Plans for Karachi’s Red Line BRT passed a new landmark recently, as the Sindh Government decided to move forward with the BRT Project and announced a timeline. The decision came after a visit from ITDP staff , as well as former Bogotá mayor and ITDP Board President, Enrique Peñalosa. Planned by ITDP with support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Red Line BRT corridor will reduce congestion and emissions and improve travel times for thousands of city residents.
After a series of recent stakeholder meetings, the Secretary of Sindh Transport and Mass Transit Department, Tauha Ahmed Farooqui, announced that Sindh Province, of which Karachi is the capital and largest city, will continue to develop the Red Line BRT. The government has already submitted a bill in the assembly to establish the Sindh Mass Transit Authority, which will be involved with the project. If plans move swiftly, Secretary Farooqui said the Red Line could be operational by the end of next year or early 2017.
On a recent visit to Karachi, Enrique Peñalosa, who as Mayor of Bogotá opened the highly successful TransMilenio BRT, offered advice on achieving success for the system. After visiting sections of the planned corridor, Peñalosa discussed the importance of strong political leadership. He also underscored the importance of using street space for public transit. “The most important discussion in all cities in the world, which has direct link to what [Karachi] is doing today, is how to distribute the city’s most valuable resource: its road space,” he said. “You could find oil or diamonds underneath Karachi and it would still not be as valuable as road space.”
Karachi has long had significant congestion concerns that have dampened quality of life and prosperity for residents. Starting in August 2014, members of ITDP Indonesia and China have developed a proposal for corridor specifications that would improve transit in the region.
Current designs for the Red Line call for a 25 km corridor with 41 stations and 1,600 buses, and would carry 625,000 passengers daily. The design also promotes an at-grade BRT concept, as opposed to the elevated BRT being considered by the government. At-grade BRT will open up more space for people to walk and enjoy public space along the corridor. Funding for the project has yet to be decided, as the Sindh Government considers using its own funds as an alternative to the ADB’s.
The progress on the corridor also opens opportunities to implement additional urban improvements. ITDP is now looking along the corridor to develop plans to remove parking spaces, improve pedestrian conditions, and relocate street vendors.
Several other BRT corridors are also being developed for the city, each designed by independent entities. ITDP Indonesia Director Yoga Adiwinarto warned that failure to integrate the lines’ design, technology, and management, could affect the success of the corridors. “You have to be extremely careful. It is a matter of the identity of the city”. ITDP, with support from Peñalosa, is now in the process of meeting with government officials and reaching out to urban planning firms to harmonize plans for BRT corridors throughout the city.