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