*The news story published on The Times of India, quoting CPPR Chairman, Dr. D. Dhanuraj’s comment on Motor Vehicle department’s proposal to operate buses with fewer seats but more space for standee passengers. 

Officials with the motor vehicles department (MVD) put forward a proposal to operate buses with fewer seating capacity and having more space for standee passengers. They also suggest the need to do away with the system of employing conductors by introducing card swiping machines and GPS systems. Bijulal P Ram, a motor vehicle inspector said, “Increased carrying capacity and lower operations costs will make it possible to bring down ticket fares. The option of providing linear seating arrangement (like that of Kochi Metro) can be considered. Grab handles and stanchion pipes can be provided for standee passengers. Specific space can be earmarked near the door for keeping luggage. The platform height of these buses can be limited to 60cm.”

He said that the government can entrust operations of urban buses with private operators and these vehicles can be operated along the Vyttila Mobility Hub – KSRTC depot – Railway station – High Court Junction corridor for improving last mile connectivity. While the move to do away with conductors, and introduction of computerised systems are generally welcome, the suggestions to bring down seating capacity has not gone down well. The Centre for Public Policy and Research (CPPR), a think-tank that has undertaken various studies on the public transport, pointed out though these urban buses would help to bring down operations costs, and such vehicles will not be welcomed in state like Kerala. “Our people are used to a certain comfort zones. People here prefer to travel in comfort. If we want to augment public transport systems, it is important that we provide facilities equivalent to that offered by private vehicles. We cannot expect to give up their private vehicles and travel in crowded buses, and that too by standing in it,” said D Dhanuraj, chairman CPPR.

Experts promoting public transport systems as well as environmentalists have always stressed on the need to promote mass transportation and reduce the dependency on private vehicles. “However, all of them tend to ignore factors that encourage people to drive private cars. If we can introduce buses which provide passengers better facilities, then there will be takers,” he added.

Similar sentiments were shared by others who have been vocally promoting mass transportation systems. Citybased NGO Better Kochi Response Group (BKRG) also vouched for introducing card swiping machines in buses. “You do not need a conductor. A machine installed near the door and the passenger can swipe the card when he makes an entry and exit. It should also have the facility to collect money and dispense tickets. Such buses are operational in foreign countries,” said BKRG president S Gopakumar.

*This news story can be also read at The Times of India’s website.

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