Mass transit may become the only sustainable way to travel in Pakistan

As distances rise, so does the possibility of earning. Access to personal mobility, through bikes or cars, has been a distant dream for the working class, and now even those who earn six figures are looking for alternatives

Two years ago, Ezza Fatima brought immense pride to her family by getting admitted to NUST, Islamabad after passing with flying colours in the entrance exam. Her parents were happy, Fatima was content, and the future looked bright. Except for one hitch: Fatima lives in Bahria Town Phase 8 which is approximately 23 kilometres or an hour away from NUST. 

In another household, Mohammad Akram’s wife, Saba Kiran, one evening proudly boasted to her friends that her husband got a permanent government job as a driver in the Ministry of Defence. No matter the rank, in Pakistan a government job brings stability, prestige, yearly appraisals and access to many other perks. The couple lives in Khanna Pull, Rawalpindi and Akram’s workplace at the Pak Secretariat is approximately 12 kilometres away from his residence, an enormous distance but manageable with his CD 70. 

Given that the latest petrol rate since January 29, 2023, is Rs 250 per litre, let’s look at the daily expense for both Fatima and Akram. Fatima’s car gives her an average of 12 kilometres per litre, which means she spends at least Rs 500 on her one-way ride to university. So on a daily basis, she spends Rs 1,000 just to attend university. On the other hand, Akram’s bike gives an average of 35 kilometres per litre, which means he spends about Rs 85 on his one-way ride to his workplace. On a daily basis, he spends Rs 180 every day visiting his office. 

Both Fatima and Akram are in a long-distance relationship with their dreams. The relationship turned toxic, as fuel prices saw a surge. Although Fatima and Akram come from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, both have found a solution in the Metrobus, which costs them Rs 80 (40+40) for a round trip to university and work, respectively. 

With the current price hike, the fuel burden has reached a historic high. It’s no longer a matter of affordability for an ordinary citizen, but it is also a heavy burden for an already cash-strapped government. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in December 2022 30% of Pakistan’s total imports were spent to buy fuel only. The import bill is likely to go upward as fuel prices reach a historic high, and the dollar peg is removed. Such difficulties for the government are manifested in the lives of ordinary citizens, as they are the ones repaying the debt through high energy costs to fill the fiscal gap. 

In this scenario, a lot of people are looking for alternate options. Mass transit, which argues in favour of affordability, mobility and environment preservation may become the safe haven for the plunging economy. To understand this, let’s explore it further.

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Momina Ashraf
Momina Ashraf
Momina Ashraf is an assistant editor at Profit.


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  2. As a Lahori I can tell you that public transport has done a lot of good for the city and its people. However, public transport system is still inadequate for the city’s needs. For example it doesnt connect to the airport, railway station or “Lari Adda”, which are main points of entry and exit from the city. Moreover, there are a lot of routes where the abundance of Chingchi rickshaws indicate a high demand for public transport.


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