Mega Cities around the world need Mass transit systems in order to fulfil the needs of its citizens to commute between home and workplace and vice versa efficiently, cost-effectively and in time for their productive activities. English and European societies broke away from agricultural (feudal) economic relations towards industrial (capitalist) economic relations (apart from other things) because of transforming communication and commuting into an industry by building and introducing four-wheel carriages driven by 4 horses called the stagecoach. Stagecoaches were fast, cost-effective and efficient for their time. Stagecoaches were first introduced in England in the 13th Century.
After the invention of the motor engine, motor cars and mass transport busses and lorries replaced these coaches. Busses were first introduced in England in 1830’s. The London underground as the first mass transit system was introduced in 1863, ran on electricity in 1890, and is the oldest mass transit system in the world. Overall, there are 56 countries, 178 cities and 180 metro systems around the world with mass transit systems catering for the commuting of passengers in mega cities and their industrial needs. The New York Subway system has the largest number of stations in the world. Beijing system is the longest in the world and China runs 39 subway systems. Moscow underground has the most beautiful metro stations in the world.
On 25 October 2020, Pakistan introduced its Orange line mass transit system in Lahore (Pakistan’s first urban train system), with a length of 27.12 km – 25.Km elevated and 1.72 km covered (underground) and 26 stations under the CPEC Pak-China Economic Corridor agreement. The estimated cost of the project is US $ 1626 million (approximately a little more than PRK 260.0 billion).
The question has been asked, whether this is a white elephant or a feasible project?
The answer to this question lies in the philosophical debate of Public goods versus Private goods.
It should be noted that this was much needed and much delayed for urban centers’ mass transit systems. This system of transport should be enhanced to more lines such as green, pink, red, yellow, blue etc. connecting different parts of the city to its airport, its inter-city bus and train terminals as well as to different industrial and business hubs on different ends of Lahore. This transit system should be extended to other cities of Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the private sector to-date has not been able to give a comfortable, affordable and efficient bus or wagon commuting system that makes it possible for ordinary citizens to commute respectable and without danger to their life and limb. On the other hand, the urban transport system of the city run by its municipal public sector administration was disbanded many years ago. The government of Punjab a few years ago introduced the Metro bus system, and other relatively reliable commuting solutions with Public, Private as well as Public-Private partnership. This urban train system is part of those new much needed solutions for a city that is reaching 15 million population and is the second largest city in the country.
The Private sector has to be profitable therefore for comfortable transit solutions has to be relatively expensive on the passengers that it caters for, but a large part of the labor force in the city (and the country) is poor and earns less than PRK 100 a day. It becomes difficult for them to commute in high-ended private busses and wagons. Therefore they usually travel by low quality and dangerous for the traffic wagons, use their own motor bikes or rickshaws that might be relatively cheap but are not respectable way of commuting. These low-end private transport systems and motorbikes are also causing traffic problems for urban Lahore.
The solution was and is the introduction of a mass transit system in the public sector like the orange line that is relatively cheap, respectable, cost effective for the passengers and safes them both time and money in the process. The difference between the cost commuting price and the cost of running and maintaining these trains has to be borne by the government or the taxpayers. The reason is that in principle, the economic and philosophical role of public goods (government) where private sector and market forces fail to deliver. Now in the public sector the common people can move safely, cost-effectively and fast from one end of the city to another. The recommendation is that more such systems should be added along with bus routes that link different lines to places that cannot be covered by these train systems. Mass transit systems in the public sector and linkages of urban private bus transport are a necessity for Progress of tomorrow.