An equaliser of societal progress.

It is needless to say that public transport is fundamental to sustainable urban development and the prosperity of cities. However, Pakistani cities lack a decent and affordable public transport system. This is despite the fact that the country is rapidly urbanising with a growing demand for safe, efficient, affordable and accessible public transport systems.

Public transport in urban areas is generally slow, unsafe, inaccessible, and inconvenient due to inappropriate modes of transport and inadequate and improper route planning. Commuters endure the discomfort and hassle of existing public transport. This not only puts commuters' safety at risk but also causes discomfort and a waste of their precious time.

Inefficient and disorganised public transport deters labour force participation and effectual use of time and human resources, which have serious implications for individual workers, businesses, and overall society. Furthermore, the existing public transport impedes citizens' mobility, productivity, and social well-being.

While ride-hailing services took advantage of the situation and aptly filled the gap created by inefficient and disorganised public transport, this has increased the cost of mobility in addition to road congestion, pollution, and increased gender and class inequality.

Research shows the most productive segments of the workforce rely on the public transport system

Despite the immense economic, social, and environmental benefits of public transport, investment in this sector has largely been neglected. As mentioned above, the economic cost of the lack of an affordable and efficient public transport system in Pakistani cities is untenably high. Cities generate a major chunk of economic activity, and a good public transport system is their backbone. However, a lack of good public transport prevents cities from realising their true economic potential.

An efficient and inclusive public transport system can undoubtedly be an equaliser in Pakistani society. This could enable the youth, women, and marginalised segments of society to get equal access to economic opportunities. This includes access to markets, workplaces, health and educational facilities, and social interactions, which are critical to eradicating poverty and overcoming social exclusion.

A good public transport system will enable Pakistan to tap the potential of its relatively young and digitally literate population, which can massively change the socio-demographic...

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