Is free public transport a social experiment or just a gimmick?

Dr. Amudhan Valavan Posted on: 2022-11-01 09:15:00 Viewer: 3,188 Comments: 0 Country: India City: Chennai

Is free public transport a social experiment or just a gimmick?

Tamilnadu Government is providing compensation monthly for the value of Rs 206 Crores of money for 13.73 Crore passengers free travel in Tamilnadu STU’s approximately in July 2022. Free bus travel for women is a golden bullet to improving sustainable mobility in the respective region. If you have a complete vision and new strategy for women development programme, free fare policy would be a tool to support the working class and improving the quality and connections of public transport and is a key to attracting more female passengers.

In western countries, the primary motto for the free travel to the female passengers by the government more than 50 cities and towns, citing climate ambitions and social equality as their primary motivators. But in Tamilnadu Government did not make such announcements or communicate the reason for giving free travel for females in busses in a crystal clear manner. 

The free bus ride scheme for women was launched by the Delhi government in the national capital in 2019. More than three crore women availed the facility of free travel in public transport buses in Delhi in FY2021-22, as per the data shared by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the Legislative Assembly in March 2022.

In my view, free Public Transport to lady passengers is better than the scheme of 100 days’ work to the ladies. "If the Government does not communicate a complete vision or a new strategy on free travel for women development and if it does not have an investment programme on which they show that they are improving the connection facility for women, then introducing free bus travel for women will not bore great results for both government and public transport sector.

I can point out of the reasons like big established outlets and franchises used to relocate human resources from villages and outskirts to an in house dorm like setup which is free closer or attached to the business centre and also provide food in-return for ease and availability of human resources at lower pay scale throughout the day. This setup led to lots of human right problems to the respective labourer’s especially women.

Tamil Nadu Governments’ free bus travel for women scheme has now brought great relief too many rural women folks who were previously not able to either move to such dorms, or even just travel to city for work. This has greatly improved their earnings and has also opened new opportunities for many women for whom travel remained a blocker in their progress.

Rural employment resulted in lower pay in local area for the female community. Now with free travel, women are availing the facility provided and are now finding better employment with greater pay in places like malls and gated communities with pay increasing from Rs 4,000 to 15,000 (3.5 times their previous pay). This has resulted in an overall development in women contribution to GDP.

Overcrowding can lead to a higher incidence of sexual harassment. Due to safety concerns, women have a narrower time frame to travel by public transport. The reduced ‘safe window’ can increase congestion during certain hours and make public transport less reliable and safe. Safety is a major concern raised by women regarding limited access to public transport. Women also have fewer mobility options and are highly dependent on husbands for dropping and pick up their wife from their office stations or kids to schools respectively. This leads to increase personal vehicle use by the public, intermediate public transport or non-motorised forms of transport. And introducing free travel for women overcomes both the problems of sexual harassments due to overcrowding as well as reduction in use of personal modes of transport.

The reasons for Women Chennai uses free public transportation, even though many public transport stations have a poor level of accessibility, public transport is still considered, by women, the safest and most punctual mode of transport.

Pro’s for Providing Public Transport free mode to women are:
• Free public transport would reduce the number of cars on the road (Climate Change)
• The government's job is to provide services especially for women (Women Empowerment)
• The environment would greatly benefit (Prevent Sexual abuse/ Harassment)
• We would need more public transport female workers (Women safety & Opportunities’)
• The government would be forced to improve public transport (Reduce Air Pollutions)
• A lot of public transport companies are reliable and need more customers (women motivation)
• Single or zero fare maximizes the efficiency, convenience and attractiveness of public transport systems for female users & operators in inner cities.(GDP increase/Reduce Traffic Congestion due to women independent)
• Heaps of female would be tempted by free transport (Not Dependent on Personal Vehicles)
• A lot of female would already be using it if it didn't cost so much (Women Delight to Public Transport)

As a Sustainable Mobility expert, I request all the public to stop the criticism on the free travel to public transport facilities by the government as actually it gives more benefits to female passengers.

(Views are personal)

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