Because of the Covid-19 scare — specifically the increased risk of catching the novel coronavirus in crowded places, and the need to maintain social distancing measures — a large section of daily commuters would opt for private cars, the survey-based study, on the possible impact of Covid-19 on urban mobility, has found.
According to the results available, there would be a 10% increase in daily personal car use, and a 12% drop in the share of bus and Metro, the backbone of city mass transport. The study also suggests a 1% decline in the demand for taxis, and a similar 1% rise in that of autos. There was a minor increase — of 1% — indicated in the share of bicycling and walking.
But the overall drop in the number of daily commutes — thanks to more people working from home, increased online transactions and doorstep deliveries — makes it difficult to gauge the impact on the environment. That would depend on the interplay between these factors and the energy technologies used in each mode of transport, according to Sharif Qamar, associate fellow and convener, Centre for Sustainable Mobility, Teri.
Kolkata, one of the most densely populated Indian cities, is known for a variety of public transport options — such as trams, Metro, buses and even ferries. But the survey found out that quite a high number — 23% of the respondents — use private cars daily. This high rate of motorization has led to various transportation problems, such as congestion and vehicular emission. The Metro and bus services were used by 25% and 9% of the respondents, respectively.
According to the study, after the normalization of commuting, it will be essential to prevent an increase in the use of private vehicles, from an environmental standpoint. Improved cycling and walking infrastructure, combined with increased public awareness, are required to achieve sustainable urban mobility, it suggests. In fact, Kolkata could be an ideal city to have cycling tracks, as 11% of daily trips are made on bicycles, according to Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) figures.
For the survey, conducted online, a total of 438 responses from 51 cities were received. Both genders were represented, with men having a slightly higher share (55%). As much as 76% of the respondents reported a household income of above Rs 5 lakh annually, and 4% reported an income of below Rs 2.5 lakh. The skew towards respondents with high household incomes is possibly due to the survey being conducted online, said Qamar.