Post COVID-19, the commute is not going to stay the same. More people will prefer a personal mode of transport instead of public transport. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA), metro cities have witnessed a dip of up to 90 percent in volumes of public transport. Hence, it is very difficult to achieve the same level of ridership after the coronavirus pandemic is over. People will be more concerned about their safety while commuting to different places.
Social Distancing Coming into Play
Due to strict social distancing norms, buses and metros will operate at just 25 percent of their pre-corona capacity. Such a drastic change in supply and demand needs to be complemented by alternate modes of transport.
In its three-pronged strategy to open the metros in the short, medium, and long term; MoHUA is planning to encourage people to make bicycling and walking as a preferred mode of transport for short distances. In its advisory, it has stated that around 50 percent of people in the country are pedestrians and only 40 percent of them use bicycles. The ministry aims to increase this.
Reduced usage of public transport and personal vehicles has cut down air pollution in cities by up to 60 percent. MoHUA stated that several countries have used this event to discourage people to avoid car usage. These countries have built non-motorised transport (NMT) zones and are also offering finances on buying a bicycle.
Global Transportation Initiative
As a part of the global transportation initiative amid COVID-19 pandemic, New York and Italy have built around 40 and 22 miles of fresh NMT lanes respectively. China has also witnessed 150 percent spike in the bike-sharing practice.
The MoHUA’s advisory suggests leveraging technological solutions including Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), cashless and touchless systems like Google Pay, PhonePe, National Common Mobility Card (NCMC), and BHIM among others to reduce human interaction.
Public Transport is the Backbone of Cities
Public transport is the backbone of urban India, especially among middle and lower-income class people. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become crucial for government to facilitate public transport in a manner that to prevent the spread of infection in the communities.
To maintain social distancing, it is crucial to focus on non-motorised means of transport. The government can leverage advanced payment mechanism to avoid human contact during the transit and facilitate information system to commuters. MoHUA is in talks with global experts about the evolution of urban mobility in these extraordinary times and concerns related to the increased use of personal vehicles.