Thursday, March 12, 2015

Travel Experience of Two Metros: Pakistan and Germany

The Lahore Metro bus project commenced with a big bang as after the demise of the Lahore Omni Bus Service (LOS), once the darling of Lahore's roads and transportation system, there has been no alternative to the LOS. Like many others, I also wanted to have a ride on the Lahore Metro to be part of this new era in Lahore's transportation means. 

So while I was visiting Lahore in 2013, I took my son along to Gajju Matta, the commencement point of 27 kilometres long route of the Lahore Metro, to board the bus and see 'how it felt' travelling into it. And I have already shared my experience in one of my earlier posts: Lahore Metro Bus Riders  I am sharing some of the photos I shared in me earlier post of Lahore Metro herein under:

Lahore Metro bus at a bus stop
At Shahdara/Rive Ravi, the Metro bus shares 'combined' road with other traffic

While the buses moved unhindered and with no traffic at all in the secured lanes, guarded by iron fence for which it is also sarcastically called 'Jangla Bus Service' by some, the people not travelling in the bus were seen having a rough time on intersections due to cramped space as most of the road space has been allocated exclusively for the Metro buses. Now a similar project is being undertaken in Rawalpindi/Islamabad - where instead of 'Jangla' an elevated platform has been constructed costing billions of rupees for the exclusive use of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro. 

This is how Metro runs in Pakistan at a huge cost being paid by the tax payers of the country. In fact, the project has been undertaken for one route only at the expense of countless smaller projects in other parts of the province. But like most of the Pakistanis I also thought that perhaps this is how a modern transportation system works - till I visited Germany very recently.

In August last year, I went to Germany to visit my son who is studying in the Kiel University of Applied Sciences. And there I came to know how an efficient public transport system works - while using the existing road space with no exclusive lanes, corridors or overhead bridges.

Unlike most roads in the cities of Pakistan where there are usually more than two lanes for one way traffic, most roads and motorways in Germany, and even in Europe, are two lane roads. But despite their being only two lanes available for the traffic, the huge buses ply with much more ease than the 'exclusive and elaborate' arrangements as we see in Pakistan. The buses while use one of the lanes, the other lane is used by normal traffic - but the lane used by the buses is not bus-exclusive as normal traffic also uses the space as well. It is only near a bus stop that there is a bus exclusive right as it stops and takes/offloads passengers.

As can be seen above, the bus moves in a two-lane road along side the normal traffic

And the entire system is electronically manged, monitored and digital displays are at each bus stop to announce the arrival time of a particular bus number, as can be seen in the above photo. Not only this, on each bus stop, there are charts showing timings of the buses in three categories:
  • One for Monday to Friday, when the buses ply in full strength as these are the five working days of the week. 
  • The next column shows bus timings for Saturday with reduce number of buses as Saturday is closed holidays but markets are open. 
  • The third column shows bus timings for the Sunday with leas buses as all markets are closed and there is very thin bus passengers.
Bus timings schedule available at each bus stop - showing bus timings for Monday-Friday, Saturday and Sunday

And as if this is not all. The bus time table is also available as an App for the mobile phones and one can know while sitting in one's home/office as to when a particular number bus is to arrive at the nearest bus station and instead of wasting time in standing at the bus stop,

Screen shot of my mobile phone showing bus timings/scheduling app

One thus leaves one's home/office at the eleventh hour and the bus arrives right on dot. However, in case of any unprecedented delay, the cause of delay is displayed digitally on the digital board as shown in the photo above.

As can be seen in these photos (above and below) that buses are efficiently plying on two lane-roads with no hindrance to the other form of traffic.

The photos above and below show a classic example of buses using a single lane road inside a living residential area while cars are parked on the car-exclusive parking area.

And when inside the bus, there etiquette as there are separate seats for old people right behind the driver's cabin so that they do not have to walk more to find a seat. Likewise there is s special entrance for women carrying baby carts and the bus tilts to the right at the bus stop to allow carting the cart inside the bus. 

Watch the video below which I made while sitting in two inter-connected buses bus and see for yourself with how much ease the buses moves along with other traffic. However, buses and cycles take precedence over vehicles and all vehicle drivers respect the right of the public transportation system. And do not be amazed to see that the bus is being driven by a female driver: something which come as a big surprise for the section of women who want equal right to be given to the women in our country.

Having seen and being on board buses in Lahore and Germany, here is a brief analysis:

  1. Unnecessary and colossal amount of money has been spent on exclusive roads/lanes and elevated platform for the buses rather than buying more buses and plying on more routes on existing roads
  2. Despite availability of generally more than two-lanes on roads, additional infrastructure has been developed rather than using one lane for the buses
  3. There is no management system using digital technology to control the buses and their timings
  4. A highly subsidized one-ticket for the entire length of the route is enforced, while government pays a much larger sum to compensate for the actual costs
  5. The system does not utilize the exiting wide roads of the city
  6. Since the system is only one-tracked, there are no connecting buses available and the commuters have to then travel in ordinary mini-buses and Suzuki vans for continuing with their journey to the destination
  • The bus system is highly efficient and ensures in-time arrivals WITHOUT creating any additional infrastructure and by utilizing existing two-lane roads
  • The system is completely digitized with instant timings being displayed at bus stops and there never is a delay despite using existing road network
  • There are special seats reserved for the elderly/disabled and exclusive entrance for cart-wheeling baby carts and disabled people wheel chairs
  • There is no subsidy on fare. However, special discounts are available on buying monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly tickets
  • The usage of special App allows commuters to reach the bus stop minutes before the bus arrives
  • The exclusive app also allows planning one's movement by using inter-connected buses
  • The excellent inter-connectivity of the system allows getting on to the connecting bus to their destination
  • Each bus has its own computer-based ticketing system and internet-connectivity to relay its present position - which helps in predicting its  ETA (expected time of arrival) on the next bus station
  • Due to this efficient bus system, people leave their cars at home and prefer to travel in buses. This not only saves them from using cars that are uneconomical due to high fuel prices but also saving them for finding parking spaces which are difficult to find during office hours. And even if these are found, the parking fee is 10 times higher than the bus ticket
  • The availability of cheap and efficient bus service thus keeps the city roads less crowded as people prefer to use the buses rather than using their own cars
I only wish our leaders who spend colossal amount of tax payers of money and waste away on projects using no intellect to also move around and see how efficiently such systems work around the world. In fact rather than building exclusive lanes and bridges, which cost much more than the buses, the same money could be spent on buying more buses and installing an efficient computer based management system to provide better services to people rather than wasting money on one route only.

If you like Jaho Jalal, please follow us on Facebook


S A J Shirazi said...


Now you know why Metro should not be our priority.

Taimur said...

Informative to an extent but overlooks scalibility and other local factors by quite a margin. It would be much more prudent to compare metros of cities like Hamburg, Berlin or perhpas London to that of Lahore. Kiel is a relatively small city, infact not even a tenth compared to Lahore. While they can afford to keep buses on same road as general traffic using existing "two/three lanes", have a look at the badshahi mosque picture above... and why object to subsidy?? let the common man atleast get some benefit (as pretentious as it may sound), its not that extra revenue from higher ticket fairs would somehow make its way to something of benefit for the common folk, we all know where it would go.

WJB-JNR said...

It took a long time to read but I have to say though, nice comparison! You indeed went to an extent when making the comparison.

@Taimur you're missing the pint bro! Cities in Europe where there are other means of transportation like subways etc, they require loads of capital which a country like Pakistan can't afford in decades to come. This post gives an insight to the bus system only which runs on the main roads, without any need of separate tracks or bridges and still manage to go non-stop!. The Metro projects in Lahore/Rawalpindi are highly impractical and useless for reducing traffic!

Unknown said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.A fantastic presentation. Very open and informative.You have beautifully presented your thought in this blog post. Travel