Sustainable Practices in Urban Transport: Avoiding, Shifting, Improving in Karachi



Sustainable urban transport practices have economic, social, and environmental aspects. This paper emphasizes the social aspect of such practices arguing that conventional transport policy tends to overlook equity and social justice concerns. The ASI paradigm is used here to highlight those practices that are people centered and inclusive as they are targeted for those who do not own cars.



Urban transport is an integral part of public policy given the growing importance of cities. This is so because transport planning has economic, social, and environmental outcomes. For this reason, transport policy has come to be known as an important aspect of sustainable development, which is largely attributable to the transport sector’s share in global energy consumption. Data from the International Energy Agency shows that in 2009 transport was responsible for over half of global liquid fossil fuel consumption and a quarter of CO2 emissions (Sakamoto et al, 2010).

Although sustainable development as a notion tends to be most strongly associated with environmental concerns, our study is mindful of its other aspects as well. In particular, the social aspect of sustainable development is of interest to us because transport policy has a substantial role in the nature of social change. Practices tend to be unsustainable when they are not people-centered and hence ignore equity and social justice concerns.

For this reason transport policy has the tendency to be unsustainable for reasons other than the more typical fears pertaining to energy scarcity. This has been apparent in policies that are based on accommodating those who own cars. Such policies have limited the opportunities of those who cannot afford to purchase cars and must instead rely on public transport and pedestrian modes of travel.

Our study will examine those practices that are people centered and promote equity and social justice. Thus we will evaluate the sustainability of urban transport in Pakistan in the light of its social context.


Research objectives

The purpose of this study is to enhance our understanding of sustainable urban transport in a Pakistani context.  To pursue the objectives of this paper, a series of questions will guide this study.

ü  What should a sustainable urban transport policy for Karachi seek to achieve?

ü  What are the factors that need to be considered for urban transport planning in Karachi?

ü  What are the advantages and drawbacks of these factors?

ü  What are the practices that can be employed, in the light of these factors?

Methodological Overview

The broad approach to this study is interdisciplinary social science. Qualitative materials prepared by academics and direct stakeholders, including policy makers, planners, regulators, and donors, are examined for our literature review. To give the research questions a practicable context, we will use urban transport planning in city of Karachi.

Literature review

Discussions on sustainable transport planning in Pakistan tend to ask two, not unrelated, sets of questions. One of these is relatively general; what is sustainable transport planning and how can it be practiced? The other is more specific; to what extent has sustainability been a policy concern in Pakistan and how has this been reflected in transport planning?

Sustainability, as a concept, is frequently associated with the Bruntland Commission and its widely used characterization; “economic and related social and environmental, goals, without sacrificing the ability of future generations to achieve the same goals”. This definition has been used repeatedly in the literature on sustainable transport planning” (Imran, 2010), (Qureshi & Huapu, 2007), (Litman & Burwell, 2006), (Black & Nijkamp, 2002).So, in a more concise form, it may be said that sustainability has three dimensions; economic, social, and environmental.

To identify those transport planning practices that may be regarded as sustainable, it is expedient to first recognize those practices which are not sustainable. Motorization is central to this context. Motorization, in our study, refers to the process whereby individual vehicle ownership has been rising on a per 1,000 population basis. This trend was noted in the USA, immediately after the Second World War. Policy planners adopted what the World Bank (2011) calls a ‘predict and provide’ approach to accommodate rising vehicle ownership. Wegener & Greene, in Black & Nijkamp, (2002) call this approach ‘North American’ whereby the response to rises in travel demand and related issues has been to increase highway capacity and to regulate environmental impacts.

Litman & Burwell (2006) note that conventional planning approaches tend to see transport progress as a linear process; so newer, faster modes displace older, slower modes. The resulting assumption is that older modes are not important. This perception may explain why the North American transport policies tend to emphasize technological improvements, as in the United States, and fuel taxation, as in Canada, to combat greenhouse gas emissions (Wegener & Greene, in Black & Nijkamp, 2002). This situation may be contrasted with that in Europe where population density is significantly higher; the outcome of this is that Europeans tend to have access to more efficient public transport systems and also travel smaller distances on a per capita per year basis (Black & Nijkamp, 2002). Wegener & Greene, in Black & Nijkamp (2002) point out that this has much to do with political culture and expectation in Europe, where it is expected that governments will provide subsidized public transport.

Motorization is now a discernible trend in the megacities[1] of the developing world. This has created congestion and has been addressed by an inadequate or inappropriate policy response. Some of the large East Asian cities are examples of this. Transport planners in these cities, like in the United States, emphasized road building over public transport. Barter (1999) attributes this in part to the prestige that Asian policy makers associated with highway infrastructure, as seen in the United States. In addition, since foreign aid and foreign consultants were instrumental in finalizing the nature of infrastructure, car ownership was given, and largely continues to be given, priority over public transport. This approach has been especially unsuitable in the developing world where population densities in cities tend to be much higher than those in the United States (Barter, 1999). Income inequality and weak land use planning and regulation have had a detrimental impact on accessibility, mobility, safety and security, particularly for those from low income groups (World Bank, 2011).

This is corroborated in a Pakistan specific context by the United Nations Development Program which notes that economic growth has caused rising urbanization, higher incomes and affluence, rising private vehicle ownership and urban congestion (UNDP, 2010). This has created a situation where economic growth is being inhibited by urban transport inefficiencies, foreign exchange reserves are being consumed by automotive fuel imports, the livability of urban centers is being compromised, and public transport reliant lower income households are being disproportionately affected by urban congestion (UNDP, 2010).

From this it is clear that transport policy has obvious implications for economic growth (World Bank, 2011), environmental degradation (Imran, 2009), and for living standards (World Bank, 2011). These are of course the broad aspects of sustainability and they are inextricably linked. However, for the remainder of this study, our emphasis will be on the latter, that is, the social aspect of sustainability, the goals of which are equity and social justice.

The social aspect of transport has been highlighted in a number of studies. Government sponsored research in the United Kingdom has emphasized the strong connection between poor transport and social exclusion (Social Exclusion Unit, 2003). The term social exclusion, which is often used interchangeably with marginalization, refers to a process that prevents individuals and/ or communities from participating fully in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live (Young, 2000). The SEU finds that poor transport has this impact in two ways; one, by restricting access to activities that enhance people’s life chances, such as work, learning, health care, food shopping, etc.; two, by leaving certain groups of people more prone to pedestrian deaths, pollution and the isolation which can result from living near busy roads. So, transportation may be seen as an important social justice and equity issue.

In the context of Pakistan, this view is supported by Ali, Uddin & Imran (2010) as their study finds that a rise in pollution related respiratory diseases has lead to increased health costs, and that inadequate road safety measures result in over 5,000 deaths annually. The groups most prone to these issues are pedestrians and bike/motorcycle riders. Similarly, in a URC study, Ismail (2005) finds that pedestrians in Karachi, besides being exposed to air and noise pollution are also the largest group of victims of road accidents.

This is indicative of transport planning that is lacking in terms of equity and social justice. In our context, this is so because public transport and non-motorized means have not been given the same level of support as individual vehicle ownership, or motorization. This trend has been documented in the policy literature on Pakistan (Imran, 2009, 2010), (Badami & Haider, 2007), (Hasan, 2010), (Hasan & Raza, 2011).

Motorization has been promoted and accommodated in Pakistan, in the previous and present decades, because of what Arif Hasan calls the automobile industry-banking sector nexus (Hasan, 2009). Hasan notes that in the city of Karachi, in the financial year 2006-2007, financial institutions loaned the rupee equivalent of US$ 1.8 billion for the purchase of an average of 506 vehicles per day. Policy makers responded to the resulting congestion and related traffic problems by initiating “a massive programme for the construction of signal-free roads, flyovers, underpasses and expressways which have aggravated the situation and in addition made life difficult for pedestrians and commuters”(Hasan, 2009).  In addition, as observed by Imran (2009) heavy investment in roads drained funds that could have otherwise been used for public transport.

Muhammad Imran’s observation is that the transport planner’s preference for road building over other modes of travel is not a recent phenomenon (Imran, 2010). He points to the years between 1991 and 2005 which he refers to as the ‘sustainable development era’ because 1991 was when the National Conservation Strategy was being formed;

“…, eighteen policy documents were produced in the last fifteen years which addressed transport policy directly or indirectly. These documents consistently affirm road building as the main tool for transport development in the country. Environmental concerns have been addressed by measures that were limited to technical fixes in automobiles and some regulatory initiatives. Overall, the transport policy of Pakistan has not undergone any change…”


This is attributed to path dependence, which occurs when the “dominant technology gathers a certain momentum because people derive increasing value to themselves from reproducing it” (Imran, 2010).  Douglas North (1990) cited in Imran (2010) argued that the adoption of one technology over another is the outcome of institutional abilities and knowledge. As a result, after the Second World War, road based urban transport models spread from the USA to many developing countries, including Pakistan. Since the nature of the transport problem in such countries was (and continues to be) markedly different from that in developed countries, this model failed to solve their urban transport problems.

Several Asian cities are examples of the above. In his study of Pacific Asia, Paul Barter has analyzed how large metropolises took different developmental paths, each of which had a distinct outcome. In the early 1970’s, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, were what may be classified as ‘bus cities’, that is, cities with transport systems that rely on bus-based transport or non-motorized transport (Barter, 1999). During this same time period, all of these cities were on the brink of motorization. Policy makers in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Singapore opted to restrain motorization and promote public transport, whereas policy makers in the comparatively less wealthy Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok were unsuccessful in increasing the relative roles of public transport and non-motorized modes. Barter (1999, p302) finds that as a result of these policies;

“Public transport never became the mode of last resort or the mode for the poor in these cities, and thus avoided gaining the stigma that is attached to public transport in so many cities….Therefore, even if motorization and congestion increase further, their public transport systems will not enter a vicious downward cycle, but rather are likely to be seen as the solution, and the subject of concerted policy attention to rectify any inadequacies, as in Seoul and Hong Kong.”


In contrast, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur were not successful at restraining motorization and facilitating public transport and non-motorized modes. In this cities, increases in “car plus motorcycle” ownership rates, of more than 20 vehicles per thousand people per year in the 1980s and early 1990s, were so high that the transformations from low to high motorization in is perhaps the most rapid in history (Barter, 1999).

So it is clear that restraint policies played an important role in the promoting relatively sustainable transport patterns in the cities mentioned above. The restraint model is a component of what the ADB (2009) calls ‘carrot and stick’ strategies, where public transit options as alternatives to individual vehicle use are the ‘carrot’ and restraint is the ‘stick’.  In the more recent literature on transport policy, restraint plays a key role in making transport systems more sustainable as a predecessor and an important component of the ASI (avoid, shift, improve) paradigm.

ASI or Avoid-Shift-Improve is a three pronged approach to enhancing the sustainability of transport systems. ‘Avoid’ strategies seek to reduce the need to travel by avoiding unnecessary trips; ‘shift’ strategies promote more sustainable modes of transportation thus encouraging a modal shift to low carbon as well non-motorized forms of transport; ‘improve’ strategies look to enhancing vehicle efficiency and reducing travel distances (GIZ-SUTP, 2012, ADB 2009).

ASI tends to be associated with strategies targeting climate change from greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2012) but is frequently referred to as a comprehensive strategy which also contains as its goals, enhanced mobility and accessibility (ADB, 2009). Indeed, the ADB notes that policies that seek to enhance mobility and accessibility, can, with some tweaking, also meet the goals of energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. This has been elaborated upon by Litman (2008) in ADB (2009);

“A gallon of fuel conserved, or a ton of air emissions avoided due to reduced vehicle travel (the result of mobility management – defined to include improved transport options, efficient incentives, and land-use management) is worth an order of magnitude more than the same energy savings and emissions reductions provided by increased vehicle fuel efficiency or shifts to alternative fuels. This occurs because mileage reductions also reduce traffic congestion, road and parking facility costs, consumer costs, accidents, pollution, and sprawl, and often improve mobility options for nondrivers.”


So, the ASI approach can serve as a point of confluence where the assorted goals of sustainability are no longer disparate. This approach is based on the experiences of those cities that have seen positive outcomes from incorporating sustainable practices in their transport management. These cities form a diverse but small group that includes Bogota, Curitiba, Singapore, Hong Kong, and London (ADB, 2009). During the remainder of this paper, we will refer to their experiences to as we review the various components of the ASI approach and examine them in the context of urban transport in Pakistan.

Such an evaluation of sustainability can benefit from Litman and Burwell’s sustainability indicators which include, transportation fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions; pollution emission per capita, motor vehicle mileage, mode split, traffic crash injuries and deaths, transport land consumption, roadway aesthetic conditions etc. (Litman & Burwell, 2006).

These same indicators are the basis for the ASI paradigm. This is so because ASI contains components that seek to address the shortcomings of conventional approaches from a supply as well as demand perspective. For this to be the basis for a discussion on sustainable urban transport planning that is practicable it is necessary to use a specific city context. The research of Imran (2010) and Qureshi and Huapu (2007), who have examined trends in Lahore and Karachi respectively is relevant here. Imran focuses on those factors which have prevented sustainable practices from replacing those that have tended to limit mobility as well as safety. He uses the instance of Lahore, with its emphasis on road building and improvement, as a basis to examine why local needs for mobility and safety tend not be met (Imran, 2010). The Qureshi and Huapu study focuses on Karachi and suggests strategies for sustainable urban and transport development (Qureshi & Huapu, 2007). However this study does not refer to ASI; probably because it the paradigm’s popularity is relatively recent.


Our overarching objective is to present the ASI paradigm as a framework upon which a sustainable urban transport policy for Pakistan can be based.  This may be done by identifying good practices in sustainable urban transport planning.


Although we will be examining practices that are of course determined by policy, this paper will not present policy recommendations. This is because of two reasons. One is that the practices discussed below are largely based on the experiences of other cities. Although the situations of different cities may be similar and comparable, they are nevertheless too complex for it to be feasible for them to be applied without a consideration of other factors which are outside the scope of this paper.  The second reason is that the study does not evaluate the dynamics that exist between those stakeholders that design, implement, and enforce policy. This exercise may be carried out in a subsequent study.



The avoid component of ASI can be used to promote restraint as referred to by Barter (Barter, 1999). In the experience of East Asian megacities this was a two pronged strategy that sought to restrain ownership as well as usage. This can be applied in Karachi as well through the tariff structure associated with car ownership, and through measures that raise the cost of owning a vehicle. This can be implemented by limiting and raising the prices of parking. It may also be done by increasing the price of fuel.


Aside from such measures, the ‘avoid’ component of ASI is more or less synonymous with land use planning. This is so because the need to travel through motorized means is an outcome of densities and densities. Low density development is associated with automobile dependency and a reduction in the quality of alternative means of travel such walking, cycling, and transit (Litman & Burwell, 2006) The Asian Development Bank points out that, traditionally, Asian cities have been characterized by mixed land use where a range of services and amenities have been accessible through non-motorized transport and paratransit (ADB, 2009).


Karachi may be described as a monocentric city in which the CBD or central business district is responsible for hosting a large chunk of daily activity (Qureshi and Huapu, 2007).  At present, compared to other megacities, the city falls into the category of a low density sprawl with the exception of certain areas; these are in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Lyari Town and certain parts of Liaquatabad (Hasan, 2008). This situation is similar to that in some Indian cities where suburban sprawl has been attributed to land use regulations that limit FAR (floor area ratios) in the city centre to restrict building heights and thus limit densification (Padam and Singh, 2001; Bertraud, 2002, in Pucher et al, 2007). Floor Area Ratios are a part of land use regulation in Karachi as well; any increases in FARs will result in additional congestion (Hasan, 2008).

To counter congestion and inefficient growth in the CBD, which is the same as the port area, in 2007 the City District Government of Karachi (CDGK) proposed in the Karachi Strategic Development Plan for 2020 that activities will be shifted to more managed new development areas at the urban periphery, thus creating ‘polycentric settlements’ (URC, 2007).

Such a move would of course entail a reduction in densification, an outcome which tends to increase distances and hence the need for motorized transport. This may be justified on the basis that the existing transport infrastructure is inadequate even for existing congestion levels as there is no mass transit. Arif Hasan is of the view that there the transit needs of the CBD can only be met by mass transit options such as segregated light rail (LRT) and metro or bus rapid transit (BRT). This is so because the existing system is equipped for 4,000 persons whereas the actual requirement exceeds 20,000 persons (Hasan, 2008).

Land use planning over the decades since Pakistan’s inception has been inefficient to point of resulting in social and political instability. In the late 1950s, General Ayub Khan hired the Greek architect Doxiadis who prepared the Greater Karachi Resettlement Plan. As a result the satellite cities of Landhi-Korangi, and New Karachi were created for poorer Karachiites, and housing societies closer to the Saddar Bazaar city center for the more affluent. This has led to a problematic outcome for the poor who are faced with transport problems commuting long distances to the city center (Hasan, 2009). In a more recent publication about resettling low income groups from encroached lands, Arif Hasan observes that:

“The report of the Federal Government’s Task Force on Urban Development also recommends the use of state land in or in close proximity to the city centre, for the development of low income settlements.138 High density planning in these locations can create settlements that can grow incrementally, near work places (Hasan, 2009)”.


In addition to regulating density, another role of land use planning is road development and management, which includes maintenance and expansion. A “people-centered sustainable urban transport policy” requires that “road networks are developed and managed to facilitate the operation of people and goods, not private cars”(ADB, 2009).

The importance of careful road management can be highlighted on two levels. One is to stimulate efficient land use and development. The nature and “location of new road construction at the city’s periphery” largely determines how the city will continue to develop. These roads bring about more sustainable development for the urban area, and “secondary roads within built-up areas can bring underutilized land into development” (ADB, 2009).

Road management also has an impact on lower income groups that tend to be disadvantaged from poor transport. The urban poor receive direct benefits from effective road management as it ensures accessibility by serving settlements located at the urban fringe, by improving roads to accommodate pedestrians and non-motorized transport, and also by enhancing road safety (ADB, 2009).

In more recent material on this subject, all of these concerns have been discussed at length by Todd Litman, who evaluates a road design approach called ‘Complete Streets’ (Litman, 2013). This approach emphasizes the trade-off between different forms of access;

“Conflicts often exist between different forms of access, for example, wider roads and increased vehicle traffic create barriers to non-motorized access (called the barrier effect), hierarchical road systems and one-way streets reduce road network connectivity, and locations that are most accessible by automobile are often difficult to access by other modes (Litman, 2013)”.


Especially noteworthy is that Litman challenges the commonly held automobile oriented notion that roadway expansion is necessary in order to increase roadway capacity and reduce congestion. Complete streets design emphasizes narrower, slower, more connected roadway plans; traffic speed limits are lower but there is more direct travel and improved access for cyclists and pedestrians (Litman, 2013).   Reducing traffic speeds by twenty five percent tends to increase roadway capacity because lower speeds reduce “shy distances” (space required between vehicles). So off-peak traffic is slower but peak-period traffic since overall traffic is smoother and less congested. (Litman, 2013). Lower arterial traffic speeds is the main cost of complete streets planning but this may be justified on the basis that the this cost is offset by the benefits of more equitable accessibility, and that fact that many of most livable cities in other countries tend to have relatively low traffic speeds (Litman, 2013).

Thus, effective land use planning can play an important role in enhancing the sustainability of urban transport. This is primarily so because it reduces the need to travel. It can also facilitate other components of sustainable urban transport by encouraging the use of non-motorized modes of travel through roadway design. Moreover, changes in road design can lessen congestion, therefore improving vehicle efficiency.


The shift component of ASI is based on alternatives to individual motorized vehicle usage. These can be described as falling into either of two categories. One is public transit; this includes bus, rail, and bus rapid transit (BRT). The other is non-motorized transport; this includes walking and cycling.

The topic of public transport has been dealt with extensively by Barter (1999) in the context of developing cities in Asia. Barter has developed a typology which has been used by the Asian Development Bank to describe the transitions that cities can make in urban transport management (ADB, 2009). This typology shows how cities that initially rely on bus and paratransit (such as taxicab and rickshaw) modes are eventually, because of high economic growth, faced with the choice of either developing into either ‘traffic saturated bus cities’ or ‘transit cities’. The latter type offers higher mobility and the dominance of public transport, whereas the former offers relatively lower mobility and more reliance on private modes of travel. Bangkok and Manila fall into the former category at present. This means that they can either develop into a situation of entrenched traffic saturation or take the necessary steps to become transit cites like Hong Kong, and Singapore (ADB, 2009). At present, given the absence of mass transit, Karachi appears poised to become a traffic saturated bus city unless measures are taken to shift reliance away from private transport to public transport.

The absence of mass transit is conspicuous in a megacity. In Karachi’s case, the city was served by the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), which began passenger transport in the 1960s, up until 1999. At present, the KCR is in the process of being revived. According the Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC), the KCR will have 246 trains and a carrying capacity of 698,000 passengers based on 1391 passengers per train. The targeted completion date for this project is 2022 (Ali, 2013).

What is especially noteworthy about the KCR is that passenger capacity is just under 700,000. Given that by the time the service is operational, the population of Karachi will exceed 27,500,000, the KCR will at best be able to cater to just about 1% of Karachi’s population. So, there is need to simultaneously develop transit options to meet the needs of the remainder of the commuting population, and to serve those areas not covered by the KCR.

A key concern about the mass rail transit in Karachi relates to cost. Hasan and Raza (2012) have expressed this in their study of alternative means;


“Cost of rail and improved transport systems will be much higher than today. Similar systems have been put in place in Bangkok, Delhi, Manila and Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok’s light rail caters to 3 percent of the commuting public and its average fare one way is 25 Bhat (Rs 65). Delhi Metro average cost of a one way journey is Rs 19 (Pakistani Rs 38). A day travel card is Rs 100 (Pakistani Rs 200) and a three day travel card is Rs 250 (Pakistani Rs 500). Kuala Lumpur’s costs are even higher. It is unrealistic to expect that the improved Karachi transport travel costs will be less (Hasan & Raza, 2012).”


In addition to the KCR, a BRTS (bus rapid transport scheme) has been planned by the Government of Sindh (Abbas, 2013).  BRTS systems have the capacity to hasten the transition of bus cities to transit cities as they tend to be significantly cheaper to implement relative to rail based systems and provide similar benefits (ADB, 2009).

Overall there is widespread consensus that the present system is of extremely poor quality and that there is a dire need of alternatives. Imran (2009) takes the view that public transport in Pakistan, in its existing state is used only by those who do not have the means to use alternatives such as car, motorcycle and rickshaw. From the perspective of a shift approach, it is important to consider the modes of motorcycle and rickshaw, as relative to cars they consume less fuel and emit less CO2 on a per capita basis.

The rickshaw is at present widely used in Karachi. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan in the last financial year there were just over 102,000 rickshaws on the road (Ministry of Finance, 2012). The 4 stroke model has replaced the more polluting 2 stroke version which was banned by the Government of Sindh in 2007. Data from the Ministry of Health (2010) shows that in terms of vehicle involvement, rickshaws are responsible for just 8% of road traffic injuries and fatalities. This is relative to motorbikes (28%), cars (15%), and buses/ coaches (13%). Studies carried out in India show that the rickshaw can play in important role in promoting shift strategies. This is so because it can complement public transport by providing connectivity as well as providing door to door accessibility as an alternative to a private vehicle (Mani et al, 2012).

Another mode of transport that is relevant here is the motorbike. The cost of a motorbike is a fraction of that of a car, and the availability of credit/ installment schemes has resulted in rapidly rising rates of motorbike ownership. 2010 estimates indicate that there are over 1 million motorbikes on the roads of Karachi and CDGK estimates that this figure will be 3.6 million by 2030 (Hasan & Raza, 2012). This is unsurprising given that road infrastructure in the city tends to promote private vehicle ownership. Also noteworthy is that motorbikes in Pakistan are used almost exclusively by males because of cultural reasons (Hasan & Raza, 2012). If female ridership assumes a perceptible share of total ridership then CDGK estimates will of course need to be revised.

Hasan and Raza are of the view that the rising use of motorbikes is inevitable. This is so because, not counting the cost of purchase, motorbike travel, including fuel and maintenance costs less than half of what bus travel does with the added advantage of door to door connectivity (Hasan & Raza, 2012). So, policy makers need to account for this in urban transport planning, and take measures such as dedicated motorbike lanes which can be accommodated within existing roadways (Hasan & Raza, 2012). Adjustments in roadway design and traffic enforcement are also necessitated from a safety viewpoint. This is so because of the high percentage of accidents associated with motorbikes (Ministry of Health, 2010).

Non-motorized means are a crucial part of shift strategies. Here it is relevant to consider the pedestrian mode or walking. Leather et al. (2012) note that while the walking mode share is still high, it is declining across Asian cities. Cities have tended to facilitate private motorized modes, to the cost of non-motorized modes such as walking—thus reducing walking mode (Leather et. al, 2012). This is based on a study of ‘walkability; in Asian cities including Karachi. Results of this study show that Karachi is ranks below the average and lower than cities of comparable size including Jakarta, Colombo, Ho Chi Minh, and Metro Manila.

Thus it is clear that to promote shift strategies policy makers need to take measures to promote the use of alternatives to private car usage. Some such measures are already underway such as BRTS and mass rail transit. However there are concerns about coverage, capacity, and costs. In addition to mass transit modes such as rickshaw and motorbike also have the potential to make transport for accessible for lower income groups.


Improve strategies seek to reduce CO2 emissions by improving vehicle efficiency. In the case of urban transport in Karachi this may be done by regulating emission standards for all vehicles that use petrol, CNG, and diesel. Data from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources shows that the former two fuel types, petrol (motor spirit) and CNG have seen an aggregated consumption growth rate of 19.5% and 16.1% respectively whereas diesel (HSD) has seen a decline of 0.9% (Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, 2012).


Although improve strategies tend to have an ecological focus and emphasize the reduction of greenhouse gases, they have a social angle also because pollutants from vehicle emissions are a health concern. Studies of environmental lead levels in Karachi show that they 10 to 20 times higher than the lead levels in the air in major cities of developed countries (Ilyas, 2009).


Concerns about this matter have been voiced and have played a role in measures that have made rickshaws cleaner by banning 2 stroke engines in favor of 4 stroke models. These measures have been moderately successful after a series of delays (Khattak, 2012).


Emissions standards are set by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency. For cars at present the Euro II standard is being enforced. One consequence of this has been that car manufacturers have had to discontinue production of some lower end models and this had a negative impact on sales. In addition to promote Euro II compliant fuels, refineries in Pakistan are undertaking capacity upgrades. These will facilitate the provision of Euro II compliant diesel as well as petrol so that steps can be undertaken to make buses as well as private cars cleaner.


In addition, there are proposals to make motorbikes cleaner through the promotion of green bikes which emit less pollutants because they are hybrid models that can partially run on electricity (Hasan & Raza, 2012). These have the advantage of a lower maintenance cost even though purchase cost is higher (Hasan & Raza, 2012).


From the above we may conclude that improve approaches can be used to mitigate the deleterious health effects of vehicle emissions. Regulatory standards for this are in place but need enforcement and facilitation from transport policy makers.


Summary and conclusion

The avoid-shift-improve framework is relevant for urban transport policy makers from a social or people centered perspective because it addresses a number of sustainability concerns that conventional planning overlooks. This is so because it is an integrated approach that is mindful of the drawbacks of motorization. For this reason it seeks to limit motorization by promoting alternative modes of travel. These are especially important from the perspective of Karachi, which is a developing city, where the majority of people cannot afford to own or rely on private motorized transport.




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Appendix I

Meeting with Mr. Arif Hasan

Date: 13 April 2013

Venue: 37-D, Miran Mohd. Shah Road, Mohd. Ali Society, Karachi


–           JJ gives personal introduction, and background of research; two separate independent studies for SZABIST.

–           One of the studies is about Elite Theory of decision making and its relevance to transport planning practices in Pakistan, the other study is about sustainable practices.

–           Arif Sb. was of the view that equity and justice should be used in place of sustainable as this word can have vague connotations.

–           JJ asked about URC’s earlier study ‘Motorbike Mass Transit’ in which Arif Sb. raises the issue of women tending not to ride motorbikes.

–           Arif Sb. recommends an Express Tribune article about women in Pakistan riding motorbikes; could be a useful starting point for research on the topic.

–           JJ needs information on bus transit in Karachi, specifically about fare structures.

–           Bus transit is very important especially for low income groups in Karachi because a large number of people, for instance domestic workers, travel from Baldia and Orangi to DHA and Clifton.

–           Arif Sb. suggests setting up an appointment at the URC where relevant documents and news clippings are available.

–           Other institutions that will have relevant information include PILER, OPP Institute, ACHR, and CDGC (Mass Transit Cell, and Traffic Engineering Department).

–           The discussion shifts to BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).

–           BRT requires less initial capital outlay relative to rail even though maintenance costs are higher.

–           This has been proposed by Arif Sb. as an alternative to KCR, as the KCR corridor could be used for BRT.

–           One drawback of the KCR is that it serves a only a minute portion of the commuting public; 0.75% in the first phase and 2% in the second phase.

–           These estimates are based on total trip calculations made in an earlier study by JICA.

–           This is not atypical of populations in other cities with rail transit and is an outcome of low coverage.

–           Increasing percentage traffic on rail would require increasing coverage which is usually not possible within budget allocations.

–           The situation in European countries is different because higher per capita incomes make these systems more affordable and thus used more frequently.

–           Subsidized fares not feasible because of structural adjustment

–           The solution lies in better land use planning.

–           In Europe, construction of additional expressways has been halted since the 1970s, since there are more efficient solutions to transport and congestion.

–           However World Bank and Asian Development Bank funding tends to bias policy towards large infrastructure.

–           Biggest beneficiaries are often consultants and contractors.

–           Expressways have been shown to be ineffective from examples such as Bangkok.

–           Even in Karachi, a number of large projects could have been replaced by smaller and less costly reengineering projects.

–           BRT usage likely to grow because of cost appeal.

–           Bangkok and Istanbul are examples of this.

–           BRT costs $2.5m per km, LRT $12-15m, and BRT with elevated corridor is $20m (WB estimates).

–           Lahore BRT uses elevated corridor so less expensive solution would have been some reengineering including synchronized traffic lights.







Appendix III

KCR (source:Urban Resource Center)



[1] The United Nations (UN), in World Urbanisation Prospects of 2002, applied the term “megacity” to large cities with a population of above 10 million