survey respondents said poor enforcement was the main challenge for traffic management in Dhaka.
The report also found that entry to the bus sector in Dhaka was very difficult due to informal payments and the need for political connections, which tended to reduce healthy competition. Once a bus enters service, numerous informal payments have to be made to keep operating. Although government officials deny it, bus operators allege that standard monthly informal payments are paid, as well as random on-the-spot daily payments. Both types of payment are facilitated by weak guidelines and processes from the enforcing agencies: for example, no background studies are carried out when route permits are issued; bus stops are not clearly marked in many places in Dhaka; the traffic police have no equipment for measuring vehicles' speeds; and most public vehicles do not have speedometers due to weaknesses in vehicle fitness inspection. Bus operators considered that informal transactions constituted one-half of their monthly operating costs, reducing their profitability which was further reduced by Dhaka's increasing congestion. As a result, bus service quality was compromised since the operator's survival depended on management of informalities and their focus was shifted from passengers to patrons.
Management of hawkers and sidewalks presented a similar picture: Dhaka's 2.6 lakh hawkers are actually highly regulated and pay significant sums to the authorities for the privilege of trading on the streets. The system is well-organised, with informal daily payments to 'line-men' as well as monthly informal rents. The funds are passed on to the enforcing authorities as well as local political parties, and the total sums are quite remarkable. Based on information from stakeholders as well as secondary sources, this study estimated that the annual collection of informal 'rents' from hawkers totaled about Tk.1,825 crore per year (about $228 million), which is nearly as great as the combined budgets of Dhaka North and Dhaka South City Corporations in 2015/16. However, this informal management of Dhaka's footways has negative consequences for almost everyone: for the general public, who suffer from crowded footways and increased traffic congestion; for the hawkers, who pay high rents yet face daily insecurity; and for the city authorities, who lose substantial revenue income.
The report also examined the costs and impacts of traffic congestion on Dhaka's citizens, particularly the economic costs (measured as the value of people's time lost in traffic delays and the increased vehicle costs due to wasted fuel); and the social costs such as discomfort, stress, and changed social behavior. With a case study of a particular route of Dhaka (from Airport to Postogola Bridge via Gulshan, Mohakhali, Gulistan and Buriganga Bridge, 26km), the average off-peak journey speed for motor vehicles was measured at around 22kph, while the peak period average speed fell to around 9 kph. The economic cost of this delay was estimated at around Tk. 227 crore per month ($28.4m per month), or roughly Tk.53 for each passenger trip, most of which was due to lost time rather than vehicle operating costs. If other components of Dhaka's traffic congestion are taken into account, such as environmental and social costs, the results are even more alarming. The study also identified that the impacts were heavily clustered among service holders, who had a higher willingness-to-pay to avoid or reduce congestion.