As a result of COVID-19 pandemic, societies around the world have had to adapt to a new way of living. What used to be a careless routine, like taking the bus to work or visiting a favorite food joint, now if done at all, is a careful operation tinted with wariness. What does this mean for public transportation? How can we rebuild people’s confidence in travelling again?
Public transit – a hotspot for contagion?
As many cities are easing COVID-19 restrictions, people dread a second wave of contagion. Social distancing difficulties, potentially contaminated surfaces and overcrowded vehicles, make public transit be seen as a contagion hotspot. Public transit systems around the world have seen a massive decline in ridership and fare revenues, imposing severe financial constraints on many transit companies. This is especially true in emerging countries, where the informal transit sector is privately-owned and fares are their only source of revenue.
In Latin America and Africa, the majority of trips are done with urban buses and paratransit (vans and minibuses). These systems tend to be overcrowded, especially during peak hours, making social distancing more difficult to maintain. Bus operators are providing enhanced safety for its riders, offering antibacterial gel and imposing face masks onboard – like in Mexico City. However, these measures are not enough to restore confidence in public transit, instead, technologies must step up to promote safety and encourage ridership.
Can technology promote the use of public transit during the pandemic?
Besides hygiene measures, technology and data are valuable tools to allow a smooth transition to the new normality. This includes offering accurate travel information, such as journey planner apps and digital maps. Benefits of making data available for passengers and authorities include:
Having information about stops, schedules and frequencies allow them to plan their daily travels in advance.
Passenger occupancy data facilitates avoiding crowded buses, which in turn reduces the chance of contagion, offering a safer and more comfortable travel experience.
Passenger occupancy data can also be used by transport authorities or operators to control the number of passengers onboard, thus facilitating social distancing.
These essential features can help users avoid crowded systems and travel safely, as well as reduce traffic congestion and contagions. In order to provide such data to passengers, public transport companies must have an accurate and detailed digital map of their transport network. With eQ automated mapping tool, we help cities and operators map their informal public transit network. Live transit data is generated and can be exported in GTFS format to third party applications, improving public transit accessibility and visibility with accurate travel information. In doing so, we can help people make better travel decisions, enabling them to move around more easily as stops and routes are made visible. Ultimately, COVID-19 will reshape how the world travels.
At enrouteQ, we strive to make the transition to the new normality as smooth as possible, helping to rebuild trust in public transit and making people feel comfortable with travelling again.