India needs over 600,000 buses for 25 million commuters daily to follow social distancing norms, according to a study

Private route buses operators to hit the road from Wednesday while private omni bus operators continue to await guidelines from the state government. At a time when TNSTC is operating only 50% of its fleet strength and struggling to manage the passenger footfall, private bus operation is expected to reduce the crowd. The bus operators had decided not to increase the ticket fare. Meanwhile, the exact number of buses that are operated in and from the district is yet to be known. BCCL
  • India only has around 25,000 operational buses, currently.
  • The study found out that Delhi with an average daily ridership of 4.3 million will require 14,300 buses, wherein the total bus fleet is 5,576.
  • For many Indians, buying a car isn’t the option, and there must be a ramping up of public transportation infrastructure, said Khosla.
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India has 24 times fewer busses in its public transport fleet than it needs for people to follow social distancing norms in the times of COVID, according to a study conducted by Climate Trends, a Delhi-based strategic communications body.

The study conducted in line with Mumbai specific norms of only allowing only 30 passengers per Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport buses, found that the country would need close to 666,667 buses for 25 million commuters daily. However, it only has around 25,000 operational buses, currently.

“The disparity in the existing bus fleet in India vs required is enormous. The bus system is the backbone of mass transit, especially now when we are also expected to follow the social distancing norm, there is an immediate need to amplify the numbers of buses,” said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends.

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According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), around 20% of urban commuters are dependent on public transport in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The study found out that Delhi with an average daily ridership of 4.3 million will require at least 14,300 buses, wherein the national capital’s total bus fleet is 5,576.

Thousands of people crowded at Majestic bus station in Bengaluru on Sunday, looking for buses that could take them to their hometowns. The state government has arranged KSRTC buses to carry people from Bengaluru to other districts in Karnataka as a one time relief for those willing to go back to their homes. Body temperature of all those who were boarding buses were checked using thermometers. The government has announced free transportation for labour class, after it drew flak for overcharging of bus fares.BCCL

“COVID-19 provides Indian cities with an opportunity to transform their public transport services by improving user experience through technology, investing in public transport as a social good, reforming informal transit services, and promoting walking and cycling for shorter trips,” said Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia programme lead, ITDP.

Social distancing is the backbone in the times of coronavirus.

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As the cities across India are gradually reopening post lockdown, people’s transportation remains a pressing issue for the government. Due to space constraints and lack of an adequate number of buses plying on the road, maintaining social distance would be difficult, resulting in an increased risk of infection.

“In cities such as Mumbai and Delhi where the local trains and metros carry 4 million and 3 million commuters daily respectively, it will be crucial to increase bus and metro fleet,” the study noted.

Public commuters shifting to personal vehicles

For many Indians, buying a car isn’t the option, and there must be a ramping up of public transportation infrastructure, said Khosla.
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As per the recent consumer survey conducted by Capgemini highlighted that only 57% of Indian consumers in urban areas plan to buy a vehicle in 2020 as health and safety concerns continue to shape consumer behaviour.

“People who cannot afford personal mobility will use shared transport; therefore, we need to provide them with safe movement. On the other hand, if choice users and people with affordability shift to private transportation, our cities will come to a grinding halt. Therefore, we need to bring the focus back on shared mobility. One way to do it would be to initiate COVID19 safety labelling for transport services,” said Amit Bhatt, director, transport, WRI India.

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