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Evolution of Public Transport in Lahore

There is a saying which goes like; “if the public transport of a city is smooth enough, people of the city are welcoming, accommodating, the city itself is seen on these premises”.

Lahore is the second-largest city in Pakistan. A city consisting of around 12 million people! Transportation here is quite good, if not the best. But based on the general perception of the middle and upper classes, they usually don’t take public transport. If someone is from the affluent class, he or she will not recommend you to take public transport. People usually don’t say it, but you can feel it.

Taking public transportation is not for ‘classy people’. You can say that it is something, mostly used by poor people. That’s why there is so much stigma attached to public transportation, still, you can say that Lahore public transport is much better than the rest of Pakistan. So, let’s skim through the history of Public transport in Lahore.

There was once an era when grand Volvo buses, coloured in beige, yellow and white, ran across the Lahore metropolitan by the local government. These Volvo buses were the landmark identity of Lahore. At that time, some simple people weren’t in rush, Lahore was not that much crowded. After some time, these buses were dumped, in favor of a private company, which found an opportunity.

That private company got those Volvo buses off the roads of Lahore, briefcases got exchanged. The unfortunate part is, those buses, were too laid-off to rot under the sun and rust. That dump yard was opposite to Daewoo station at the Kalma chowk. Which was once the government’s dump yard or we can say the Volvo graveyard, is now replaced by lofty high-rises, today’s pristine real estate strip on the Ferozpur Road.

Things changed, people started living in the rush hour. Then we saw the time of mini-vans. At that time these mini-vans charged 2 rupees per ride. This was way back in 1998-99. Most of these mini-vans were owned by the police. Special permits were allowed and distributed to these vans.

Each of these vans had a set route. The route permit and the price list for route-to-route were glued to the window. The conductor would sit half-hanging outside and half-balanced on a corner of the seat, which was a custom-made welded seat to accommodate him. At that time, the driver would walk away with PKR. 300 to 400 a day, while the conductor was paid PKR. 100-150 per day.

The downside of these mini-vans was many:

  • Rash drivers.
  • The conductors were unruly.
  • Some conductors would overcharge, some would be friendly, but most of them were unkempt and all rusted and dusted, going days without taking a bath, their hair, because of the dust would seem like glued to each other, which made them look even more horrible. In short, the smoke and dust made their personalities half-dead.
  • The drivers would ogle the lady passengers, as the front seats were reserved for the ladies. Hence, this job became one of the hot favorite jobs in the community.
  • Usually, the passengers would get into a petty fight over the prices being charged, for the balance amount not paid or received in full.
  • The van drivers would rush a fully-filled van, to offload and then restart the circuit (the return trip) all over again, rushing to complete more circuits in a day to earn more money.
  • Drivers would get reckless to arrive the end stop as quickly as possible. This resulted in accidents, fights, feuds, fatalities too.
  • If there were a rally to be arranged, these van drivers and conductors were arrested along with their vans to ply political workers from various spots of the city. This pick and drop service would last for a whole day and as a result, passengers had to rent a rickshaw, which charged them 3 times extra on that day.

 Then came a time when the clampdown on these vans was initiated by the Government of Lahore. But it was a phased clampdown. First, the makeshift seats, just behind the driver seat, running in parallel along the back of the driver’s seat to the sliding door was forcibly removed by traffic police. The decks, sound systems, were confiscated. Unnecessary penalties and fines were imposed on drivers and conductors. Longer delays at police check-posts were a norm to discourage these vans to ply in Lahore.

The reason for the clampdown was, a privately ran, mass transit company, co-partnered with LTC (Lahore Transport Company) was to be launched. At that time, the famous green and white Daewoo buses were also introduced. These buses plied from Lalak Jan chowk (in DHA), all the way to Model Town’s link road – numbered 5. That was the infamous bus service, with fare starting from 5 rupees. The vans plying on the Daewoo routes were then banned. Either confiscated or designated to routes outside of Lahore.

The vans were notorious or sometimes made so by the transport mafia, but their share was coming to an end, to open ways for other transport companies and services, which were waking up to the untapped opportunities that lay available. The corporate sector had yet to jump in.

Now we have reached the era of Metro Bus. The Lahore Metro Bus System (MBS) is Pakistan’s first rapid transit bus system that runs from Gajju Mata to Shahdara Town Lahore’s main artery, Ferozepur Road. A fleet of 66 articulated buses (each 18 meters long) carries up to 12,000 passengers per hour, from 27 stations on the route.

The system uses the e-ticketing and Intelligent Transportation System wand. System operations are managed by the Punjab Metro bus Authority, though IT services are handled in coordination with Punjab IT Board. According to the Lahore Transport Company, the daily ridership of the Metro bus exceeds 180,000 with the peak hourly ridership being 10,000 passengers per hour per direction. Studies conducted by one of the transport company, claims that this figure will increase by 222% to 20,000 in 2021. 

Orange Line (Lahore Metro) is the upcoming Public transport Project for Lahore.  Orange Line is an automated rapid transit system in Lahore, when open in 2020, the line will be Pakistan’s first metro. The Orange Line is the first-ever project, out of the three other rail lines projects, proposed for the Lahore Metro. The line will span 27.1 km (16.8 mi) with 25.4 km (15.8 mi) elevated and 1.72 km (1.1 mi) underground.

The system is designed to handle 30,000 passengers per hour. The Orange Line will initially transport 250,000 passengers per day, with a ridership of 500,000 passengers, three years after commencement of service. The system is designed to operate with a minimum headway of two minutes.  It is expected that the station will serve 24,520 passengers per hour in the Orange Line’s first year of operations – a figure which is expected to rise to 49,550, by 2025.


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