Education or Metro

School or Metro? Are Not They Mutually Exclusive.

Recently I have seen a spate of arguments on mainstream and social media about the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Metro Bus Project. The detractors of the project cite lack of education and health facilities and say that those two sectors have a higher priority over a bus project. Sentimental messages are shared with the pictures of schools and hospitals in a poor shape with the pictures of shiny buses and terminals.

While I don’t think that the project is a panacea, I do want to point out that it’s not altogether disconnected with education, health and other social necessities. Transportation infrastructure, roads and public transport, always end up delivering more than just transportation – they end up being a catalyst in overall economic activity and growth, and with that growth, you can build better schools and hospitals.

I recently had an opportunity to visit the suburbs of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is a poor country with a poor populace. Living conditions outside the big cities are as bad as a far flung village in Pakistan if not worse. And yet I found some suburbs lesser impoverished than the others. They had cleaner streets and better facilities. When I asked around, I found out that these were the suburbs that had public transport access to the city of Santo Domingo. Most of the people in those places had employment in the city so they had better buying power. Local businesses moved to those places to exploit that buying power which in turn created more business activity. All that due to the means of transportation.

The above is not confined to the third world or poor countries. In the metro New York City area, in places like New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut, all the towns from where you can take a bus or a train to the New York City are much more economically vibrant than the towns that do not have those means.

According to United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), just by increasing transportation capacity, efficiency and reliability, you can cut transportation costs, expand businesses in the area and it results in increase of productivity, competitiveness and economic growth. All these factors help increase the revenue that can be utilized to build better public facilities.
Added to all that, reliable public transportation is also a quality of life issue. I can take public transport to my work every day which spares me from driving, saves me time since public transport buses use the dedicated lanes on the highway, and saves me money. I can use all that time and money saving to improve the quality of life in my household.

So let’s neither be myopic nor see this project in isolation. In an economy, hardly ever anything can be seen in isolation. Give people better and cheaper forms of transportation, increase the reach of individuals and businesses and you will see, in time, better schools and hospitals.

About The Author:
Rafi Aamer is a USA based freelance writer and can be reached at Twitter on @Rafi_AAA


6 thoughts on “Education or Metro”

  1. The writer probably doesn’t have an idea that the metros here are totally urn about rather than being a suburban-urban link which can bring in the quoted benefits to the less privileged . Quality of travel is the only valid argument. The trickle down or across effects are more of a mirage, rarely actualized.

  2. If this was a transportation system covering complete city of Karachi, there might have been some validation in comparison.

    I suppose when you have spent most of your life away from the issues related to poor and middle class of Pakistan, you just don’t know.

  3. A very well written article, which has quite accurately argue the importance of better transportation and it’s positive impact on an Economy.
    Those who think that Pak has different sets of issues and challenges than that of USA, forgot that Economic Principles are Universal.

  4. Very well articulated article, as a Pindi resident I would like to share my two cents on why mass transit for Pindi?

    Pindi, Islamabad are equipped with all kind of medical facilities from very basic health care services like DHQ, PIMS, Poly Clinic, RGH (now Benazir Bhutto Hospital), PIMS to specialised and state of the art Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology and Institute of Urology and Transplant etc. catering not only locals but also the residents of nearby cities. Similarly, almost everyone has access to education in twin cities from entrant level to professional education at RMC, NUST or nearby UET Taxila.

    Having medical/educational facilities was not an issue for Pindi/Islamabad but commuting to and from these facilities was.

    Pindi always had and needed a good mass transit project, after the unfortunate ending of GTS bus service the only thing this city ever needed was revival of public transport and Metro has served the purpose very well for the economic hub of Pothwar Region.

  5. Well written & informative! Agreed on many points.
    Public transportation is being included in basic necessity and not in luxury but there was no need to put heavy sum of public money on this project.Governments of all provinces should provide this basic amenity to their people but without much extravaganza !

  6. Our government is giving priorities to metro and motorways, people need education not metro or motorways, yes it doesn’t mean that metro development is wrong but instead of wasting so much money in this project we also have to develop or revive our educational system, Children wants book to read not metro to read.

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