Day to day commute for all the city dwellers in and around Kathmandu has truly become the stuff of nightmares. Even while the likes of Sajha Yatayat has been trying to expand, most recently adding 30 new buses on four routes for the convenience of the general public, there have been equally motivated attempts by other unions to block these kinds of introductions. While the politics regarding our general public transport system simmers on, the commuters are still suffering. The Week collected some their commuting experiences and views on the matter.
I come from Maitidevi to Sundhara every day, in a tempo, which is a hard commute because it takes a long time to get one. Since it is in the middle of a route, it’s often full already and won’t stop. The microbus that goes to Gongabu is overloaded with people. When I take the microbus in this route, it’s like entering a battle zone. If a Sajha bus was added in routes like this, I think it would be easier for the public to commute. Some routes don’t need a bigger bus all day, but do during the rush hour so I think the government should start timed services where a Sajha bus operates at fixed rush hour times to make commuting easier.
If I were to describe my day-to-day commute experience, it would be ‘physically and mentally draining.’ I get off work around 7:30pm and I often have to rush to catch the last ride of the route. Every single evening, I have to squeeze myself into an already packed bus and stand, hunched down, for a good 30 minutes.
It really bothers me that our city can’t provide transportation services to the public after a certain time. It’s such a nuisance. But I guess that also demonstrates the lack of system and rule in the way public transportations operate in and around the capital.
Many foreign governments actually financially aid the bus drivers and companies so rather than the profits alone, they prioritize providing service. Can we not throw away the syndicates and adopt such systems here as well? Public transport, after all, is an investment.
I live in Gongabou and have to come to Sundhara for work. Still, I have completely given up on using public transport. I simply walk. It takes me at least an hour and half to get to my destination but I prefer that to using our city’s public transport. I’m just fed up with the over packed buses and the bad attitudes of the conductors. I have also given up hope that I will ever be able to find a reasonably filled bus on my route.
Thus, currently I am all for completing the expansion of the road, taking out the old small vehicles that cause traffic congestion and replacing them with big buses. Introducing Sajha buses, for instance, has improved the public commuting experience to a great extent. So even though these alterations might take time and negotiation, I hope they will be able to usher in the changes.
Although the Sajha bus is great on its own way, for people who want to be somewhere on time, microbuses are the best option. The city is already so congested with vehicles I think that instead of adding more buses inside the city, they should do long distance routes that none of the other buses do. Instead of just doing a route that ends in Bhaktapur, if the bus could go up to Sanga or even further and had fixed departing and arriving time, things would be much easier for people who live on the outskirts as well. The last vehicles in most routes are around 7.30 which is inconvenient for people who have to work overtime. So I think they need to prolong the timing of the service they provide as well.
Although we are blessed to have any form of public transport at all, I find that the bus that runs to Bhaisepati is a big joke. Unlike the other routes, the buses here don’t come as frequently and when they do, by the time it reaches Jawalakhel it’s already full. I think that instead of taking new buses to routes where there already is satisfactory service, people should focus on routes that don’t.
As for the syndicates that the drivers have, as long as we keep complying with their wishes, there will be no change in the country. There will be some disgruntled people whenever there is change and development. They would rather transport us like animals than think of our comfort to make money. Their wishes shouldn’t come second to those of the general public who outnumber them.
Sajha usually undertakes longer routes than microbuses and other buses do. Living and working in Jawalakhel, whenever I have to go to the other side of town I wait for a Sajha bus rather than getting on a microbus. Not only is it already cramped without much leg space, too many people are let on board to squeeze as much as money as they can from one trip. So many others like me want to travel long ways in relative comfort and I think that these syndicates and groups shouldn’t stand in the way of the public’s comfort. Instead, they should improve their services so that even though there is competition they don’t have to worry. The government should try to reinforce rules that don’t allow public service vehicles to let people stand inside.
Ram Chandra Gautam
I am a family man but the condition of our public transport is such that I have started dreading outings with them. The buses tend to be packed to such an extent that every time I make my children use them, I can’t help but feel incredibly concerned. I actually thank my lucky stars that my workplace is close to my residence. Otherwise my days in Kathmandu would be unbearable. Though these days, my hometown Pokhara seems to be experiencing the same public transport problem as well.
This is clearly a national issue. The whole point of public transport is to provide convenience and service to the public. But the way our bus unions and corporates operate, it’s clear this isn’t a priority at all.