Travelling On The Edge – Karachi’s Transport System

Nov 23, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: General, Hang Out, Travelogue

Oxygen is the most important element required by the human body. Without its constant supply, the human body goes into organ failure and one by one, each organ is completely destroyed. Oxygen is combined in the blood and is transferred throughout the body by the pumping of the heart. The heart is the only organ in the body that never rests. Karachi’s oxygen are its inhabitants; the blood vessels are the roads, and the blood is the transportation system. What Karachi needs to survive and be functional is that its blood veins should always be pumping blood for the oxygen to move throughout its body. If there is even one blockage, the city will suffer a heart attack and if that blockage isn’t addressed, it will descend into mayhem.

The city needs a centralized and an optimally organized transport system, which we unfortunately don’t have. What we do have are independent units in collaboration and understanding with each other such as mini-buses, coaches and etcetera. These buses with the strangest of the names dominate the city and provide a  system.  Some are given fancy names such as Starline, Muslim, MashAllah, and conventional ones like 1-D, 2-D, X-B, D-3. Probably everyone knows about the oldest ones like W-11 and W-22.

The people who can’t afford their own ride use this system throughout the city to get to their desired destinations but riding these buses is a miserable experience, and that’s just stating it mildly. The number of buses running on the roads is much lesser than is required for the population of Karachi and the bus drivers and conductors exploit this shortage, flooding the buses with people: on the roof, hanging on by the door and on the back. If you can find a place, you’re more than welcome to hop on, but if you fall, get hurt, or even die while trying to get on, the bus owners are not responsible. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

mini-bus-in-karachi

Well, if you do manage to get on one of the minis, you must be prepared for a long and horrible ride. The first thing you are  likely to notice is an assortment of  smells that you will most certainly have never sniffed before in your life. The immense suffocation thanks to the overloading makes it hard to breathe, and when a person has to get off at their stop, they have to fight and earn their passage to the door, stepping over everything in the way, because the driver does not wait for passengers to get off. Once you miss your stop, you are bound to be dropped so far away from your destination, you will have to get another bus back to it. Even if you manage to get to the gate, the bus wont be brought to a total halt, and you have to jump off it while it is still travelling.

Besides the obvious travelling hazards, these antique vehicles are also running time-bombs with their unsupervised CNG cylinders, a very big safety issue for the passengers. Time and again, one of these explodes, but the bus owners’ understanding with the traffic police lets them off easy, and hundreds of lives remain unaccounted for. This imperfect transportation system gets the job done but it is not the ultimate solution, as Karachi needs a much more capacious system to serve its ever-growing population. We may keep blaming the government for not doing something about it but  we are the ones who elected them in the first place. Maybe if we stopped whining and actually took a stand for the system to be revamped, our efforts might bear fruit in the coming years.

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