KOCHI: The city is going through a very difficult stage in terms of transportation facilities. When the fuel prices are going up, private buses are going off the road and, at the same time, Kochi Metro trains, launched on the most saturated route, are not able to attract the passengers who stopped taking the buses.
In effect, the city is getting congested with private vehicles and the traffic chaos is increasing as the days go by. A lesson learnt from the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) city circular services is that the state-run bus service can be effective with public cooperation, city residents say.
According to advocate Ebenser C L, who is also the founder of Kochi Metro Passengers Forum, after the introduction of the metro, almost 400 city buses had gone off the road since they were running in parallel with the metro services. Due to the higher ticket rate, these passengers did not shift directly to the metro, instead, they opted for two-wheelers.
“Around 65% of the vehicles in the city are two-wheelers and only 1% are buses. If we go like this, within two years, the entire bus (stage carriage) sector will be wiped out. We need to reorganise the bus sector to the east-west corridor and complement both metro and bus sectors. This is done in Mumbai and they have better ridership than what is projected. Lahore (orange) metro copied this model. Our city has a bus route designed 35 years ago. A bus aggregator platform must be the next big thing in Kochi. Just like a taxi, car or auto, you should be able to book a bus using a mobile app. This will bring quality service at affordable prices,” he added.
The rates of the metro trains are not affordable to the lower and working middle classes and hence they want the fare reduced at least for daily commuters. Jisha Sanjay, one of the salesgirls at a prominent sari showroom in the city, said she had almost quit the bus service post-Covid. Her husband drops her at the showroom and picks her up. “I have got a three-year-old kid at home and I do not want to take any risk. Had the metro introduced discounts for the daily commuters, many like us would have used it,” she said.
Of the metro services in India, only Mumbai has more ‘actual’ ridership compared to the ‘projected’ ridership, according to a study prepared by Lahore’s Orange Metro in Pakistan. Another suggestion put forward by the passengers is to reintroduce the low-floor bus services by KURTC that had acceptance in the city. Post-pandemic, the air-conditioned buses were taken off the road and are rusting in the depots.
Another neglected area is the public water transport like State Water Transport Department (SWTD) services in a place where at least 25% of the people use water transport. The members of the forum alleged that when the transport minister discussed the chances of increasing the fares of buses, cars and autorickshaws, he did not mention the SWTD boats at all.
The Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), formed to be an umbrella agency to incorporate parking, integrate commuting, and rationalise bus routes in the city, is yet to be fully operational in the city, and the passengers’ forum demanded they should be given more autonomous powers to encourage public transport.