People in the State capital are wary of taking public transport even five months after the government relaxed COVID restrictions. A ballpark estimate suggests that close to 45 per cent of the commuters in the city and its suburbs have cut back on public transport rides compared to the pre-COVID times.
“Our average daily patronage varies from 18 lakh to 19 lakh per day as against the pre-COVID patronage of 30 lakh a day. The closure of the schools and colleges, whose students constitute about six lakh rides per day, is the main reason for fall in the patronage besides continuing work from home for office goers,” said a senior MTC official.
Chennai Metro has witnessed a steep fall in patronage as it could reach only 45 per cent of the pre-COVID footfall. In March last year, the Metro saw its daily patronage going up to 1.16 lakh per day, but it has reached about 54,000-55,000 this month.
Suburban trains, which roughly transported close to 12 lakh people daily, are now transporting only around 5.5 lakh people. A senior railway officer put the occupancy rate at 70 per cent of the pre-COVID patronage and told DT Next that they were operating almost 100% of the suburban trains, but the footfall was only 5.5 lakh daily.
Another railway officer attributed the decline to commuters’ fear and ban on men (non-essential services category) travelling during peak hours. “We are issuing season passes even now. But, we don’t calculate like in the past. Earlier, when a person buys a monthly pass, he or she would be considered as travelled during the 30 days. But now, we are taking actual headcount and we don’t allow men outside essential services category to enter the stations during peak hours,” he said.