Revamping Public Transport System in Islamabad


Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan, planned in 1960s. Islamabad is adjacent to an historical town,
Rawalpindi, and is seat of national government. It houses most federal government ministries,
diplomatic missions, businesses and headquarters. According to (Census, 2017) total population of
Islamabad is around 2.0 million and is growing at fast pace. Moreover, there are about 6 lac government

employees working in the federal government and thousand others in private sector. The study
conducted by Capital Development Authority (CDA) shows that about 700,000 trips occur every day
within the city and up to 500,000 daily trips from the city to adjoining urban areas. To our surprise,
currently, there is no urban transport master plan in place in Islamabad, thus, making it difficult for
thepeople to move for work, study and other purposes. Public transport system remains the only viable
option for middle or low income class in urban and rural areas of Islamabad to access employment,
education, health, and other services. Rapid urbanization and increasing population has burdened the
public transport system and is resulting in increased private motor vehicles, for mobility, on the roads. A
good transport system not only ensures active participation by the people in daily life affairs but also
increases their welfare. On the other hand, lack of access to public transport leads to social exclusion
and reduced welfare. Women are more likely to face challenges while accessing public transport owing
to socio- cultural environment that restricts women mobility due to family honor. Women have to face
harassment by the drivers and conductors in public transport and there are limited number of seats
reserved for the women. Such factors reduces women’s participation in socio-economic activities and
leads to alienation. Taxi’s and online cabs such as Careem and Uber are quite expensive and
unaffordable for middle or low income class to commute on daily basis. Moreover, facilities for disabled
persons in public transport system are non-existent which resultantly hampers their mobility and
excludes them from active participation in society. Hence, disabled persons have to rely on personal or
private transport for accessing education, health and other services which is undoubtedly expensive. A
recent survey showed that 90 % of people were dissatisfied with current the public transport system in
Islamabad. A good transport policy helps people to access public transport. Policies of subsidized, free or
concessionary fares ensures affordability and accessibility of public transport by every underprivileged
class. Currently, Wagon, Coaster along with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), remains the main mode of traveling
in Islamabad. Routes of current public transport are insufficient and service also remains inadequate.
The routes are longer and time consuming as the drivers of the transport make longer stay at stops.
Moreover, transport fares are not regularly updated with change in fuel prices and it always causes rift
among transport owners, passengers and transport authorities. Another problem that residents of
Islamabad face is that, they cannot find public transport after specific hours and have to hire a taxi for
reaching destination. There is dire need of revamping decade old public transport system. With the
passage of time, size and population of Islamabad is growing fast and to keep pace with it there is need
of widened road network with new transport mechanism. New bus service should be installed in
Islamabad where facilities for older and disabled persons be ensured. Improvements in public transport
system will enhance mobility of masses specially for students and employees. It is time that policy
makers should chalk out comprehensive transport policy where issues of accessibility and affordability
are addressed and people are provided with good and inexpensive transport facilities in Islamabad.

(The writer is Mphil student of Development Studies at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE),