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Transportation System of Dhaka – Present and Future

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Today the mega city Dhaka is one of the world’s most crowded & congested cities and perhaps the biggest hub of traffic congestion. Although the area of Dhaka city is less than 1% of the country’s total land area, it supports about 10% of the total population and 30% of the total urban population. During the last four decades, specially after it became the capital of Bangladesh , Dhaka has recorded a phenomenal growth in terms of population and area.

Dhaka City is presently one of the 10th largest Mega-cities of the world with a population of about 14.0 million having the highest annual growth rate of 4.20% (appx.). The rapid rise in population along with increased and versatile urban land use patterns has generated considerable travel demand as well as numerous transport problems in Dhaka City. Unplanned urbanization, especially poor transportation planning and lower land utilization efficiency, has turned the city into a dangerous urban jungle. Dhaka has recently received the dubious distinction of being the second dirtiest city in the world (Forbes, 2008).


The transportation system of Dhaka is predominantly road based and non-motorized transportation (mainly rickshaws) has a substantial share. Dhaka’s road network is nearly 3000 kms (of which 200 km primary, 110 km secondary, 50 km feeder and 2640 km narrow roads).

It represents the proportion of road surface to built-up area hardly 7% as against 25% recommended for a good city planning. Only 400 kms footpath is available for pedestrian of which 40% are being occupied illegally by vendors and others.


The primary mode of transport is particularly interesting, with about a third (34%) using rickshaws, almost half (44%) using transit/buses; and a quarter (22%) comprised of walk (14%) and non-transit motorized (8%) modes (STP, 2005). Current average trip length is 5.37 kms (by buses 8.40 kms; by rickshaws 2.34 kms) and across all modes of travel average trip time is about 15 minutes.


The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh with the assistance of the International Development Association (IDA) has implemented The Dhaka Urban Transport Project (DUTP) to improve the traffic situation in the Dhaka area. The Strategic Transport Plan (STP) is a sub-component of DUTP aimed at preparing a Strategic Transport Plan to improve the transport infrastructure in Greater Dhaka during the next 20 years. As part of the study, the STP has identified a list of projects for improvement of the Transportation System of Dhaka phased out over the planning period. The Study has prioritized the projects in terms of importance and urgency into 4 phases each of 5 years duration.

Buses and minibuses are the cheapest mode available as mass transit and average cost of transport ranges from about 8% of household income for high income groups to 17% for low income groups (DITS, 1993). Considering so many factors like this, the consultants made their recommendations.

STP Consultant along with other recommendations, proposed three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Dhaka city area. The proposed lines are as follows:-

1) Line 1          :Uttara – Progati Sarani – Malibag – Atishdipankar Road- Kamlapur – Saidabad.

2) Line 2          :Gabtali – Dhanmondi – Newmarket – Jahir Raihan Road (Palashi) – Saidabad.

3) Line 3          :Airport – Mohakhali – Mogbazar – Ramna – College Road – Islamppur – Sadarghat.

Among these three BRT line, the details Feasibility Study, Detail Design and the Implementation procedure of line no. 3 is now progressing with financial assistance of the World Bank under the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) Project. After the feasibility the route has been changed a little on consideration of practical situation.


Proposed BRT Lines as per STP

STP Consultant proposed three Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line Dhaka city area. The proposed lines are as follows :-


1) Line 4          :           Uttara – Mohakhali – Tejgaon –Moghbazar – Khilgaon – Kamalapur.

2) Line 5          :           Gulshan – Dhanmondi – Mirpur – Kafrul – Mohammadpur – Tejgaon –Rampura – South Badda.

3) Line 6          :           Mirpur – Rokeya Sharani – Farmgate – SAARC Foara - Sonargaon Road –Saidabad.

Among these three MRT Line, the detail Feasibility Study for Line No. 6 has already been taken up by the JICA study team recently.


Dhaka’s transport environment is characterized by mixed-modes transports using the same road space, traffic congestion, delays, mismanagement, conflict of jurisdictions, poor coordination among organizations and increasing environmental problems.

There is also a high level of operation disorder, which significantly diminishes the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing transport systems. The present bus services (operated under as many as 750 individual ownerships) provide inefficient, unproductive, and unsafe level of services. Long waiting, delay on plying, overloading, discomfort, and long walking distance from the residence/work place to bus stoppages are some of the obvious problems that confront the users in their daily life.

Many have expressed their apprehension that Dhaka is destined to be the world’s largest `slum, if we make further delays to take corrective measures. Its traffic congestion not `only causes increased costs, loss of time & psychological strain, but also poses serious `threats to our socioeconomic environment. To maintain the economic viability of this `city and to keep its environment sustainable, an efficient mass transportation system is `imperative.

Dhaka, formerly known as Dacca and Jahangir Nagar, under Mughal rule, is the capital and principal city of Bangladesh . It is administrative, commercial, cultural canter of Bangladesh . Dhaka is a mega city and one of the major cities and biggest hub of traffic congestion of South Asia. Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area of 1528 km, has a population of 14 million, making it the largest city in Bangladesh . It is one of the most densely populated cities of the world.

As the nation's capital, Dhaka saw a rapid and massive growth of the city population in the post-liberated period, as migrant workers from rural areas across Bangladesh moved to the city. The growth of commerce and industry along with the city's population has created further challenges to services and infrastructure. The growth of Dhaka has taken place without proper land use planning and transport infrastructure. The city has only 7% - 8% of road area of its total land area where the requirement is not less than 25%.

Dhaka is the commercial heart of Bangladesh .  The city has historically attracted a large number of migrant workers, hawkers, peddlers, small shops, rickshaw transport, roadside vendors and stalls. In these trades the city employ a large segment of the population,  rickshaw-drivers alone numbering as many as 500,000. Half the workforce is employed in household and unorganized labor market, while about 12,00,000 work in the RMG sector. Even so, unemployment remains as high as 23%. As of 2008, Dhaka's Gross Municipal Product (GMP) is registered at $78 billion. With an annual growth rate of 6.2%, the GMP is projected to rise to $215 billion by 2025.

The city, in combination with localities forming the wider metropolitan area (DMA), is home to an estimated 14 million people as of 2010. The population is growing by an estimated 4.2% p.a., one of the highest rates amongst Asian cities. The continuing growth reflects ongoing migration from rural areas to the Dhaka urban region,  More recently, the city's population has also grown with the expansion of city boundaries. According to Far Eastern Economic Review, Dhaka will become a home of 25 million people by the year 2025http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhaka - cite_note-54. Recent years have seen the widespread construction of shopping malls, hotels and restaurants attracting Dhaka's growing middle-class and wealthy residents.

Problem/Issues to be addressed:

The Issues and Problems regarding urban public transport in Dhaka.

  • Lack of Transport planning,
  • Lack of co-ordination among different Organizations working in the city area
  • The lack of enforcement of traffic rules,
  • Poor safety regulations,
  • Lack of a functional road classification system,
  • Poor traffic management and poor institutional efficiency of the organizations connected with the transportation system
  • Unplanned rapid Urbanization.
  • Lack of adequate transport infrastructure.
  • Mixed Traffic flow in the same road                                                              -
  • Lack of proper traffic management.
  • Lack of comfortable and improved public transit system in the city

The Causes and Background of the issues and problems:

  • Too many organization involved in Dhaka city’s transport sector
  • Absence of unitary authority to tackle transport problem
  • Huge population density in the city area and high migration to Dhaka.
  • Absence  of updated rules and regulations
  • Transport sector owners are not so cooperative.
  •  Drivers are not trained and aware of traffic rules and regulations
  • Absence of skill professionals.
  • Lack of proper institution for integrated planning, development and       management of land use and transportation                             
  • Measures against above-mentioned issues and problems:


To solve the problem we have to take  short term and long term measures measure :
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-Traffic management


  • ·         Improvements of road intersection with proper canalization
  • ·         Installation of traffic signal control
  • ·         Better facilities for pedestrians and slow moving vehicles
  • ·         Bus priority measures
  • ·         Parking control


-Transport infrastructure development


  • Integrating planning of land use and Transport
  • Bus franchising/ route rationalization
  • Institutional strengthening and capacity building
  • Investment support
  • Introduction of BRT
  • Introduction of MRT
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