Govt suggests 'three-pronged strategy' for public transport

New Delhi: In order to encourage non-motorised transport (NMT) and cashless technologies amid the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has issued an advisory to states, cities and metro rail corporations on public transport suggesting a "three-pronged strategy" for public transport with short (six months), medium (one year) and long-term (one to three years) measures.

"Encourage and revive non-motorised transport (NMT)as most of the urban trips are clocked in under five kilometres, NMT offers perfect opportunity to implement in this COVID-19 crisis as it requires low cost, less human resource, easy and quick to implement, scalable and environment friendly,' it said.

The advisory has said that to avoid resurgence of car and other private vehicle usage, many cities around the world have encouraged e-ticketing, digital payments and reallocating street space for cycling and pedestrians through street closures, creating NMT priority zones, pop-up bike lanes and sidewalks, providing parking and charging equipments and financing options to make cycling more accessible.

"New York has added 40 miles of new NMT lanes to support cyclists. Oakland (USA) has closed 10 percent of its streets for motor vehicles. Bogotá in Colombia has added 76 kilometres of cycle overnight. In Milan, 22 miles of streets have been transformed to cycling lanes. Auckland in New Zealand has removed on-street car parking and built up 17 kilometres of temporary bike lanes in addition to widening of existing bike and foot paths. Also, city has developed a program to fund pop up bike lanes promotion of bike sharing in China has led to 150 percent increase in trips nationwide during lockdown and in UK, local businesses relocate road space for pedestrians to allow residents to respect social distancing guidelines, while queuing outside shops," it said.

The advisory further added that studies conducted by MoHUA show that about 16-57 percent of urban commuters are pedestrian and about 30-40 percent of commuter use bicycles in the country depending on the size of the city. Considering this as an opportunity, elevating the priority of these modes in this testing times gives travellers another private vehicle alternative, which is clean, safe, secured particularly, if it is integrated with other modes and affordable for all. This area is one of the thrust areas of National Urban Transport Policy-2006 (NUTP-2006). It will also generate employment opportunities for the work force in NMT industry.

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, the MoHUA advisory said, adding that 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. But due to the social distancing norms being practiced, their 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.

Besides this, it has also added that the active utilisation of technology to curb the spread of virus- enabling technologies 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.

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