The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) has acknowledged that a 90 per cent dip in public transport volumes in the country during the epidemic will mean that “re-establishing the earlier level of ridership in public transport is a big challenge for cities, as people may be looking for more options especially personal modes that allow for safer travel in the post lockdown scenario”.
“Due to the social distancing norms being practiced, (Metro/Bus Rapid Transport) capacities would be utilised at 25 to 50 percent of pre-corona virus levels. Such dramatic and dynamic changes in demand and supply will require complementing these public transport systems with alternative modes of transit,” according to Secretary Durga Shankar Mishra.
In a three-pronged strategy for re-opening metros in the short, medium and long-term, the MoHUA emphasised the opportunity for encouraging bicycling and pedestrians. The advisory stated that roughly 16 to 57 per cent of urban commuters are pedestrians and 30 to 40 per cent use bicycles in the country.
With a 60 per cent reduction in air pollution since the epidemic, he added that other countries have used this moment to avoid a resurgence of car usage by harnessing technology, creating Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) zones, and financing options for bicycles.
Global transportation initiatives during COVID-19 include 40 miles of new NMT lanes for cyclists in New York, closing off 10 per cent of Oakland, California’s streets from motor vehicles, 22 new miles of cycling lanes in Italy, pop up bike lanes in Auckland, New Zealand, and 150 per cent increase in bike sharing trips in China.
The advisory suggested technological solutions such as “Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), indigenous cashless and touch less system like BHIM, PhonePe, Google Pay, PayTM etc.and National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) will reduce human interaction, in operations of public transit systems.”
“Recommencing Public Transport with greater confidence of Commuters-Public transport is the backbone in urban areas especially for the low/middle income commuters for which these services are the mainstay of their daily transit needs. However, it is imperative at this stage that transmission of infection through usage of public transport should be curbed by adopting the right sanitization, containment and social distancing measures …. Such a strategy has to give major focus on Non-Motorized Transport and Public Transport with use of technology in a big way for making all kinds of payments before or during the transit and providing information system to commuters.”
MoHUA has discussed with global experts about the “change in characteristic of urban mobility post COVID-19” and the concerns of increased personal vehicle usage.
India has 700 kms of operational metro rail in 18 major cities and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network of roughly 450 km in 11 cities that carry 10 million passengers daily.
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