Safely transporting bus passengers during the pandemic
Vanita Akhaury, Public Communication Officer at Gurugram Metropolitan City Bus Limited (GMCBL), explains how bus patronage is beginning to bounce back in the Indian city of Gurugram and outlines how the bus company set out to achieve this.
An encouraging sign that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic from the people of Gurugram is that they are now choosing to opt for the public transport services provided by Gurugram Metropolitan City Bus Limited (GMCBL) to cater to their travel needs.
With people’s support, GMCBL Gurugaman city bus service saw its ridership count almost triple in the first month of resumption of service since 1 July 2020. From 5,256 riders on 2 July 2020, the second day of resuming operations, the passenger count almost tripled to 13,718 riders on 31 July 2020.
Even with the pandemic posing travel restrictions, now in August 2020 around 15, 000 riders are daily using the City Bus Gurugaman public transport service to cater to their travel needs.
Although this count is too low compared to the pre-pandemic times with the daily passenger count of up to 85,000 riders every day, it is an encouraging figure that makes a bold statement that around 15, 000 passengers find the mass public transport Gurugaman bus a safe mode to travel.
GMCBL Gurugaman service has been slowly gaining confidence of passengers through the adoption of safety measures incorporated by its team. By adhering to the health safety guidelines of the Government and formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by GMCBL for the Depot Managers, Customer Service Agents (CSAs) and Drivers, and Passenger Advisory pasted on each serving bus and at major bus stops, precautions are being taken to safeguard the interest of the passengers, to earn their trust and thereby promote their safe ride experience as an encouragement to others.
- Entry of passengers wearing masks through designated gate
- Hands-free sanitiser installed on each bus near entry gate
- Temperature scanning of boarding passengers by CSAs
- Physical distancing maintained on bus through seats marked by stickers to be kept vacant
- Passenger advisory pasted on each bus and at four major bus stops
- Sanitisation of the bus at depot and terminal points after every round trip.
Other steps taken to boost ridership in GMCBL service during the pandemic:
- Focusing on providing safety measures for passengers riding on Gurugaman bus has instilled confidence among riders
- Adherence to restriction of 18 people (50 per cent of seating capacity) on each bus to maintain physical distancing among commuters has led people to ride on the bus
- Training of CSAs and Drivers to follow safety protocols as laid down in SOP guidelines and monitor the safety measures so that fellow passengers are reassured of their safety
- Opening of six key Routes 212, 134D, 112D, 116F, 122 and 218 for service connecting far off places such as Sohna, Manesar, Basai, Rajesh Pilot Chowk, Iffco Chowk, Gurugram Bus Stand, Railway Station, etc to serve the people
- Passenger advisory pasted on major bus stops and on each bus has helped in gaining the confidence of passengers who are spreading positive messages about their safe bus journeys
- Gurugaman App-based information is available to riders on where and when the bus will arrive at the stop
- Making residents of Gurugram aware of the operational routes by sending Bulk SMS messages
- Postings on Social Media about passengers’ safe bus journeys has created awareness and helped in increasing ridership
- Listening to commuters’ feedback/ suggestions on Helpline, complaints platform and social media has earned the trust of passengers resulting in increase in ridership.
The challenges the service faces while with only 68 buses plying currently on six routes (partial service) in Gurugram, and with social distancing limits, 50 percent ridership has been drastically curtailed in following these norms. The pandemic scare has taken away the rest.
If we analyse our ridership count, we are not even one-fourth of our ridership level achieved during pre-pandemic times. More than 71,000 Gurugaman passengers have been impacted by COVID-19, and even if it were possible, these 71,000 passengers would not be able to ride on Gurugaman buses because of safety restrictions and limited buses. So where is the way out?
The Government authorities and stakeholders need to work out a module so that the public transport Gurugaman bus can go on to continually serve and be a sustainable part of the city life. What it needs at this juncture is for organisations promoting sustainable mobility to hold its back. Otherwise, the consequences of fall in revenue due to limited service and ridership can seriously hinder in meeting the mobility and connectivity needs of the people residing in the Gurugram Metropolitan Area – having a deep impact on the lives of people and the state economy.
What needs to be focused on is that more than 400,000 passengers have safely used the Gurugaman bus service since July 2020. That is a big positive sign for us! What it means is that it needs a big push financially to better serve a large number of people who have been deprived of basic travel needs due to the pandemic.
Vanita Akhaury is the Public Communication Officer at Gurugram Metropolitan City Bus Limited (GMCBL) which operates a city bus transport system in Gurugram Metropolitan Area.