‘Park n Ride’ pilot project augurs well for the future
By Treshan Fernando and Faadhila Thassim
Although it is a well established fact that it is impossible to put an end to persistent traffic congestions in and around the Colombo City limit that has left commuters frustrated, there are several different methods by which congestions could be curbed.
There have been proposals to curb congestion by way of reducing the number of vehicles travelling to and from Colombo. One such proposal that was implemented as a solution to this age old issue is the ‘Park and Ride’ bus service.
The first phase of the ‘Park and Ride’ bus service was inaugurated at the Makumbura Multimodal Transport Centre, Kottawa on 15 January with the aim of providing a convenient public transportation option for those travelling to and from Colombo by car and motorcycle.
Difference from ordinary bus services
Passengers opting to use the ‘Park and Ride’ bus service will be able to park their vehicles free of charge at the facility provided at the Makumbura Multimodal Transport Centre following which they could board the luxury buses that will be operating to their destination.
The buses will leave every 15 minutes between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and from 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The buses will shuttle every 25 minutes between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. making a total of 64 trips per day.
Passengers only per number of seats, the bus fares, will be double. ‘Park and ride’ buses will make a limited number of stops and loading of passengers will be faster.
The service will be provided in collaboration with the State Ministry of Vehicle Regulation, Bus Transport Services and Train Compartments and Motor Car Industry and Sri Lanka Transportation Board while the National Transport Commission, Sri Lanka Police, Road Development Authority, Urban Development Authority, and the Colombo Municipal Council will also assist the programme.
The bus service will operate in a Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise manner covering both arrivals and departures from and into Colombo. A follow-up inspection will be carried out on a daily basis.
P & R bus driver’s point of view
Sarath, who is employed as a driver for the ‘Park and Ride’ service speaking to Ceylon Today said the staff have been trained in order to provide an efficient service and has also been instructed to provide the service strictly on time, irrespective of the number of passengers.
‘’There has been a positive response from passengers who have used this service and as the routes have been discussed with the Police, we have been able to provide a quick service’’ he added.
He said, since the inception of the ‘Park and Ride’ service, there has been an increase in the number of commuters due to its convenience. This project appears to be a success, but the overall success of the project could only be assessed with the passage of time plus the increase in number of commuters opting to use the service he added.
Colombo’s congested streets
The idea behind the Park and Ride system is ultimately to reduce the traffic congestion in Colombo. It is supposed to dissuade people from bringing their own personal vehicles into the city and to nudge them towards public transport. The system should ideally act as a balance, leaving commuters to drive part of the way and then to avoid the headaches of driving in heavy traffic by giving them the opportunity to use public transport the rest of the way.
Only time will tell if the Park and Ride system in Sri Lanka will help ease traffic congestion or not. Given the danger of COVID-19, most commuters today will drive in their own vehicles, if possible, or work from home. This means that, for now at least, the efficiency of the Park and Ride system in Sri Lanka cannot be accurately measured. Yet, this system is meant to be a long term plan and its results can only be evaluated in a few years.
The idea seems to have promise on paper, but to seriously reduce the vehicles in Colombo; the ‘Park and Ride’ system will have to convince a significant portion of drivers to augment their journey by personal vehicle with a touch of public transport. This is certainly no easy feat given the convenience of driving yourself. Even so, driving isn’t without its headaches; congestion and difficulty in locating parking are among them.
Additionally, the biggest selling point of the ‘Park and Ride’ system is its relatively lower cost compared to other means of travel. The question is if this incentive will realistically cause enough people to change their mode of commute and reduce the congestion in Colombo as planned.