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February 21, 2013

Helping Bangladesh’s Chaotic Traffic Problems

photoA chronic traffic jam in Dhaka

Buses running out of change, long waiting lines for tickets, slow boarding or exiting on the road—all of this has made an already difficult traffic problem even worse in Bangladesh.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is helping the country to try to solve its urban transportation problems by, among other methods, assisting the Bangladesh national bus company to introduce a single rechargeable IC card to encourage fast and easy boarding.

JICA’s project is in tandem with a government plan to build a mass transit bus and rail system to encourage an ever-increasing urban population to use public transport.

The pre-paid and re-chargeable “SPASS” card uses a leading-edge, contactless technology from Japanese company Sony Corporation which is already common in Japan.

photoPeople flocked around a bus for boarding

There was some initial concern if Bangladeshis would accept the cards because of cultural and social differences but the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Out of 26,000 IC cards provided, more than 18,000 are being used as of October 2012. They have helped not only alleviate traffic jam in the city but also reduce exhaust gas or carbon dioxide, eliminate illegal ride and furthermore significantly increase freight receipt coupled with higher level of service and customer satisfaction.

Changes in monthly sales are remarkable. Compared to April 2012 when the project was initiated, sales per bus increased by 150%.

The government has recently introduced women-only bus services including a female bus driver, which is gaining support from Bangladeshi women because it is not preferred that married women become under the gaze of men in public in Bangladesh.

photoA woman holds a card over a machine to get on board

These ancillary benefits has prodded the Bangladesh national bus company toward extending the service to all of its lines of Dhaka city and it is now discussing introducing the service to railroads.

Bangladesh has enjoyed relatively stable economic growth since 1990. But this has been accompanied by increasing urban population and urbanization in recent years especially in Dhaka, which is notorious for its severe traffic jam among metropolitan cities in Asia. The city’s 2024 population will be 19.5 million, more than double of that of 2004 according to the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) 2005 for Dhaka by the World Bank.

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