IISc Paper Examines COVID-19-Induced Travel Changes, Strategies and Outbreak Prevention

Scientific way to meet demand, maintain essential hygiene and affordability for public transport

Scientific way to meet demand, maintain essential hygiene and affordability for public transport

Among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic as well as subsequent closures is public transport. As the researchers said, this led to a significant change in travel habits and behaviors. A paper by researchers from the Center for Society and Policy (CSP) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) examines the inevitable longer-term impact on transport behavior and recommends a scientific way to meet demand, maintain sanitation and affordability.

“Public transport has been hit hard since the outbreak, with dramatic reductions in ridership. The impact has resulted in reduced revenue from fare boxes and added costs for disinfection and the implementation of physical distancing measures. Major transport authorities around the world have reported a reduction of up to 95% in users, which not only shows the scale of the problem we face today, but also puts the future of these companies and services in uncertainty,’ the authors said, in the article, ‘Public Transport Strategy and Outbreak Prevention Framework in the Context of COVID-19’, published in transport policyan international journal published by Elsevier.

For the study, perceptions of service quality for intercity bus transport are collected from passengers traveling between Bengaluru and other towns/cities/villages such as Mysuru, Tumakuru, Mangaluru and Hubballi. The researchers – Naveen BR, former postdoctoral researcher and data science professional, and Anjula Gurtoo, president and professor of the CSP – carried out a literature review on the attributes of quality, safety, cleanliness and service delivery transport for COVID-19, among others.

The COVID-19 crisis has provided a reality check on the capacity and capacity of transport services, especially public transport, to observe unprecedented shocks and respond to travel needs in very restricted situations induced by the pandemic, the authors told The Hindu.

“Research studies indicate higher infection cases and deaths from epidemics in countries and regions with less contingency plans and guidelines for transportation systems. Coordinated efforts are becoming an urgent need, in terms of tools and methods from policy makers, public transport service providers and passengers to mitigate the risk of virus spread or infection in the current pandemic crisis and future. Redesigning services, reallocating resources and redistributing passenger flows should be part of strategies for adapting public transport services during a pandemic,” they added.

In India, transport authorities had issued travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, including changing seating arrangements, social distancing, masks for crew and passengers, hand disinfection with screening thermal before boarding, registration of passenger details for contact tracing, among others. “Due to COVID-induced public transport safety, health and accessibility issues, passengers have already sought alternative means of transport like private vehicles, taxi services, bicycles, etc. This situation may exist still some time until the situation becomes normal as before,” the authors said.

Interventions for RTCs

Given that road transport companies, at least in Karnataka, are reeling from losses, what type of interventions should they consider? “Transport organizations have suffered huge financial losses worldwide and it will take at least six to eight months to return to previous supply and demand patterns. only a loss of Rs. 16 billion due to the lockdown Improving the quality of public transport service will motivate people of all categories – high, middle and low income – to use the services more. Last mile connectivity will improve public transport accessibility in remote areas Dynamic and real-time scheduling of buses with the application of state-of-the-art technology will help to manage demand and frequency appropriately,” said authors.

They also suggested setting up freight and parcel services by road transport companies to generate alternative income, by providing free and better internet connectivity to help professionals who have to travel long distances and by bringing CNG buses.

Recommendations

Policy recommendations for the service relate to routes, condition of areas, registration of passenger details, stops, waiting times, disinfection of waiting area and bus. Travel near sealed roads should be avoided to contain the risk of catching viruses, the researchers said.

Disinfecting buses and waiting areas helps minimize the risk of spreading the virus among users. Providing touchless sanitizer dispensers and sinks with soap dispensers at platform level could be effective. If possible, wet disinfectant wipes should be provided to each traveler with a suggestion to use them before touching or grabbing anything, especially for high-risk passengers.

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