Changes in Public Transport in times of COVID-19

The South Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency Nonprofit Ltd. (STRIA Nonprofit Ltd.) is the Hungarian partner of the eBussed PGI05948 INTERREG EUROPE project. This interregional cooperation project focuses on electric buses operations as well as to support the deployment of this low carbon public transport mean with the active participation of the eBussed partners. The corona virus disease causes obstacles in public transport as well – we address this topic in this short article.

From the beginning of 2020, we all face the COVID-19 virus and the challenges posed by that. The corona virus epidemic spreads all over the world very quickly and nowadays the number of COVID-19 deaths exceeded 1.25 million, whilst the risk of infection increased significantly in the recent months. During emergency times, many countries introduced lockdown measures, which have impacts even for the next months, probably years. One of the considerations taken into account during closures is the daily routine, which is changed from both sides. On one side, the public transport companies had to reduce the risk of infection for those who continue to use public transport, besides informing the passengers correctly. On the other side, passengers have to pay more attention to compliance and can choose alternative transport solutions according to their opportunities.

 On 7 July 2020, a Policy Learning Platform online seminar was held by Interreg Europe Program on the topic of “Making public transport safe& acceptable in times of COVID-19”. On the webinar partners of the eBussed project also participated, and the presentations introduced several good practice cases, effective solutions from many European countries. However, it is a problem that safe distance reduces the use of public transport capacities, including the decrease of the revenues of the companies involved. Illustration 2 Having in mind that the good practices showcased this summer are still valid, hereby we also introduce some of those. To effectively cope with COVID-19 in public transport and bus transport, the following interventions are advised. 

  •  Need to increase passenger transport capacity.
  •  It is a must to limit ridership to enable physical distancing.
  •  Travel habits of passengers during peak hours should be changed as much as possible.
  •  Need to support decisions of passengers so as to make them alleviate crowding.
  •  Enact safety measures for public transport users.
  •  Restore passenger confidence through communication and public relations.

European countries applies one or more of the above good solutions on their specific situation. Below are some good practices from bus public transport that are also used in everyday practice, such as: 

  • In Madrid (Spain), congestion was introduced and routes were expanded to increase public transport capacity, thus increasing the distance between passengers.
  • The city of Iasi (Romania) provides information on public transport and COVID-19 measures on buses using mobile applications and real-time information. Awareness campaigns are organized on social media, the internet, on the large billboards of the city.
  • New Zealand limits and controls passenger numbers through applications.
  • In the United Kingdom, guidelines and recommendations are made for passengers.
  • Dublin (Ireland) has drawn up a mobility recovery plan for the virus.
  • The Netherlands and Germany use extension of peak hours as a solution in the summer traffic system during the holidays, as does Paris (France).

Tüke Busz Plc. in Pécs (Hungary) has also introduced precautions in public transport owing to the current virus situation.

The company also protects bus drivers so passengers cannot use the front doors on buses.Bus drivers have a safety zone, passengers cannot enter this zone, they cannot use the seats located there.

Ticket sales on the bus have been discontinued given the current situation.

Everyone should wear a mask on the buses.

Those who do not follow the rule will be taken off the bus and will have to pay a penalty.

Tüke Busz Plc. helps passengers with increasing bus services, so passengers can keep their distance on buses as well. The company has put out sensory hand sanitizers on five Volvo buses and five electric BYD buses on a trial basis, also helping to comply with hygiene recommendations.

Based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, the pandemic is not over yet. Having that in mind, stay safe and take care of yourselves!

The eBussed project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Hungary.