A Report to Revamp Public Transport

An important new policy report explains how to solve eight key challenges facing the Kingdom’s public transportation system.

“Public transportation does not seem to be a priority of the state.” This was one of the refreshingly frank conclusions of a recent policy report on the future of public transportation in Jordan.

Launched in late February at a ceremony attended by the Minister of Transport Hussein Souob and then Mayor of Amman Akel Biltaji, the report was prepared by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) in association with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. I was also a member of the study team that worked on producing the report.

The report is based on interviews carried out with 13 former and current regulators (from the Ministry of Transport, Land Transport Regulatory Commission, and GAM), legislators (from both houses of parliament), and operators. It draws upon the vast collective experience of these individuals that, as the report puts it, “definitely should be put to use as the country attempts to deal with the many challenges facing public transportation.”

Eight key challenges are presented in the report. In addition to the opening statement in this article, the report cites the lack of significant government subsidies as a hindrance to improving services. It also highlighted the lack of coordination among the various entities involved in governing the sector, the fragmentation of operations among the many individual owner-operators, the redundancy in some routes due to poor, ad hoc planning, the inefficient operations resulting from traffic congestion, the lack of technological applications in areas such as ticketing and fare collection, and the institutional hurdles associated with a growing public sector.

The report goes on to offer remedies, ranging from high-level institutional matters to calling for the implementation of the bus rapid transit (BRT) project to even proposing the simplification of procedures for granting licenses to bus drivers. One key solution concerned a much-needed subsidy for public transport services. The report concludes with a roadmap with a narrative explaining the government’s role in regulating the sector—drawing parallels to how some utility companies operate today in Jordan.

Furthermore, the report includes a rare brief outlining the history of the public transportation sector in Jordan and the way it has been governed and regulated over the past years and decades. The document also contains a legal review of the new draft passenger transport law that reassuringly addresses some of the sector’s challenges identified by the study team.

It should be noted that this report comes as a follow-up to an experiential study published in 2015 by CSBE in collaboration with the Taqaddam Platform and Ma’an Nasel. That study aimed at documenting the user’s perspective on public transport. The 2017 report, on the other hand, was meant to complete the picture by adding the perspective of the regulator, legislator, and operator.

The report is available online on CSBE’s website http://www.csbe.org.