While there is still speculation on the origins of the coronavirus (Covid-19), its spread, and what treatment it requires, there is one thing that everyone can agree on. Life, as we knew it, has changed irrevocably in the virus’s wake, and these changes will be with us for many years to come.
Behaviors that we were taught as part of our cultures are no longer safe if we want to curb the spread of Covid-19. Large public gatherings are one of the biggest risk factors for transmission of the coronavirus. However, our lives inevitably involve such gatherings, including the use of public transportation. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is also cost-effective and convenient. But how will the face of public transport change to accommodate this new normal in which we find ourselves?
From limiting the numbers of people allowed on public transportation to contactless travel cards, several innovative concepts are being weighed as options to let all the transportation business to continue as usual in an unusual climate.
While there are conflicting theories on how best to curb the spread of Covid-19, two strategies experts agree on are the need for social distancing and mandatory face-covering in any public place. Transport will be no different. Strict regulations are being put in place in countries all over the world as economies begin to reopen, and more people return to the public transport system to travel to and from work. Restrictions on all transportation forms have included limitations on how many people may travel at one time.
The provision of sanitizing facilities is also mandatory, and public transport vehicles are expected to be disinfected and deep cleaned more frequently than before. Policing these regulations is, however, not a small task, and there is a lot of reliance on the public to play their part by behaving responsibly.
Cardless payment systems have also become more popular since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. They limit human contact and the handling of cash or cards that need to be swiped as these may be mediums by which the virus transmits.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a stark contrast to the fact that transport systems and facilities are woefully outdated and no longer fit for purpose. With the majority of public transportation requirements coming from middle to lower-income areas, there is a growing demand for an overhaul of the systems to increase facilities in these areas.
A study by NSBroker experts on the demographics of travelers has indicated that these travel routes do not receive the attention they need. This was highlighted by the fact that during the lockdown, many essential workers who were expected to continue working were heavily reliant on public transport to get them to their places of work.
The resulting overcrowding of these facilities means additional infrastructure is needed to make them more efficient and effective in combatting the coronavirus spread. By studying travel patterns during this time, authorities have recognized the need to rethink transportation needs and provision to enhance traffic flow while still giving commuters access to safe transportation options that are not overcrowded and unsafe.
One of the simplest ways to ease the demand for public transportation during peak hours is to examine what can be done outside of the transportation system. For example, cities have been engaging with employers to alter employees’ working hours and shift start and end times so that they travel during off-peak times when the system is not under as much strain as it is at the beginning and end of the day.
Many employers have been supportive of this move, and many employees are enthusiastic because, in many instances, travel during off-peak time costs them less. Naturally, this is not an option that every employer can implement, but those who have will make the difference by being more flexible about working times. Coming up with suggestions such as these require transport authorities to present employers with detailed data that shows commuter volumes at different times of the day. Monitoring of travel patterns is an essential component of formulating these data models, and there has been intense scrutiny of travel patterns and behaviors to justify them.
There has been a tendency in the past to categorize transportation modes as being fit for only one purpose. For example, buses were viewed as a means to transport people and nothing else. The Covid-19 pandemic has made authorities recognize that this is not necessarily the case.
Repurposing transportation modes has allowed authorities to move goods and people around more efficiently, saving a lot of time and carbon emissions. For example, a passenger plane that was repatriating citizens collected an entire load of donated PPE to take home as it was carrying no passengers. Not only was the aircraft hold used to house the equipment as there was too much. As the seats were vacant, boxes of PPE filled them to make sure that the airplane reached its full capacity.
Developers of autonomous vehicles have accelerated research and development efforts to get these projects on the road sooner rather than later. The idea of contactless transportation is gaining traction, given the communicability of Covid-19. An autonomous car will make for a safer commute. While there is a long way to go before autonomous vehicles become commonplace, the coronavirus pandemic has given more impetus to the industry as such innovations can play a crucial role in assisting the recovery of economies around the world.
Promising developments from several major manufacturers indicate that this futuristic option is closer to becoming a reality than most people think. In the interim, more commuters are relying on ridesharing options to reduce the number of people they come into contact with while they travel. However, the costs to lower-income groups are crippling, leaving them with no alternative but to place their trust in the public transportation systems at their disposal.