The development of the transport sector over the years has failed to produce the expected results as it has not been done in a planned way, according to Professor Shamsul Haque of the civil engineering department at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
"The problems in this sector are getting increasingly bigger, leading to their getting even more complicated owing to the inability of the authorities concerned to address them to satisfaction," Haque said.
Instead of widening or expanding city roads, construction of flyovers has become a culture here. Ultimately it does not work, he observed.
The increase in the number of cars in the city has worsened the traffic jam. That is why the speed of vehicles in Dhaka has dropped to 4.5 kilometres per hour, said the Buet expert.
In his view, the development of the transport sector is possible even without any investment, but it is not being taken into consideration. Professor Haque said the sector cannot be brought under discipline only through investment without bringing in qualitative changes to the existing system.
"The government, ministries and development partners are all focusing on only mega projects. I am not saying that investment is not necessary, but reforms in the transport sector are also required alongside investment," he said.
The Buet professor underscored the importance of large-scale reforms in the sector.
He said, "Instead of letting different companies operate buses, there should be just one company to run all the buses on a certain route. This company may be formed with all the owners of private transport companies."
"It does not require any investment. It just needs a change in policy. Without implementing this system, discipline in Dhaka's transport sector cannot be ensured."
He cited the example of one such initiative in Gulshan where 11 companies used to run their buses. "Now buses ply the Gulshan roads under one umbrella named 'Dhaka Chaka', bringing about discipline in the neighbourhood. Now, there is no unhealthy competition. The same goes for Hatirjheel," he explained.
Besides, rickshaws are still plying the main roads, pedestrians are flouting traffic rules, and hawkers are still occupying the footpaths, he said, adding that existing practices must be changed.
Prof Shamsul Haque said the use of land in areas around Dhaka is increasing, but there is no plan for building any roads. It will put pressure on Dhaka city, he said, opining that large roads should be built to connect the eastern side of Dhaka.
During the Ershad period, some roads of this kind were built such as Pragati Swarani, Rokeya Swarani and Berhi Badh. Later, though, no governments constructed any such roads, he added.
Due to traffic congestion during peak hours in Dhaka city, the speed of public transport vehicles drops to five kilometres per hour, which is equivalent to the walking speed of people, according to a study conducted by Prof Moajjem Hossen, director of the Accident Research Institute at Buet. The study was published last year.
Twelve years ago, the speed was 21 kilometres per hour, noted the study. Commuters suffer from mental stress while they are stuck in a traffic jam. The stress causes many diseases. The traffic jam affects nine kinds of human behaviour, added the study.