Public transport has emerged as a central concern in the fight against the transmission of Covid-19, says University of Pretoria Centre for Transport Development’s Prof Christo Venter from the Department of Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology.
Vehicles and transport hubs are ideal places for infections to spread, leading to the shutdown of transport services worldwide, he notes.“At the same time, South Africans have come to appreciate how important public transport – especially the under-appreciated minibus-taxi industry – is to providing mobility for essential workers and grant recipients.
“Once lockdown is eased, healthy mobility will be critical to getting the economy working again, but only if we do it right".
“But how do we adapt public transport to be part of the solution?”
Venter proposes five things that the passenger transport sector can do to help flatten the infection curve.
Get all Public Transport Moving Again
As the need for people to travel increases over the coming months, it will be important to get South Africa’s entire transport system moving again, says Venter.
This includes all trains and bus services that have been placed on hold over the lockdown period.
“We need the extra seats to reduce overcrowding in vehicles and at stops and stations.
“But we also need to renew our efforts to better balance supply with demand – a principle of any well-balanced and efficient transport system,” says Venter.
This means that high-capacity modes such as Metrorail and, to an extent, bus rapid transit systems, should all operate on the heaviest demand routes, supported by buses, minibus-taxis, and, ultimately, e-hailed and metered taxis on lower demand routes.
A more balanced system not only ensures that passengers are evenly spread between modes to maintain safe distancing, but by being more efficient, it ultimately saves subsidy rands and user fares, a goal now perhaps even more important than before, explains Venter.