As you rightly pointed out, Qingqis provide much needed transportation to many citizens who have little or much poorer alternatives to turn to. However, at the heart of it all is the fact that roads are among the most expensive “real estate” in any city, and just because the government owns them does it not mean their use should receive any less scrutiny than for private property. It is also important to note that the use of roads has many costs paid in terms of time, fuel and pollution - and that the greatest burden of restricting or wasting this resource is on the poorest.

Cities have used a combination of strategies to make their roads more useful. One is effective public transport that reduces the cost of travel and can include a combination of public and private solutions but must have a mass transit system such as a dedicated bus, train or tram at its core. The other is to monetize the value of the road by charging for its use. Currently roads are equally used by mass transport, cars, motorcycles, carts, shops encroaching onto roads and by parked cars with no regard to the value of the road to each of these users. Cities such as Singapore and London have long charged people to use roads, the more dear the road (i.e. more centrally located and during rush hours) the more they pay. This same logic dictates that parking of cars should be charged and valuable road space must not be squandered for car parking.

However, one realises that any such initiative requires political will. Karachi has not had this for much of its history and current situation does not seem appealing. This should not stop citizens of Karachi from demanding reforms of how their greatest asset is managed.


Islamabad, August 11.