Touchless tech, only 25% occupation in bus, metro to stem spread of virus: MoHUA
Fearing a large influx of private vehicles post lockdown and in an attempt to make coronavirus an opportunity, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has issued an advisory to States, cities and metro rail corporations on public transport suggesting to encourage non-motorised transport (NMT), touchless and cashless technologies, rearrange the seating capacity to curb transmission of the virus.
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.
According to the advisory, due to social distancing norms, about 25-50 per cent of the Metro rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) capacity of 10 million passengers daily would be used once it restarts. 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.
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”. The Ministry said while pollution has gone down by 60 per cent, use of public transportation has gone down by 90 per cent during the lockdown. However, social distancing norms could increase the number of personal vehicles on roads.
The advisory suggests mapping the important routes connecting residential areas from where a large number of people travel and major centres of work; creation of temporary pedestrian areas, footpath, and cycle lanes and rearrangement of seating capacity, encourage closure of one or more lanes or shopping streets to promote higher walking and cycling trips for a specific time or day; markings be made for queuing of the passengers at all relevant places and reduce services in places with high Covid incidence.
The advisory issued by MoHUA secretary Durga Shanker Mishra said as most of the urban trips are clocked in under five km, NMT offers perfect opportunity to implement it this Covid-19 crisis as it requires low cost, less human resource, is easy and quick to implement, scalable and environment-friendly.
“In order to avoid a resurgence of car and other private vehicle usages, many cities around the world have encouraged e-ticketing, digital payments and reallocating street space for cycling and pedestrians through street closures, creating Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) priority zones, pop-up bike lanes & sidewalks, providing parking and charging equipment and financing options to make cycling more accessible,” it said.
To reduce human interface, cashless systems like BHIM, PhonePe, Google Pay and PayTM should be used as well as the National Common Mobility Card, the advisory stated.
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 17 km bike lanes in Auckland, New Zealand, 150 per cent increase in bike-sharing trips in China and in the UK, local businesses relocate road space for pedestrians to allow residents to respect social distancing guidelines, while queuing outside shops
India has a robust 700 kms of operational metro rail in 18 major cities and a BRT network of about 450 kms operational in 11 cities across the country carrying 10 million passengers daily. Such dramatic and dynamic changes in demand and supply will require complementing these public transport systems with alternative modes of transit,” it said.
Saturday, 13 June 2020 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi