Social distancing in public transport not visible

August 08, 2020

As the lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of Coronavirus Pandemic began to get relaxed, Rawalpindi city opened up non-hotspot zones. Ever since the operation of public transport was permitted at...

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As the lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of Coronavirus Pandemic began to get relaxed, Rawalpindi city opened up non-hotspot zones. Ever since the operation of public transport was permitted at lesser capacity with the condition of abiding by SOPs to avoid crowding, even a minimum 5 meter distance between parked vehicles at depots and bus stops has not been seen.

“With lesser restrictions on work and mobility, resuming public transportation service presents a challenge serving an already massive city passenger base, while at the same time implementing social distancing measures. Mandatory physical distancing for passengers through markings at bus stops and regular sanitization is not visible throughout the city,” says Iftikhar Zaidi.

“Of all the public modes of transport, wagons, Suzukis and buses are the most used by Pindiites. I boarded a wagon for kitchree yesterday and from there got on Route 7 wagon for Golra Mor. I saw these services are working far over capacity, making them a potential hazard during the pandemic. To address some of these concerns, following SOPs by public transport is a must,” says Alamdar Hussain.

“At Golra Mor I saw hotels like Pakistan Hotel, Highland Hotel etc. and mohallah restaurants openly working in violation of the SOPs,” adds Alamdar.

“Recommended SOPs on which specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are determined are based on best-practices followed in other parts of the world, especially in the context of urban transport,” says Safdar Ali, a traffic police officer.

Manzar Naqvi says: “To deal with the challenge of ensuring both efficient mobility and social distancing, it was suggested to cut the occupancy of public transport to less than one-third, but it didn’t suit the vehicles’ owners so they are driving their vehicles packed to the full capacity. The drivers, conductors and passengers are travelling without wearing masks.”

“With the demand to cut the passenger limit, many regular commuters are not able to use our service. Therefore, a big crowd at bus depots/stops and inside the public transport is natural,” says Shabbar Ali, a wagon driver.

“To tackle this problem, even having different work and operation hours/days for high-demand areas like markets, offices, factories etc. is not possible,” says Nisar Hasan, another wagon driver, with his vehicle parked at Railway Station Stop.

Farooq Haider says: “Different work and operation hours/days system as a policy when implemented, increases peak hour traffic over a much longer period of time and cannot reduce traffic congestion because the majority of the city population uses bikes and personal cars that occupy most of the road space.”

“Even specific SOPs for locations of high passenger demand, different working hours/days for offices, markets, government institutions, and promotion of work-from-home policy couldn’t reduce the number of passengers,” says Aftab Hasan.



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