In a country heavily dominated by private cars, the public transport is slowly gaining ground. The widening network of public transportation system and support services have won much appreciation from users. More and more people have started using the bus service to reach their accommodation and workplace on a daily basis.
Many modern technologies like the advance payment system, the self-service machine for selling the public transport cards and the SMS notification about the arrival of buses have also helped make the service more people-friendly.
The SMS notification provides real time information about specific bus routes. People can send an SMS with a specific bus-stop number to “92112”, and Mowasalat, the state-backed company that runs the Karwa buses, will provide information about buses on that route, expected timings and even how many stops it is away from the requested stop. The Peninsula tested the SMS notification service at various stops and found the system accurate and at times, the buses reached specific stops a few minutes earlier than the time given by the system.
Meanwhile, many commuters expressed their satisfaction about the bus services in the country. Mowasalat has added more buses and opened many new routes to ferry the passengers in a record time to all destinations. Many, including low income workers and labourers, also use the bus service to meet their relatives in Doha downtown and cities like Al Khor, Al Shamal, Dukhan and Mesaieed etc during weekend and holidays.
“The availability of bus services has increased significantly,” Mohamad Ali, a Nepali worker, told The Peninsula.
“I travel by bus from Al Ghanim Central Bus Station near the Gold Souq to the Industrial Area, Street No. 42, on a daily basis. I get the bus in 10 to 15 minutes and the travel time is approximately 45 minutes if the bus is not stuck in traffic,” said Ali.
“The travel time has also been reduced because earlier, when the buses were less, there were frequent stops, and now there are limited stops. My accommodation is in Al Shihania labour camp and I come to Asian Town to see my relatives and friends on Fridays,” said Ramesh Yado, a construction worker.
“We noticed remarkable improvement in the bus services compared to the past years,” said Mohamad Jan, a self-employed Pakistani. Jan was waiting for his bus at Al Ghanim Central Bus Station to go to Dafna. The number of buses in almost all routes across the country has increased significantly, he added.
A number of blue collar workers were also found using the services mostly due to increased frequency in some routes.
“My residence is near the bus station and every few minutes there is a bus passing near my workplace. So I prefer to use the buses than my own car, as it relieves me of the pressure of morning traffic. I can sit and relax while travelling to office and start work afresh rather than being bothered by all the traffic issues while driving to work in the morning,” said an engineer with a consulting firm.
However, many people who live away from Doha are finding it difficult to plan their travel on Mowasalat buses.
“Every time I need to go to the Industrial Area from Wakra, I have to go all the way to the main bus terminal in Al Ghanim to get a bus or get down at various stops and get a number of connecting buses, which is difficult. It would be better if they can have more bus hubs in different areas, where buses to some of the most important destinations are available,” said a domestic worker in Al Wakra.
“The payment of fare for a Karwa bus is through the smart card,” said a card seller at Doha Bus Station. “The card is available at QR30 with QR20 balance. The commuter has to punch the card at the machine mounted besides the bus-driver when they get into the bus and exit and if anyone forgets to punch while exiting the system will deduct QR9 automatically as the maximum charge, regardless of the actual distance.”
Some of the passengers also lauded the better facilities at the Central bus terminal like the separate waiting areas for passengers. “Earlier, people would be walking all around the terminal but now passengers have specific waiting areas and when buses on their route come, they can board. The system is very much organised and there is no chaos while boarding or getting off the buses,” said a frequent traveller.
“People wait for their buses in the waiting areas, which has a few gates for passengers to board the buses. When the specific buses come at the gates, the doors will open and passengers can get in, based on the capacity of the buses. There is no more crowding near the bus door,” said another traveller.
Mowasalat-Karwa provides frequent services throughout Doha. Buses are modern, air conditioned with low floor access and space for wheelchairs on most types of bus. A fleet of luxury buses with reclining seats are used on longer routes like Al Khor, Al Shamal, Dukhan and Messieed as well as Airport Express service.
Mowasalat operates a total of 50 routes starting at as early as 4am with the last bus departing around 11pm. Fares are attractively priced from as little as QR2.50 for short trips with a maximum single fare of QR9 to Al Shamal and Abu Samra on the Saudi border.
Moreover, commuters can submit their requests to Mowasalat for route changes and additional routes as per their convenience as the services will be provided accordingly if possible. Mowasalat announced earlier that they were receiving requests from various sectors for route changes, additional routes and they evaluate the requirement to ensure the demand is met with increased passenger load. Then the proposal is submitted to the Ministry of Transport and Communications to verify the feasibility of operating as per the safety of the road conditions.
The transport company had also previously announced that there is a plan to build five new bus stations across the city that would be linked to the metro stations, which are expected to be completed by 2018.