IT has been exactly one year since the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) began operation in the much longing for a public-transport system in the city of Karachi.

Stepping into the Numaish Station, I peered into my wallet for the rechargeable Breeze card which my colleague had bought for me on our first time covering travel by the bus for this paper. Meanwhile, the colleague himself bought a ticket this time because he had given his own card to his 15-year-old son, who uses the bus more often to visit his grandmother.

“My son has become very independent as far as commuting is concerned thanks to the Green Line. And my wife and I also feel confident about letting him ride the bus on his own,” my colleague tells me.

There are long lines forming at the Numaish Station akin to airport queues waiting to get their boarding passes. “This is nothing. You should see the lines around 11pm for the last buses,” says someone.

Then riding on the bus you can’t help but notice the regular public buses on the roads. Here, too, the bus is full but even those travelling while standing in it look calm and cool. There are no brakes or jerks as the bus rides smoothly on its dedicated track. The air-conditioning is also turned to just the right temperature.

A few students in lab coats are chatting happily. Two girls in the group share with the lone boy an anecdote about a teacher who is fond of eating egg whites only while leaving the yolks behind for others to consume. They are all laughing until one of them readies to get off at the next station. As she leaves, the one seated next to her gestures to a standing passenger to come take the seat.

Karachi’s first BRTS turns one; ferries over 12m passengers in one year

There are passengers of all ages, from 15-year-olds to the elderly on the bus. In the men’s section, a young man leaves his seat to offer it to an elderly passenger who had just come aboard at another stop.

Several female shoppers get off and on at the Hyderi Station. Most have to stand as the seating for female passengers seems to have fallen short with the popularity of the bus.

Meanwhile, the remaining students get back to their chatting. They discuss which movie to catch and where. They tell Dawn that they are final year medical students at Hamdard University and that they have been taking the Green Line from Numaish every day since it started operation since some of them live on or very near one station or the other.

In the family section of the bus in the middle you come across a young couple with a baby in the mother’s lap. All three have dozed off. They also look like frequent Green Bus travellers.

For those living on or near a Green Line station it must feel like living in Manhattan or any other modern city with a developed public transport system.

Meanwhile, we get off at the Nagan Chowrangi Station. On our way back, a gentleman with a white cane joins us at the Anu Bhai Station.

“I have been taking the Green Line to work for six to seven months now,” says Syed Raheel Abbas, the gentleman. “I’m blind and work at the Sindh Textbook Board as a Braille writer and I am grateful to the Breeze staff here who are always here to help me get on or off the bus,” he says.

“It used to be a big hassle to get to work each day before the Green Line. I have also slipped and fallen during my earlier commutes. My family would be so worried. I get off at the Numaish stop as I live close by. I can easily reach home by myself from there as I am used to my area,” he says.

We also come across people who are new to the Green Line. “It is my first time on the bus,” says one gentleman, who then points to his wife and daughter also standing with him to tell you that they are the ones who got him to come with them this time. “I have travelled on the Lahore Metro before this. There is a bigger crowd there but the rest is all the same. You also feel comfortable while travelling standing up,” he adds.

Little 18-month-old Zunaira rests her chin on the yellow bar of the bus while sitting on her grandmother Qudsia’s lap. Next to her sits a cousin, an aunt and an uncle. Baby Zunaira’s mother, Hurmat, is following in another Green Line right behind theirs with Zunaira’s younger sister Baby Zohra and the rest of the family. The entire family is visiting from Shikarpur and they have fallen absolutely in love with the bus even though they don’t have the station names down yet. “We will get off at Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar station,” they refer to the Numaish station.

Envisaged and executed in Feb 2016 by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the Green Line project was originally scheduled to complete within a year. However, it took almost six years to complete and formally began operation on Jan 10, 2022.

The success of the project can be gauged from the fact that over 12 million people used the service during one year.

According to Abdul Aziz, the general manager operations of the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, the Green Line has had 12,425,559 riders in this one year.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2023

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