Starting from just 450,000 people in 1947, Karachi has exploded into a vibrant city of 23 million residents today. With strong centers of finance, manufacturing, and trade, the city has become Pakistan’s largest, and one of the most populous in the world. Karachi’s rapid rise in population, however, prevented strong transit and land use planning from taking root, resulting in a city that requires long commutes to work and few options for public transit.
Today, those without private vehicles must use dangerous, overcrowded buses or the increasingly popular qingqi rickshaws to get around the city. Public buses follow few regulations, leading to unpredictable stops, irregular schedules, and safety concerns. It is not uncommon to see riders climbing onto moving buses, or passengers sitting on top of the bus. The qingqi system has gained popularity in recent years for its reach into underserved areas with poor road conditions. However, the increase in qingqi has contributed to stifling congestion and air pollution which is threatening Karachi’s mobility and quality of life. Given these challenges, city officials have realized that a drastic change to the transit system is needed to meet demand and improve the city.
Supported by the Asian Development Bank, ITDP and local officials began in 2014 mapping out traffic, bus, and minibus routes and identifying the best corridors for bus rapid transit. Using transit data on bus frequency, occupancy, and route, as well as land use around the corridor and development potential, ITDP has developed a conceptual design and plan for Karachi’s BRT. ITDP continues to work with Karachi officials, bus operators, and transport planners to refine plans and work toward the next step in improving Karachi’s transit future.