Strange design of Orange Line’s ‘dedicated’ track baffles commuters in Karachi

Published October 31, 2022
(Top left) This manually-operated gated ‘U-turn’ can be described as one of the remarkable feats of traffic engineering. It is run by a security guard who opens the gate of Orange Line only to allow people to take a cheeky turn to the right side in order to cross the road without permitting them to go further on the dedicated track. The picture shows motorcyclists and a donkey-cart wait for their turn at the iron gate left slightly ajar as a rickshaw manoeuvres in the little space provided to take the u-turn. — Fahim Siddiqui/White Star
(Top left) This manually-operated gated ‘U-turn’ can be described as one of the remarkable feats of traffic engineering. It is run by a security guard who opens the gate of Orange Line only to allow people to take a cheeky turn to the right side in order to cross the road without permitting them to go further on the dedicated track. The picture shows motorcyclists and a donkey-cart wait for their turn at the iron gate left slightly ajar as a rickshaw manoeuvres in the little space provided to take the u-turn. — Fahim Siddiqui/White Star

KARACHI: The Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project has been creating plenty of problems after taking to the road.

The big grey gates open to let the bus out from its brief dedicated track. From Abdullah College to the Banaras Bridge there is a semi-dedicated track with other vehicles on the roads.

There is a white line painted on the road to separate the bus track for some half a kilometre followed by the guards in grey uniform with maroon caps opening the big gates again for the bus to enter.

Watching the rickshaw, trucks, cars, pickups and bikes coming in the way of the bus, one pedestrian asked aloud the need for the dedicated tracks that occur after every few yards of semi-dedicated areas.

“The dedicated tracks for the Orange Line seem like a waste of money. Could this bus not be moved on the roads entirely like the Peoples’ Bus Service?” he asked.

A passenger feels dedicated track waste of money; official plans to install a priority traffic light to ensure smooth traffic flow

The bus service, which was launched in September, operates on a 3.88-kilometer-long route and provide connectivity from Orangi Town to the Board Office Chowk traffic intersections.

At the start of Orangi Town, near the District West Karachi SSP Office, there is more such chaos when the dedicated track at 5 1/2 (five and a half) crossing ends for a few yards and the bus is in danger of crashing into more traffic if not saved by the uniformed Orange Line guards.

“Why did they have to break the dedicated track here? They could have easily let it go on for the normal traffic to make a U-turn from up ahead under the elevated track for the Orange Line,” one motorist asked after witnessing the dangerous crossing.

Speaking to Dawn about the Orange Line’s function, Abdul Aziz, General Manager Operations, Green and Orange Lines Bus Service, said thatthe Sindh government was responsible for the Orange Line’s infrastructure while he headed the team that looked after its operations.

“The Orange Line track is dedicated somewhere and open to mix traffic at other places. It is not that long a route to make it completely dedicated or people would have issues,” he said.

“Quite frankly, dedicated routes all over the world don’t even have grills or fences. The people there are so educated that they don’t come on the dedicated tracks and give priority to the bus. We need to learn that kind of discipline instead of complaining about the ‘pathetic’ or ‘troublesome’ design,” he said.

“Still,” he said that they were planning on installing a priority signal at the 5 1/2 junction for the smooth flow of traffic there. “People will get a red signal whenever the bus is passing to stop for it then,” he explained.

The Orange Line project was launched by former Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah in 2016 and it took six years to complete. The government had named it after late Abdul Sattar Edhi Line to pay tribute to the late philanthropist.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2022

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