On the London Underground, Piccadilly Circus station is nearly vacant on a weekday morning, while the Delhi Metro carries less than half of the passengers who used to be. In Rio, unpaid bus drivers strike. The New York City Subway traffic movement It is just a third Than it was before the pandemic.
A year after the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, public transportation is hanging by a thread in many cities around the world. Passengers stay home or are afraid to board buses and trains. Without their wages, public transportation revenues have tumbled from the abyss. In some places, the service has been cut. In other cases, prices have risen and transit workers face the prospect of layoffs.
This is a disaster for the world’s ability to tackle that other global crisis: climate change. Public transportation provides a relatively simple way for cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention a way to improve air quality, noise and congestion.
“We are perhaps facing the most important crisis in the public transport sector in different parts of the world,” said Sergio Avileda, director of urban mobility at the World Resources Institute and former transport minister in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “It is necessary to act.”
But how do you behave? Transport agencies that have been bailed out by the government wonder how long this generosity will last, and just about everywhere, transport experts are scrambling to find out how public transport can better adapt to the needs of commuters as cities begin to emerge from the pandemic.
Right now, people don’t move much. Even in cities like Delhi, where most businesses are open, many office workers work from home and universities have yet to resume in-person classes. Paris has a 6 pm curfew.
In some places, fear of the virus has pushed people to ride in cars. in the United States of America, Used car sales Used car prices have gone up. In India, a company selling used cars online saw sales swell in 2020 and its value as a company jumped to $ 1 billion. According to news reports. Elsewhere, bike sales have grown, indicating that people are pedaling a bit more.
Anxiety about the future is two-fold. If riders are avoiding automobile public transportation while their cities recover from a pandemic, that will have massive ramifications for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, if transportation systems continue to lose passenger fare revenue, they will not be able to make the investments needed to be efficient, safe, and attractive to travelers.
There are a few outliers. In Shanghai, for example, public transportation numbers fell in February 2020, but passengers have returned as new coronavirus infections continue to drop and the economy recovers.
But the picture is bleak in many cities.
At Paris Métro, the number of passengers was just over half the normal rate in the first two months of this year. The transport agency for the Greater Paris region, Ile-de-France Mobilitz, said it lost 2.6 billion euros, or more than $ 3 billion, last year. The agency expects an additional € 1 billion deficit this year.
In Amsterdam, the number of passengers on the city’s trams and buses is about one-third of the normal rate, as well as in transport agencies The website advises people To “travel only when absolutely necessary.” In Rome, the number of metro riders is still less than half the levels of the pandemic outbreak.
The London Underground is one of the busiest metro systems in the world, which typically operates around four million trips every day of the week, and is currently operating at about 20 percent of its normal capacity. Buses are more densely populated, and run about 40 percent of the normal range. Instead, the city transportation agency, which once forecast a budget surplus for 2020, has been relying instead on government bailouts since the pandemic spread. She expects it will take at least two years for public transportation to return to pandemic levels.
“It was just so devastating, quite frankly,” said Alex Williams, Director of City Planning for Transport for London. “One of our concerns is the drastic reduction in public transportation and the high levels of car use.”
London is one of the few cities around the world that imposes a congestion tax designed to reduce car traffic in the city center. Both London and Paris sought to use the lockdowns Expanding bike lanes.
In the Indian capital, New Delhi, the subway reopened last September after a hiatus of several months. The number of passengers in February 2021 was less than 2.6 million, compared to more than 5.7 million in the same month of the previous year, and bus traffic reached just over half of the levels of the epidemic.
Fortunately for these agencies, as in India and across Europe, they are supported by their governments. There is more distress in the cities as people rely heavily on private bus companies.
In Lagos, Nigeria, prices have doubled on private bus lines for rides longer than 1 km, or just over half a mile.
In Rio de Janeiro, the famous bus network is in disarray. The private company running the system has cut more than a third of its fleet and laid off 800 employees as the number of passengers has halved since last March, according to the city’s transportation department. Bus drivers’ strikes have made bus travel slower and more chaotic.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Jose Carlos Sacramento, 68, leader of the Rio bus workers’ union who has been working on public transport for five decades. “I think it might never return to normal.”
City officials said they hope to use the crisis as an opportunity to renew the system, including by persuading private bus companies to be more transparent about their operations in exchange for potential financial assistance from the government.
After all, Maina Celedonio, head of the city’s transportation department, said a clean and efficient bus system is critical to Rio not only to reduce carbon emissions but also to clean the air. “It’s not just an environmental issue, it’s a public health issue,” said Ms. Celedonio.
Mohamed Mazaghani, president of the International Public Transport Association, said the biggest challenge for all cities is to reform their public transportation systems now so that passengers return. They can modify rush hour service as remote work from home becomes more commonplace, widening bus lanes only that make commuting more efficient and comfortable or improving ventilation systems to reassure citizens that riding on public transport is safe.
“Those cities that were investing will come out stronger,” said Mr. Muzghani. People will feel more comfortable traveling in a new and modern public transportation system. It is about perception at the end. “
Shula Lawal And the Harry Kumar | Contribute to reporting.