As buses returned to roads in Bengaluru on Tuesday after a two-month long coronavirus-induced lockdown, changes were aplenty. While the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) began issuing daily or weekly passes to commuters instead of normal tickets in a bid to promote contactless ticketing, many commuters raised an issue of being charged more.
For instance, some commuters said they had to get off the bus after realising that buying a pass worth Rs 70 was not feasible. “I was going to my daughter-in-law’s residence to stay with her for a while. I won’t be travelling elsewhere but why am I forced to pay almost double than the usual rates for this. I have already spent Rs 30 to get a new mask before boarding the bus,” Muniyamma K, a resident of Rajajinagar said.
Another commuter, Ronny Gabriel, a techie said he felt that the idea of contactless ticketing was not complete. “There are a few instances where contact is still in place between passengers and the bus crew – when the pass is signed and given, and then when our ID card is sought for verification. The conductor might be wearing a glove but not all commuters are,” he pointed out.
However, BMTC managed to raise Rs 63 lakhs revenue on the very first day of resuming services in the city after nearly two months of shutdown.
“As many as 48,900 passes – including daily and weekly – were sold on Tuesday as we raised revenue of Rs 63 lakhs. We could operate 2106 buses between 7 am and 7 pm yesterday,” Ajit Torgal, BMTC Public Relations Officer told the indianexpress.com.
Further, a member of the Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike (BBPV), a community forum for bus commuters in the city recorded their travel experience online while on a trip from Marathahalli to Majestic.
Sharing the same, BBPV tweeted, ..”the conductor also has a sort of face gear that she is wearing to protect her. That’s better than just masks, I guess. But gloves, while useful, still can infect if they are not careful not to touch their face with the gloves on.”
Oh, btw.. the conductor also has a sort of face gear that she is wearing to protect her. That’s better than just masks, I guess.
But gloves, while useful, still can infect if they are not careful not to touch their face with the gloves on.(11/n) pic.twitter.com/GMzKwA1fzT
— BusPrayanikaraVedike (@BBPVedike) May 19, 2020
The forum further observed that a timetable/schedule of services was not available to help passengers plan their travel. “He (District Transport Officer) said it’s not available here, but maybe available at Central office and asked me to email CTMO,” they tweeted.
‘Contactless ticketing should be made permanent’
Even as the new ticketing system faced minor hiccups on the first day, experts in the transport sector recommended that contactless travel should become a norm in the post-Covid era.
“Transfer of tickets, passes, and cash between hands should be stopped by all means and hence this transition towards contactless ticketing should become a permanent policy decision,” Dr Ashish Verma, Associate Professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) said.
He further said that the government should see an opportunity in crisis and try to nurture the habit among public transport users to get used to digitised methods.
“However, even as a hike in fares would become inevitable for a transport corporation’s survival, the government should not neglect the poor giving them access and subsidising the same people from identified economic groups,” Verma said.
While more user-feedback and expert opinions are expected in the coming days, considering these changes and bridging infrastructural intervention and the behaviour of people is of quintessential importance, Verma said.
‘Fix sanitisers, do away with ID card checking’
Shaheen Shasa of the Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike said it is time the BMTC stopped checking ID cards to verify the passes to ensure contactless travelling. “BMTC should do away with the need for ID cards to travel. Misuse of these passes is the least of our worries right now,” she said.
She further suggested that fixing sanitisers next to the bus doors would help. “Sanitisers fixed to the buses at the entrance will help commuters sanitise their hands before entering and when leaving,” she said.
A group of experts from the Transportation Engineering Lab, Department of Civil Engineering, IISc have also issued separate white papers to the government with inputs regarding steps to be taken during these times.
Titled ‘Towards a Sustainable Transport System’, separate documents have been formulated for the ‘recovery period’ and the ‘post-COVID-19 world’. The team of researchers stresses on the ‘hidden opportunity’ that the government has now to achieve a sustainable transport system.