Here’s an idea I haven’t thought through completely. It’s a public transport system for Colombo.
1. Use Existing Rail
Colombo has existing rail lines that could serve as a metro. There are two parallel north/south lines (along the coast and along Baseline/High Level Road). There’s also one line connecting east/west from Fort through Dematagoda.
If you run another line along Park Road, you have a loop. More on that in #3.
2. Separate Long Distance From Local
You don’t need to catch the Trinco train from Colombo Fort. You can take the metro out to Ragama and catch the long distance train from there. In the same way Kottawa and, I dunno, Moratuwa can be regional spokes heading East and South. That frees up Colombo rail for trains that just back and forth, back and forth – fast.
3. Use The Canals
Battaramulla and Thimbirigasyaya (Colombo 4-5 for our purposes) are not served by existing rail lines. Claiming land to lay rail in Colombo will take years. One option is to run elevated trains through the canals.
Colombo has an extensive canal network flowing north and south from Battaramulla. The Southern line (in blue above) flows straight out to Wellawatte along Park Road. It also connects to Dehiwela and even Bolgoda. The Northern line (in green) goes through Nawala and Dematagoda and has exits at the Beira Lake and Mutwal.
The canals are essential for drainage, but they also provide space that new rail lines could run through. They’re not very deep and it wouldn’t be complicated to build tracks in the middle, unless that’s completely insane.
4. End School Time Madness
Colombo actually has four rush hours, which is two too many. Children do not need to be picked up in individual cars. The government should provide public funded school buses with designated pickup spots. That is, you take and collect your kids from a stop near your home. You do not need to drive into the city center and double-park all over Colombo. Nor do you need to trust them to uncomfortable, hot and dubious school vans. Just big yellow school buses.
5. Nationalize Colombo Buses
The privatization of buses decades ago hasn’t worked. It’s just created cartels that can neither invest nor compete. In Colombo at least, public transit should be literally public. The government should ideally ban private buses from the city and run comfortable, low-rise buses on short and fast routes. Barring that, they should deregulate private buses and let them actually invest and improve services, but I don’t think that’s likely. The best thing for the country (and worst for politics) is to nationalize the bus system in Colombo.
6. Pay For It All Through Congestion Pricing
If anyone still wants to drive into the city, fine. Charge them for it. Use the money to pay for the above.
What do you think?