KARACHI: A new and unknown world of mass transit opened up for Karachiites as the Green Line bus service became fully operational on Monday. As many as 80 buses could be spotted moving towards Surjani Town from Numaish and the other way around from 7am till 10pm.
Venturing inside the entrance, you find yourself heading downstairs to a two-level basement. The first level had the ticketing area.
For now one can get tickets in two ways one of which is going to the ticketing booth and pay Rs55 for a ticket for whether you are travelling to the station ahead or to all 22 stations. But another better and economical way is to buy a Rs100 card which can be topped up. As you reach a station to get off, the machines there will deduct your fare as per kilometre of your travelling.
Later, there will be more options for buying tickets.
“You will also have the option of buying tickets through vending machines, which we will be made functional in a week or so. And within two to three months there will also be point of sale or POS machines attached to the vending machines as these can charge you through your credit or debit cards,” Abdul Aziz, the senior manager (bus operation and intelligence transport system) of the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (SIDCL), explained to Dawn.
He said that they had tried to replicate UK’s bus system here.
Telling more about the vending machines at the bus stations here, he said that they are state-of-the-art machines bought from Turkey, which can also accept currency notes.
“The vending machines, when fully operational, will issue tickets as well as top-up cards, which will help lessen human interaction in a Covid environment. Still, the less tech savvy can go to the ticketing booth,” he said.
“There will also be another option of topping up your bus cards through your mobile app, which is also going to begin in a couple of months. Your card will carry a unique ID number that you can enter to top up through your credit or debit card, Easypaisa, etc, right from the comfort of your home,” he added.
He also spoke about minimising government subsidy here. “For this we have worked on non-fare revenue, too. The government can earn from bus fares and from non-fare ways as well such as advertisements. For that we have kept digital marketing inside the buses as well as printed ads,” he said.
Meanwhile, going another level down, you can catch your bus, which stops at the station only for two to three minutes.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to hurry as there is no chance of you ever missing your bus. One bus leaves, and another comes in within three minutes of its leaving.
Getting on the bus from Numaish, which for now is an end as well as start of route station, you notice that there are not many people leaving from there and the buses are heading off quite empty.
“That’s because the pattern is such that most people come towards their business or work area in the morning. Most markets and offices happen to be in the Saddar area and so people are travelling this direction. The rush to the way back home will pick up in the afternoon,” Mr Aziz pointed out.
He also said that SIDCL has a central command and control centre in the Garden area. “Currently, we are doing an origin and destination survey also. In about one or two months we will have data about how many travellers are using our buses and travelling from where. After that we may even revise the bus timings,” he said.
He also shared that for park and ride, they will also be opening up parking spaces from Station 2, which is the KDA Flats station to Station 9, which is the U.P. Morr Station.
“That was you can come, park your vehicle and get on the bus. This is also known as ‘last mile connectivity’,” he said.
Incomplete work at stations
It is a 21km dedicated track on which you find a station with 800 metres of each station. There are 22 stations functional for now.
The Numaish station is followed by Patel Para or Gurumandir, Lasbela Chowk, Sanitary Market, Nazimabad No 1, Inquiry Office, Annu Bhai Park, Board Office, Hyderi, Five Star Chowrangi, Jumma Bazar, Erum Shopping, Nagan Chowrangi, U.P. Morr, Road 4200, Power House Chowrangi, Road 2400, 2 Minute Chowrangi, Surjani Chowrangi, Karimi Chowrangi, KDA Flats and last stop Abdullah Chowk.
Several of these stations are still without lifts or escalators which become a problem for some aged or disabled people. But it was said that soon these too will start working as the machinery and equipment come in.
The buses are all imported and being hybrid they run on fuel as well as electricity. They give off very little carbon monoxide emissions.
Each 18 metres long stretched accordion bus has a capacity of 150 passengers including sitting and standing areas. The ladies area is in the front portion of the bus, families can take the middle portion and men sit right at the back. There is also an area reserved for blind and disabled passengers.
The smartly uniformed bus driver has his own little compartment outside which is a sticker discouraging the passengers to speak to the driver unless there is any emergency. It also says that the driver carries no cash and any kind of abuse of the driver shall result in prosecution. Just a suggestion, but it would have been good to also have this written in Urdu.
There are constant announcements playing inside the bus informing you about the specific areas in the bus and how to buy bus tickets as you move towards your destination. A pleasant female voice tells you about the approaching stations, too. Inside the bus, it is easy to imagine that one is not in Karachi or Pakistan even. But once you peer outside the windows, the dusty, congested roads of the city bring you back.
Still, one will never experience a traffic jam when travelling on the Green Line bus. And on the dedicated track it is also difficult to imagine any kind of an accident or collision happening ever as there are no other vehicles or even people coming on this track.
One also wonders if the buses would remain as clean as they are at the moment. About this, the station manager at the last station of Abdullah Chowk said that all buses reaching there revert after a thorough cleaning. The same is the case with the Numaish station.
Three more stations after Numaish, namely, Seventh Day Hospital, Tibet Centre, and Eid Gah will also be added as the infrastructure for those is readied.
By March, it is expected that Orange Line Bus service will also get operational. The Orange Line is a Sindh government project for which 12 orange buses are expected to move up and down another four kilometres.
The Sindh government is paying for their own buses and making its infrastructure but they will be joining the Green Line Intelligence Transport System or ITS so that their ticketing can also integrated with the same bus fare card.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2022