Capital’s commuters, drivers demand bus parks for short-route transportLack of a bus park for short- and medium-route vehicles has inconvenienced thousands of commuters who rely on public vehicles.
On Friday evening, Kumar Basnet was among many people who had reached the City Hall at the Exhibition Road to get updates of the vote count of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
It was the sixth day of vote counting.
Basnet, 27, of Naya Bazar-7, Banepa Municipality in Kavrepalanchok, had come to Kathmandu on Thursday to make arrangements for his travel abroad. On Friday, he got caught up in the crowd of cheering supporters of Balen Shah, an independent mayoral candidate of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City who is leading the race.
At around 6pm, the weather changed. A strong storm was brewing overhead and soon the city was drenched in heavy rainfall. Basnet looked around for shelter. He would have preferred to get on a bus and make his way home but there were no bus stands around where he could wait out the storm.
“It's really hard to get buses to Banepa from the Bir Hospital area,” said Basnet, who had by then moved to a nearby shade offered by a tree where dozens more were sheltering from the rain.
“It’s so shameful that the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the country’s largest capital city, does not have a bus park for short- and medium-route buses,” said Basnet.
The country’s Capital city has not had a bus park for short and medium route buses for over a year and hundreds of commuters who depend on public transport find it a challenge to move around the city.
Until last year, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City used the Khula Manch, the open air theatre, as a bus park. On April 28 last year, the city padlocked Khula Manch following numerous protests by heritage activists, locals and citizen-led groups, who had been calling for vacating Khula Manch since 2019. Buses and other public vehicles had to be cleared out from Khula Manch.
The initial plan was to use Khula Manch as a bus stand for six months but for lack of an alternative, the bus park operated out of Khula Manch for more than five years.
In 2016, the City decided to use half of the Khula Manch as a bus park to facilitate the construction of the View Tower at the Old Bus Park. The City had planned to use the tower’s basement as a bus park.
The View Tower is being built under a build-own-operate-transfer basis by Jaleshwar Swachhanda Bkoi Builders Pvt Ltd. According to the original contract, the company was to complete the construction in five years, operate the property for 30 years and then hand it over to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. But the contractor has already missed the construction deadline and has secured an extension of the contract, according to City officials.
Since last year, the City has applied a ‘pick and drop system’ for buses to Banepa, Panuati, and Sundarijal from Bir Hospital; safa tempos [electric three-wheelers] and micro buses within the Kathmandu Valley can pick and drop passengers from the New Road Gate and Bhrikutimandap area. This has resulted in limited destination options for tens of thousands of people who travel from the outskirts of the Valley to Kathmandu and back every day.
Prakash Lama, 62, from Swayambhu, who was also at the Exhibition Road on Friday, said the management, or lack thereof, of public transportation for short- and medium-routes is frustrating. “There are no bus parks in a city full of vehicles,” said Lama, who is a retired teacher. “We don’t even have proper bus stands where commuters can wait for buses and take shelter from the elements. The first job of the upcoming mayor should be eliminating these problems.”
The New Bus Park at Gongabu is only for long route buses except for Sajha Yatayat buses, which ply within the Valley. For other short and medium route public buses and other vehicles, there are no designated parking spaces.
Not only commuters and Kathmandu locals, but bus drivers also have concerns over the mismanagement of the public transport system in the city.
“This whole situation has caused us major inconveniences,” said Tashi Lama, 36, a bus driver who has been in the profession for the past 13 years.
“We don’t have designated spaces where we can park, or even pick and drop passengers. While on the job, we can’t even park our vehicles to relieve ourselves. The traffic police will chase us away if we don’t clear out from an area within seven minutes,” added Lama, who drives in the Dhulikhel-Kathmandu route.
“Kathmandu’s new crop of elected representatives should focus on building bus parks in accessible areas immediately. Former mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya said he would look into these issues but there has been no tangible progress so far,” said Lama.
Since Mayor Shakya and deputy mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi completed their five-year terms on May 19, the new team of elected representatives must look into the issue now, said Ishwar Man Dangol, former spokesperson of the City. “The contractor had informed me that the construction of the multi-storey view tower was almost complete. But now the newly elected representatives should take up the issue,” he said.
The absence of designated bus parks and stands has also added to the daily workload of the traffic police, said a traffic constable deployed in the Bir Hospital area requesting anonymity.
“We have to be extra alert throughout the day because if we do not keep the traffic flowing, then the transportation routes will be caught in a gridlock,” he said. “If there were bus parks where public vehicles could park their vehicles between routes then the roads wouldn’t be jammed,” he said. “They wouldn’t be parking by the roadside causing traffic congestion.”
“Kathmandu’s traffic in the core area like Sahid Gate, New Road and Ratnapark is chaotic for a lack of bus parks,” he added. “A model bus park is the need of the hour in Kathmandu. I request those who will come into office to act on this matter immediately.”