Zu Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit and Its Life-Changing Impacts
December 20, 2023
“The Peshawar BRT played a major role in expanding my search for employment in distant precincts, which otherwise would not have been possible due to expensive transportation costs.”
This statement from a commuter in Peshawar, Pakistan captures how the new bus rapid transit (BRT) system has brought about positive changes to people in terms of improving their mobility and access to socio-economic opportunities.
Today, 250,000 people are benefiting from the fast, reliable, green, and inclusive transport solution, which CDIA helped plan in 2012.
Origins of Zu Peshawar
Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province has experienced rapid population growth resulting from natural population increases, in-migration, and the arrival of refugees and displaced persons from conflict-affected areas.
Public transport was considered inefficient and lacking investments; and with the proliferation of aged vehicles, it was perceived as inaccessible; unreliable; and unsafe for women, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities.
In 2012, CDIA assisted Peshawar in developing its 20-year Public Transport Strategy, undertaking a pre-feasibility study for the BRT project, and devising the operational arrangement for its urban transport system.
The KP Government, together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) invested a total of $593 million to implement the BRT project. In August 2020, the Peshawar BRT System, more commonly known as Zu Peshawar (meaning: Let’s go, Peshawar!) was successfully inaugurated.
Key features of Zu Peshawar
Zu Peshawar is now operating on seven routes across the city on 30 stations and 80 direct bus stops. The main route cuts travel time from east to west of the city from 2 hours down to just 45 minutes. For a minimum fare of Rs 15 ($0.18), passengers get to enjoy comfortable seating, as well as air-conditioned and wi-fi-enabled buses. Each station is equipped with a ticketing booth, concourse-level passenger transfer, automatic fare collection, and many other amenities.
Beyond the BRT, Zu Peshawar has a bicycle-sharing system, a first in Pakistan, which now links major schools and residential areas to the BRT system along the main corridor. It has also introduced new technologies, such as the Zu Mobile App, which enables users to access schedules and pay bus fares and bike rental fees in a fast and convenient way.
Positive impacts of Zu Peshawar
Based on CDIA’s discussions with city officials and beneficiaries during its tracer study (to track the progress of project implementation), the BRT system has brought about positive impacts on socially inclusive development, environment and climate, and urban governance in Peshawar.
About 104 million passengers have already used the system since 2020, resulting in a significant impact on social inclusion and pro-poor development. Also, the system has features denoting inclusivity such as ramps for wheelchair users, a dedicated section for women, and reserved seats for transgenders, which provide comfort and safety for the vulnerable populations while traveling.
“For the first time in our lives, we can travel on public transport with a great sense of security,” a female commuter shared with the CDIA tracer study team.
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy conferred an Honorable Mention to Zu Peshawar in the 2022 Sustainable Transport Award, noting that: “A key consideration in Zu Peshawar’s planning was ensuring that the design process was influenced by – and addressed the needs of – those residents who rely most on the system, with a specific focus on women, children, transgender people, and persons with disabilities.”
By introducing a fully hybrid fleet of 158 buses, park-and-ride facilities, a bicycle-sharing program, and other environmental considerations, the project is expected to reduce pollution in Peshawar. Meanwhile, based on ADB estimates, the project is expected to reduce 31,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually upon full implementation when compared to the existing transport system.
“After the BRT, we have observed fewer people traveling on private transport, which helps keep the traffic controlled and there is less pollution,” another commuter attested.
The BRT project has further improved the urban governance and transport sector of Peshawar via the drafting of necessary legislation and the creation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Urban Mobility Authority and the TransPeshawar Company, which are elemental for the success and sustainability of the project.
Added value of CDIA intervention
The tracer study also found out how CDIA’s technical assistance has added value to the project and provided key lessons on institutional development, project design and innovation, and stakeholder engagement.
According to stakeholders, aside from linking the project to ADB financing, CDIA has laid the groundwork for a robust public transport governance structure in the city.
It has likewise introduced modern technology and innovative solutions, including a third-generation BRT system, which allows BRT vehicles to travel along a dedicated lane in the busiest parts of the city, and travel off-corridor in less congested areas.
Finally, due to CDIA’s strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement in the planning process, the Bus Industry Restructuring Program has been successful in providing an opportunity for existing transport providers to adapt to the new mass transit system at the same time helped alleviate chronic traffic congestion and contributed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Peshawar.
This article was originally published in August 2023 as part of CDIA’s 2018-2022 Accomplishment Report