As Goa heads to the polls, public transport needs an overhaul

As Goa prepares for elections next Monday, the quality of public transport is a matter of concern for voters in the state. In public forums and meetings with political parties, ordinary citizens consistently pointed out the need for better and reliable public transport.

In the state where commuting can take at least an hour, residents of Margao, the commercial capital of the south, who travel to northern cities typically travel nearly 60 km a day, many using point buses medium rare. services called shuttles.

The need for reliable transportation across the state has also driven ordinary citizens to demand an intra-state railway between southern taluks and northern cities, primarily the capital, Panaji. Additionally, in recent months, issues surrounding the transportation ecosystem have dominated public discourse. These include exorbitant petrol and diesel prices, and the woes of taxi and rickshaw drivers whose livelihoods depend on tourism. Many have installed electronic meters on government orders but have not received the promised subsidies. These sectors which are avenues for self-employment have borne the brunt of confinements and hotel closures during the Covid.

Public transport neglected

To highlight the high costs of petrol and diesel, a member of a major local party took the state electric bus service 30km to the capital and traveled the rest of the way , about a mile to the State Assembly Building. Another party, seeking a beachhead in the state, promised to form a company to cater to the needs of taxi and rickshaw operators. But as veteran columnist Prabhakar Timble puts it, “Goa’s politicians forgot about public transport.” He recalls that about two decades ago, the state budget included proposals on public transport, but now there are none. Professor Shivanand Swamy of the Center of Excellence in Urban Transport in Ahmedabad says governments that invest in urban roads should also invest in public transport.

Built-in routes

Last December, Goa’s public transport operator, Kabamba Transport Corporation, received the second batch of electric buses bringing its electric fleet to nearly 50. These buses operate as shuttles on designated routes and are equipped with features like as an electronically controlled air suspension, CCTV cameras, and emergency button for passenger safety. Says a regular commuter, “At Rs 50 for a single ride, this ride is a bargain.” However, as Timble says, travel between towns may have become easier, but inter-village transport leaves a lot to be desired. That, he says, means people use personal transportation all the time and spend on expensive fuel. This is where Goa could have small buses in the configuration of 12 to 40 seats on routes integrated with larger roads, according to Prof Swamy.

Like its neighbor Maharashtra, Goa announced an e-mobility policy a year ago. Its program aims to encourage electric two-wheelers by offering discounts to the first 10,000 registrants. Goa is said to have one million two-wheelers which make up 70% of the state’s car fleet.

Goa’s fragile economy has been in the news for the past 18 months due to new policies that include a network of rails to transport coal from the main port to the hinterland. A state once known for its clean air is now grappling with increasing air pollution, with one of the main sources being mining activities which have since ceased under a Supreme Court ruling, and more recently attributed to the large number of vehicles on the state’s roads. .

The state also has one of the highest vehicle densities in India. According to the 2019 economic survey, 14.5 lakh vehicles were registered, making it one vehicle per person. The survey suggested that taxi and commercial vehicle registrations had also increased.

The new government that takes over in a month has its work cut out for it. Residents of the state have made clear their need for better public transportation, and it remains to be seen how these demands can be met.

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