In a rapidly changing equation in the COVID-19 era, only 21% of Indians in metro cities were found to be willing to continue to use public transport for their commute, while a whopping 73% said they would prefer to use their own vehicles (either two-wheelers or four-wheelers). These are the findings of a survey conducted by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) along with its knowledge partner Primus Partners. As per this survey with an unspecified sample size conducted in eight top cities, the rest 6% would either walk or cycle for this purpose. The figure of 21% metro citizens still willing to opt for public transport in ‘Unlock’ India is a huge 34 percentage-point fall than the pre-lockdown levels of 55% citizens who used public transport.This trend is translating into rising sales in the auto industry, with passenger car sales in the country touching 1,97,523 units in July 2020, just 1% less than that sold in July 2019. The July 2020 sales were 69% more than the cars sold in June 2020. More used cars have been sold but there has been no comprehensive data on this. As per a World Bank-International Association of Public Transport (UITP) study, the 80-100% reduction in passenger traffic during the lockdown, had caused a loss of ₹69,000 crore to bus operators alone in India. Though there has been gradual recovery since the unlock, the traffic pattern has shifted to increased use of personal mobility.“The shift not only creates more than usual congestion on roads and increase in vehicular pollution, it also results in continued revenue loss to public transport operators,” Giridhar Aramane, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said in his observations in the report. Niranjan Hiranandani, president, Assocham said “Even with metro railway services resuming in early September, challenges would continue regarding the fear of the contagion, making people hesitant to return to public transportation.” Nilaya Varma, CEO & Co-Founder, Primus Partners, said, “With a majority of city office-goers preferring to work-from-home or inclined towards flexible working hours and staggered office schedules, public transportation in cities would undergo a radical shift.”“To revive passenger sentiment and contribute towards building a safe ecosystem for commuters and drivers, transport operators need to adopt stringent hygiene guidelines and leverage technological solutions. These measures are essential, even as transport operators struggle with reduced footfall and lowered capacity owing to social distancing guidelines,” he said.The recovery will largely depend on creating safe and sanitised personal bubbles around the passengers and the drivers. While passengers will need to wear protective clothing, use sanitiser and ensure personal hygiene, transport undertakings and operators besides stressing on hygiene, will will have to increase the frequency of buses on high demand routes to cater to the supply reduction due to physical distancing, the report said. Shared public transport operators like cab aggregators, taxi associations, transport associations need to lead the effort in deploying technology to safeguard passengers and designing innovative personal hygiene protocols to prevent spread of the virus, it added.
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