Stakeholders lay stress on regaining lost space for public transport

Over 800 private buses in the Greater-Kochi area will be fitted with GPS this month, while efforts are under way to introduce a journey planner to keep track of them, in May. It will be followed by the installation of GPS in KSRTC buses and autorickshaws that are operated in the region, said Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) representatives at a stakeholders discussion on public transport held at the KMRL office here on Thursday .

The initiative will be a game changer for both commuters and bus operators. While commuters will be able to make informed decisions on transit, the revenue of bus operators is estimated to increase by up to 25%. GPS has also been envisaged in ferries and in the 15 metro trains in operation. Moreover, the proposed induction of electric autorickshaws will bring about last-mile connectivity at affordable cost. An ‘app’ like the ones used by online taxis will be introduced for them, they added.

President of Ernakulam District Residents Associations’ Apex Council (EDRAAC) Rangadasa Prabhu said the inordinate delay on the part of the State government in constituting a Unified Metropolitan Transportation Authority (UMTA) for Kochi is one among the major reasons for the steep decline in passenger patronage in buses, and roads getting crammed up with two-wheelers and cars.

“There must be a qualitative improvement, wider reach and futuristic policies to integrate and promote different modes of public transport. Sadly, buses still operate through routes fixed 60 years ago, in a fast expanding city. Patronage will further lessen unless crew members behave courteously and steps are taken to offer safe, comfortable ride,” he added.

D. Dhanuraj, chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a city-based think tank, reminded that the share of buses in ferrying commuters had fallen from 60% in 2013 to 49% in 2015, though approximately ₹10,000 crore was being invested in public transport modes like the Kochi metro, Water Metro, and feeder services. The proliferation of private vehicles is leading to congestion, pollution, and subsequent loss of productivity.

On his part, District Collector K. Mohammed Y. Safirulla has confirmed that he would rely on buses to commute to and from office, at least once a month, he said.

The panellists representing traffic planners, bus operators, auto-driver unions, State Water Transport Department, residents’ associations, merchants, and NGOs called for introducing share autorickshaws. They also sought steps to remove encroachers, vendors, and illegally-parked vehicles from footpaths and roads. The width and quality of roads and footpaths too must be increased, they said. A couple of speakers sought steps to rationalise the fare of the Kochi metro, citing that commuting by car was more economical when members of a family travelled together.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 2:59:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/stakeholders-lay-stress-on-regaining-lost-space-for-public-transport/article23607169.ece

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