Have you ever wondered where all the buses of Dhaka go at night? The answer is – nowhere.
Dhaka, a centuries-old city, has seen rapid development in recent years and become the beacon of Bangladesh's development story.
As the city expanded, so did its population and public transport. Unfortunately, the transportation system has not been developed in a planned manner.
The capital city is plagued by gridlocks and traffic chaos during the daytime, while at night the city roads turn into parking zones for buses.
Such nuisance parking by transport companies is further hampering the city's traffic management and adding to the woes of commuters.
Meanwhile, the regulatory agencies – city corporations, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) and Dhaka Transport Co-ordination Authority (DTCA) – are yet to devise a solution to this issue due to a lack of dedicated parking spots, bus depots and garages.
"We keep the buses on the road as there is no depot or dedicated land for parking. We usually park the vehicles at night (12-6 am) when there is low traffic on the roads. The buses are on the move throughout the day", said Md Harun-or-Rashid, chairman of Bikash Paribahan.
Blaming BRTA, Dhrubo Alam, deputy transport planner at DTCA, said, "According to BRTA's terms and conditions, transport owners must have self-parking facilities. But this is not being followed up and is overlooked due to parking space shortage. We have nothing to do in this situation."
Contradicting the statement, BRTA spokesperson and director Mahbub-E-Rabbani said, "Not BRTA but the Metropolitan Transport Committee, headed by the DMP commissioner, gave the route permits. The bus owners rented a garage and submitted documents to get the permits, but later on they kept parking their vehicles on the roads."
Chairman of Bikash Paribahan Md Harun-or-Rashid said, "Most of the owners have no personal land or enough income to lease land for parking buses. The transport business in Dhaka is now in a bad shape as most owners are counting losses."
DTCA's Dhrubo Alam said, "The owners also tend to keep the buses near the starting point of their route. We call it 'dead mileage'."
The city corporations have failed here. They should have addressed the issue years earlier. The DTCA also has responsibility as the officers earlier could not do their duties properly, he said, admitting that the authorities concerned have a lack of knowledge in proper traffic management.
Acknowledging the need for parking zones, Kazi Borhan Uddin, superintendent engineer of Dhaka South, said, "We are now building a large parking zone for the city in Sayedabad. The project may be completed by June next year."
Asked why Dhaka South had failed to address the issue earlier, Kazi Borhan declined to make any comment.
Contacted, Maqsud Hashem, chief town planner of Dhaka North, said the DNCC also planned a project to build a parking zone.
Deputy Commissioner of DMP Faruk Hossain said, "Thousands of buses are parked every night on most of the city roads. Obstructing such parking is hard. Besides, there is no parking zone in the city. Where would the buses go?"
"The city planners or the city corporations did not think about the crucial parking system which is what we see in the cities of all developed countries," he said.
"We are blamed for this issue but we are just a law implementing agency. We cannot do anything if the agencies concerned do not allow us. We often bring up the issue in joint meetings but it goes in vain. Traffic management is becoming harder due to the illegal parking," Faruk Hossain said.
A master plan is needed to address all the traffic issues in Dhaka. A good number of parking zones need to be built around the city to provide room for the vehicles, the DC said, adding that police alone cannot solve the problem.
Agreeing with him, Secretary General of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association Khandaker Enayet Ullah said, "We urged the authorities 100 times to build designated parking spots. But neither the government nor the city corporations paid heed to our call."
Having no private parking zone in the capital, the owners are being forced to park their buses on the roads, he said, adding that police often lodged cases over this.