Shared mobility catches on with daily commuters

For Aji P, a government employee hailing from Varkala, daily commute had turned into a real crisis.

Published: 20th June 2020 07:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th June 2020 07:12 AM   |  A+A-

Illus ,Express

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With public transportation becoming highly unreliable and even unsafe in the wake of the pandemic, employees working in public and private companies have taken to carpooling or hiring contract carriers to commute to work. KSRTC, on the other hand, cries foul

With commuting in public transport becoming riskier in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, carpooling or shared mobility has emerged as the new normal for employees working in public and private companies in the state capital. With most offices reopening with 100 per cent attendance, carpooling has gained traction as employees prefer a private ride over a bus or a train. People are even hiring contract carriers to ensure a safe journey between office and home. While there are hundreds of public establishments in the city, the staff strength at the Secretariat alone comes around 5,000. 

For Aji P, a government employee hailing from Varkala, daily commute had turned into a real crisis. “I had a hard time commuting to my office in Pathanamthitta. For nearly a month, I rode my two-wheeler nearly 95 km to reach office. I had to take the risk as public transportation was not feasible.

I would have to catch a minimum of five buses including a private service for my journey to and fro which was not ideal considering the pandemic threat,” said Aji, who was a regular commuter in Parasuram Express. “Later, I came to know that many who took the train with me were also facing the same problem. Hence, we all decided to hire a private carrier,” she added. According to many, shared mobility is financially feasible and safe. 

Liyons J, secretary of Friends on Rails, said that transportation provided by the state government is inadequate. “Now all offices are functioning with 100 per cent attendance. We have introduced a carpooling system for people who used to travel by train. If somebody needs a private ride, he or she can drop the message in our WhatsApp group. We have multiple groups, the message is shared and the conveyance arranged. We have a pool of members who go in cars from different places and are ready to help,” said Liyons.

He added that passengers who initially opted for buses plied by Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) were left with bad experiences. “Social distancing norms are not followed in buses and many don’t get a ride back home because the bus would be full. They get stuck and have to hire private vehicles. This is also one of the reasons why many commuters are opting for shared mobility.”

Thara S, a government employee from Kollam who works in Thiruvananthapuram, carpools daily with three others who work in different government offices in the state capital. “I live in Uliyakovil, Kollam, and I carpool with people in my locality. We have been doing this from April 23. It is more safe and convenient,” said Thara.

KSRTC in a pickle
Shared mobility has come as a huge blow to KSRTC which was already struggling to churn a profit with only a limited number of passengers being allowed for each trip. An official of KSRTC stated that contract carriers are exploiting the pandemic situation by plying illegal inter-district services. “This is adversely affecting the efforts of KSRTC and creating huge revenue loss. If an accident occurs, the carrier wouldn’t be eligible for insurance as the trip is illegal. All the norms are being violated and the carriers are charging exorbitant fares from passengers. We will be taking this up seriously with the state government,” said the official. 

He added that KSRTC would be soon launching custom trips between destinations as per the request of the passengers. “We are ready to deploy a bus if the demand arises. The issue being raised widely by passengers is that there are too many halts along a route. We are ready to ply non-stop buses. For example, if around 50 commuters place a request for a bus from Kollam to Thiruvananthapuram, we will assign a bus. A dedicated service has been deployed for Keltron employees. We are also planning to give parking facility at our depot for passengers so that they can park their vehicles and board the bus.”


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