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FEATURE l To feed my children or take the bus
Sunday, December 15, 2013 5:34 PM
A bus stop in Giza in December, 2013. Aswat Masriya
By Nader Hassan
CAIRO, Dec 15 (Aswat Masriya) A famous line by prominent Egyptian poet Bayram al-Tunsi says, "O vender of radishes, one for a penny, how much goes to the children, how much to the municipal council?”
Even though Tunsi was criticizing taxation and other regulations imposed on everybody without discrimination, the line can be used today, but instead amended into: how much goes to the children and how much to transportation?
Abdu used to take one minibus from his home in north Giza’s Imbaba district to his workplace, but drivers have now divided that commute into three parts, which means he has to take three minibuses.
Abdu’s trip to his office, which lies near Giza Square, now costs him four Egyptian pounds (0.58 US Dollar) as opposed to less than 2 Egyptian pounds in the past.
Even though a round bus ticket would cost Abdu, who is an accountant, two pounds, he would rather avoid public buses because they are very crowded and do not arrive very frequently.
Egypt has increased its budget for Alexandria and Cairo transportation to 1.4 billion Egyptian pounds from the 1.2 billion of the year before.
According to a study by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) for the year 2012 – 2013, Egyptian families spend about 5.2% of their annual incomes in transportation.
At least two million Egyptians take the metro (underground) on a daily basis, but thousands also depend on trains, bus lines, minibuses and even Nile buses.
Minibuses, which are run by individuals not the government, have become the main mean of transportation for many Egyptians living in Cairo and Giza and their suburbs in light of the growing population and the deteriorating conditions of public transportation.
Abdu’s middle child, Selim, says that he has almost forgotten the looks of the public bus which used to come to his area because it rarely comes to the neighborhood anymore.
The government announced earlier this year that it intends to add about 500 more buses to what it already has to cover a larger portion of Greater Cairo, which includes Cairo, Giza and Qaliubiya.
Selim added that he has to wake up at 5 in the morning to catch his first lecture at Cairo University which begins at 8, because the road from Imbaba to campus takes two hours even though the distance is not higher than 10 kilometers.
Abdu added that it used to take him less than an hour from his house to the Giza Square until the second half of the 90’s.
Transportation and Road Safety expert Khaled Mostafa measures loses caused by the overpopulation of cities in Egypt at billions and adds that road accidents alone cause annual losses worth at least 10 billion pounds.
At least seven million and half people live in the Giza governorate, which seconds Cairo (the capital) which comes at about nine million Egyptians.
Abdu added that his family requires over 10 Egyptian pounds for transportation on a daily basis, even though his wife does not work and his older son and youngest daughter do not take transportation in their daily lives.
Abdu, whose income is 2,500 Egyptian pounds (363.02 US Dollar) a month, criticized what he described as lack of supervision over minibuses and their drivers who are often thugs and sometimes even resort to violence to terrorize the passengers.
There are many stories of drivers imposing their conditions upon passengers, with some passengers surrendering and others resorting to confrontation, as well as stories of drivers violating traffic laws or even driving without license.
(Abdu is a pseudonym name because the subject in this interview did not want to reveal his real identity.)
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