Bangladesh: Fifteen Million Stuck in Traffic

Stage: Early stage

Integrating private sector and big data to solve traffic problems in Dhaka

0 Days Remaining

The problem addressed

The problem the project aimed to address is the intense traffic congestion in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Traffic congestion has impacts on commuter times, which increases pollution and currently contributes to a 3% loss in the National GDP. A significant cause of this congestion is the increasing rate of private/single occupancy cars used by middle and high income earners. Finding alternatives to this trend as a means of transportation. Cars have a much higher road footprint compared to many alternatives, particularly public transport.

The intervention

UNDP Bangladesh’s prototype transport innovation project aimed to understand the motivation behind people’s transport decisions, specifically focusing on private vehicle users. We wanted to identify the barriers to this group using more efficient transport options and if we could motivate them to return to public transport by creating a sense of personal responsibility to reduce their impact on the transport system. In mid-July 2014 we enlisted a group of Transport Pioneers who normally do not take public transport in Dhaka, some had never used it in their lives, to take a trip on Dhaka City public transport. The project successfully demonstrated that having understood the impact on the system, the Transport Pioneers felt a sense of social responsibility to minimise it if a suitable option was available.

The partners

The project worked in close partnership with the Ministry of Roads and Transportation, and public transport operators, who were both able to share insights into the challenges and opportunities to improve traffic congestion and public transport participation.  Media outlets also worked alongside the project to assist in publicizing the project outcomes and study findings.  A short documentary was produced to illustrate the transport pioneers’ journey through the project. 


The project was able to encourage 20% of the private car users in the test group to continue taking public transport independently, as the only barrier for them was information on how to enter the system. This prototype innovation project has demonstrated there is significant additional benefit to be gained by engaging the public and appealing to their sense of social responsibility regarding transportation. A documentary was created to showcase the project, highlighting the benefits and sharing the knowledge gained by the transport pioneers. A panel discussion on the project discoveries was also nationally televised.

Lessons identified

Managing the relationship between project partners was critical, as both the Ministry of Transport and Public Transport Operators felt as though their concerns were not being addressed by the other, as priorities and motivations for solving congestions challenges differed. In terms of improving public transport ridership the transport pioneers identified some key barriers preventing their long term engagement.

Information/Knowledge gaps - No publically available routes, stops and timetable exist for bus transport: Establish digital and hardcopy route maps, time tables and physical stops

Concerns about the comfort, cleanliness and safety of current options were raised: Consider offering more ‘premium line’ buses with improved services, to specifically target middle and higher income earner; Explore women’s specific seating sections on buses

Improve dialogue between Ministry of Transport and Public Transport Operators to bring about system wide improvements that are mutually beneficial and cognizant of the competing priorities.

Contact person

Dr Aminul Islam:

Related materials

Overview: Bangladesh: Changing social norms behind transportation

Timeline: Fifteen million stuck in traffic


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$4,000 USD

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