Feb 23
Apps Based Services Getting Popular In The Congested City PDF Print E-mail

By Apu Ahmed



A little magic from a digital device has recently brought about a break in experiencing nightmarish mass transport in the sprawling capital by many especially busy young people. Operation of growing ride sharing companies with the help of smart-phone based applications gives relief to the commuters from suffering they undergo everyday to maintain movement in the congested city in absence of the proper mass transportation system that somehow depends heavily on the compressed natural gas run three wheelers.


CNG Autorickshaws

However, the operation of auto-rickshaws has never been regulated properly in the capital forcing passengers to pay higher bucks from the government regulated fare. Extra buck extracted from the commuters is a common phenomenon and shared by a syndicate comprising auto-rickshaws owners, drivers, police and corrupt regulators.  The commuters are victim of monopoly of the system while the unethical practice of the CNG operators benefits the syndicate at cost of people. Now the growing number of commuters availing of the mobile application based ride sharing and puts the CNG auto-rickshaws operators to face troubles. The CNG run auto-rickshaws have become less demanded nowadays which causes reduction in income for the operators and other members of the syndicate.

Unethical Practice

In fact, the commuters have long been waiting to get rid of the unethical practice they have to tolerate due to unruly CNG operators and failure by the government to make them discipline. That is why that the introduction of ride sharing is welcomed by the commuters who have expressed their satisfaction with the service as it is comfortable, cheaper and faster while anyone can avail the service anytime, even at midnight on their doorstep. So, there is no surprise that CNG run three wheelers are feeling pinch from the passengers who cannot afford private cars. Besides, CNG auto-rickshaws was always demanded as those are suitable modes of transport in the city mainly due to their size, suited to narrow, crowded streets, and reliable for covering longer distances within urban areas.

CNG Operators Alerted

Not only expressing anger towards the mobile application based ride sharing the CNG operates even threatened to call strike in the capital. The upshot of the whole development highlighted the very truth that ethical business practices were a critical aspect of sustainability. The CNG operators have not followed sustainable business providing the fact they incentivise and reward the unholy alliance. No doubt, the unsustainability breeds corruption that always poses risks. The CNG run operators are now facing the very risk that they let to grow over the years. The risk is now overburdened with curse from the commuters of the capital that is now home to 15 million people and is expected to be 36 million by 2024 with estimated total 70 million person trips a day.

Demand on Wane

Mobile app-based ride sharing has also introduced in Chittagong in addition to Dhaka. The service are getting good response in both the city’s as many are turning their back on compressed natural gas-run auto-rickshaws. The CNG-auto drivers, who often appear reluctant when approached by anyone for a ride, are now raising alarm seeking closure of the ride sharing services. The owners have already sent a letter to road transport and bridges ministry in this regard while the drivers have announced that they also will launch mobile app-based CNG auto-rickshaw service in the two major cities. On the contrary, they have expressed their frustrations over the CNG-auto service which operates flouting the government-fixed fare rates while they are not comfortable. Commuters said although in some cases the service was more expensive than CNG autos, the comfort and easy availability made it lucrative.


During a press conference November 19 in the capital, Dhaka and Chittagong Districts CNG-Run Auto-Rickshaw Workers’ Unity Council leaders threatened to go for a strike if the government would not stop ‘illegal’ ride sharing services like Uber and Pathao. Many commentators said it is very good joke from the CNG auto rickshaw drivers who used to exploit hapless passengers. CNG auto’s fares, in Dhaka and Chittagong, are in complete disarray since the government imposed ban on two stroke three wheelers and paved the entry of CNG auto-rickshaw in 2002. The government increased fare of CNG autos several times while it increased the fare lastly on September 10, 2015 to charge Tk 40 for the first two kilometres, Tk 12 for each kilometre afterwards, Tk 2 per minute as waiting charge and with Tk 900 daily deposit. But hardly any CNG driver gave service to any passenger without taking higher fare. The drivers have alleged that the owners compelled them to charge extra by taking even double their daily deposit — an allegation the owners brushed aside.


The corrupt system forces auto rickshaw owners to pay three times more than the actual price to get a new CNG-driven three-wheeler on the roads and the extra cost is passed on to the passengers, CNG owners and drivers say. Owners’ ignorance of the government fixed fare rules and regulations in the CNG transport sector and harassment by law enforcers also costs passengers extra. The actual cost of getting a CNG-run auto-rickshaw on the road should be around Tk 5 lakh, more than Tk 13 lakh are spent. It is mandatory for the three wheelers auto-rickshaw drivers to pay all bank and mortgage backlogs of the old numbers which is the main reason of increasing price of the CNG-run three-wheeler.



A powerful group in the concerned ministry and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority officials is eating away most of the money as bribe in the name of replacing licenses and road permission of the three-wheeler. The CNG run auto rickshaw owners and drivers recoup the cost from the passengers. Around 12,815 regular and 5,000 private CNG-run auto-rickshaws run in Dhaka, but the demand in this city is higher.  Over 10,000 CNG-run auto-rickshaws ply the Dhaka city streets illegally by bribing a syndicate of traffic policemen and middlemen. These vehicles, usually registered in districts close to Dhaka, get into the capital in exchange for bribes. Over Tk 5 crore comes from bribes every month, and middlemen, traffic policemen and even high-ranking police officials get their cut. The entry points are Jatrabari, Shyampur, Hazaribagh, Mohammadpur, Gabtoli and Abdullahpur. The drivers pay the syndicate Tk 5,000 to Tk 7,000 a month to operate in the entire city except Farmgate, Bijoy Sarani and Mohakhali.


Uber Cars


The new-found transport mode cannot be an alternative to the ultimate mass transport that is a key component of a big city. Ever since mobile-phone application based ride sharing in the privately owned passengers cars by Uber hit the city streets more and more people have availed of the service. So, this is not a surprise that Dhaka becomes one of the fast-growing Uber-using cities in Asia-Pacific within only six months of its launching in the most populous city plugged with unreliable public service transport systems in addition to perennial traffic jam wasting valuable hours. Despite popularity Uber is yet to receive full approval from the government. The fast growing company is operating with verbal approval from the state-owned transport regulator that is now preparing a guideline to give official recognisation to the ride sharing operators. Unlike other countries in Asia and Europe the ride sharing operators are facing little resistance from the local taxi drivers. In fact, the absence of proper taxi service in the city because of failure by government to establish one of the key features of an urban society. The state-owned regulator was tentative initially on the ground of security and possible resistance from the traditional transports operators, but could not stop the operation by the mobile application based operators. Logically, the present government is in odd position to ban the service since it failed to improve mass transport despite procuring several hundred buses from India on suppliers’ credit and give commuters reliefs from nagging traffic snarl although it has installed more than three flyovers in the city.



Riding on huge success in passenger sharing in cars Uber has launched motor cycle ride sharing service in the capital on November 13. Named as UberMOTO the service aimed at bringing benefit for city-dwellers yearning for more convenient service during notorious traffic congestion. Uber launched UberMOTO service in India and completed two million trips in the first year of the operation. It also had similar success in several cities of Indonesia and Vietnam. Pathao, a local venture, has gained huge popularity after it inaugurated the service in July last year. Analysts said in cities like Dhaka where traffic jams cost its inhabitants dearly in wasted time, fuel and energy, bikes have become very popular as they help weave through the congestion cutting travel times. Now it has become the most preferred and cost-effective transportation mode in Dhaka, evident from the surge of almost 40 percent in motorcycle sales in the past one year, according to BRTA.