ISLAMABAD, Dec 12: The Asian Development Bank has agreed to assist Pakistan to develop a sustainable urban transport service in Karachi through the delivery of a bus rapid transit corridor focusing on accessibility and people’s mobility, and decided to send a mission to appraise the project, it emerged on Thursday.

According to the bank, a fact-finding mission will spend the whole month of May 2015 in Karachi to initiate the project design, while the project will come for the review in the first week of July 2015 before the ADB executive board takes it up and approves financing. The ADB has approved $9.25 million for the feasibility study.

The United Nations Development Programme will participate in project designing, mainly through stakeholder engagement process and inclusive infrastructure design which includes technical design and inputs from future users.

The bus industry transition process will continue with the objective that current bus operators will become the operators of the new bus rapid transit (BRT) operations. The ADB loan for the BRT project will also allow setting up of a fleet scrapping and compensation mechanism.

The ADB released details of the project on Thursday, stating that the project will aim at organising the urban growth and public space along the selected corridor through integration of land-use and transport planning on the lines of transit-oriented development, making Karachi more pleasant to live in, providing a holistic solution for integrated urban mobility, and bearing a demonstration value as no modern mass transit system exists in the city yet.

The project outcome will improve quality of public transport along a selected corridor in Karachi. The project will consist of two inter-linked output involving BRT corridor restructuring that will include the construction of a BRT route, designed and built following international best practices and quality standards along either the Green, Red or Yellow line; sidewalks, on-street parking, mixed-traffic lanes and NMT lane along the BRT; a high-capacity drainage system along the corridor; BRT depot; and improvement of access roads for non-motorised transport and feeder services.Energy-efficient streetlights and intelligent transport systems for traffic management along the corridor will also be procured and installed under the inter-linked output of the project. The construction of associated infrastructure such as intercity bus terminals and off-street parking is likely to be considered as well.

The project will also involve strengthening capacity of the Sindh Mass Transit Coordination Authority (SMTCA) and the Sindh Mass Transit Company (SMTC); structuring and delivering viable PPP arrangements through transaction advisory service; designing the BRT operational plan and business model; facilitating a bus industry transition through negotiations and capacity building for private bus operators selected to operate the BRT.

The project will set up a fleet scrapping programme and compensation mechanism for non-participating operators. Capacity building of traffic police will also be part of the project to enforce parking, street vendors policy, and other traffic rules, and implementing an urban development strategy along the corridor.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided assistance to the Sindh government to jointly develop the detailed and comprehensive Karachi Transport Improvement project, comprising a transport master plan and feasibility study for the Green and Red BRT lines.

In parallel, the government is currently experimenting a public-private-partnership model to implement the Yellow BRT. A stand-alone loan has been proposed as the financing modality since the project focuses on a single BRT corridor.

The ADB says the current level of bus service is nonetheless deficient with the bus fleet in poor condition; bus stops are rudimentary, without information on schedule or itinerary; the ticketing system is obsolete; and operators compete for passengers, worsening congestion and impairing safety.

The population of Karachi being the fast-expanding mega-city grew annually by 4.2 per cent since 1998, and is projected to grow from 18.9 million in 2010 to 27.6 million in 2020 and 31.6 million in 2030.

With limited infrastructure and low level of public services, the city’s urban transport system fails to provide mobility for all people. Car and motorcycle ownership (49.7 and 47.4 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2010) is still low but increasing fast with a growing middle class.

From 1988 to 2010, the number of registered cars in Karachi more than tripled, reaching 940,000, while the number of motorcycles quadrupled, reaching 900,000. Maintaining the same growth rate, there could be up to 2.1 million cars and 2.7 million motorcycles in 2025.

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