AFTER a wait of nearly 16 years, both tracks of the Lyari Expressway in Karachi were finally opened for public use on Sunday in a ceremony presided over by the prime minister.
Originally launched in 2002, the project had been under discussion by planners since at least the mid-1980s. Dogged by controversy and cost overruns, the grand project connects the city’s northern suburbs with its southern business hub and the port. Thousands of families had to be relocated during the course of its construction, while the project has ended up costing nearly double the Rs5.5bn price tag that was originally attached to it.
Some civil society activists have questioned its utility, asking if the thoroughfare — a toll road — will really help lessen the congestion on the metropolis’s roads. While it cuts through populous districts Central and East, carrying commuters to the business hub in the south in a relatively smooth fashion shaving many minutes off what can be a nightmarish commute, only time will tell whether the city’s motorists will prefer to use this option to get to work/business and back.
While the debate over the Lyari Expressway’s utility is still ongoing, what is clear is that thoroughfares such as this are only one part of the solution to Karachi’s traffic mess.
Indeed, currently several mass transit projects are in various stages of construction, including the Green and Orange line bus services, while others have been discussed by the provincial government. Meanwhile, despite official promises that the project is on the verge of realisation, the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway seems like a distant dream.
As has been mentioned before, what Karachi needs is an integrated mass transit plan with a variety of transport options to cater to the commuting needs of this expansive city. Opening a toll road here or a bus line there reflects a discombobulated approach. Instead, city planners and elected officials, with the input of citizens, must come up with a workable mass transit plan.
Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018