Ridership in Covid-affected public transportation must be revived

NEW DELHI: Experts argue that, as cities build for sustainable and resilient public transportation systems, ridership should return to pre-Covid levels, particularly in metro rail networks, to minimise long-term impact.

Experts discussed refashioning transportation networks to achieve Mobility for everyone, which was the focus of the day-long 14th Urban Mobility India conference, which was held online by the ministry of housing and urban affairs. When it comes to capital-intensive public transportation infrastructure, they also underlined the importance of integrated planning, innovative initiatives, and mobility audits.

Hardeep Singh Puri, the minister of housing and urban affairs, said the country’s metro train network is operating in 18 cities and spans 733 kilometres. “It (the metro network) provides a reliable and accessible mode of transportation for the most vulnerable sectors of the population… Puri stated, “The ministry’s endeavours to connect 50 cities and towns with the metro network by 2024 include another 1,046 km of network in the pipeline in 27 cities.”

According to MoHUA Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra, the focus was on increasing the comfort of living through appropriate urban mobility policy, as well as innovation and technology in the sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative influence on public transportation, especially the Metro system, which has suffered significant losses as a result of the ongoing travel restrictions, according to experts.

According to Mangu Singh, general director of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), ridership dropped by 48% from September 2019 to September 2021. “However, to maintain social distance and Covid norms, we chose to give maximal services so that passenger space is maximised… “As of today, our daily traffic is over 27 lakh,” Singh added.

Even private bus companies claim that their business has suffered as a result. At a time when the Centre is intending to adopt a Public-Private Partnership model for operating public transportation buses in second-tier cities, bus operators argue that financial assistance is required to offset the losses experienced as a result of Covid.

“Public transportation should be recognized as a priority sector,” stated Prasanna Patwardhan, chairperson and managing director of Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions. He noted that in several states, payments have been delayed for over a year and a half, while gasoline prices have risen without any changes to ticket pricing.

“While planning for a resilient transportation system, all of these issues must be considered,” he stated.

Experts believe that regulations should be reassessed or transportation system planning re-strategized to prevent people from transferring from public transportation to personal vehicles.

“If the right interventions or financial assistance is not given to agencies, the drop in ridership and revenue in public transportation systems, which are capital intensive projects, will have a long-term impact as it will delay fleet expansion and technology advancements,” said Laghu Parashar, deputy project head, SMART-SUT, GIZ India.

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