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Last-Mile Connectivity

Smaller vehicles will be less Expensive and more useful

DESPITE being a small state with good roads connecting almost every village Goa does not have reliable public transport connectivity to the last mile. The issue has plagued the state for long and continues to be a challenging one for the government. It has affected the employment pattern as many aspirants face this problem.  Improvement in last-mile connectivity would help thousands of residents living in suburbs and interior areas travel with ease. That could change if the state government carries out the NITI Aayog’s recommendation on transforming mobility and improving last-mile connectivity. Based on the NITI Aayog’s suggestion, the North Goa District Road Safety Council (NGDRSC) has started a process to map bus routes across the state to identify areas of towns and villages which are not well served by public transport. The NGDRSC feels the government can use route mapping and identify areas with poor accessibility and take corrective measures to prioritise investments in reducing automobile dependence and traffic congestion. The NGDRSC should begin its work immediately and come out at the earliest with its findings, which should be approved by the government without delay.

Though most places in the interiors are connected by public transport on paper, the reality is otherwise. Many private buses connecting villages do not ply during night hours as they get a few passengers and hence find it economically unviable. Though Kadamba Transport Corporation buses operate through interiors even if there are a few or no passengers, they do not ply on all the routes. In view of inadequate public transport, people living in the far-flung areas who have to report for work in the early morning hours and return home late are forced to travel by their own transport, most of which are two wheelers. As bus owners have political patrons no action is taken against them for not complying with permit terms. The safety council should also make a note of the unscrupulous bus owners while mapping bus transport routes by speaking to harassed villagers. It is also necessary to identify conditions of all roads and suggest remedial steps to facilitate smoother public transportation.

Goa is a tourist state but lacks a good public transport during the night. Most of public transport buses stop plying after 8 p.m., except those travelling on the Panaji-Margao, Panaji-Vasco, Panaji-Ponda routes where KTC buses ply up to 10 p.m. People have to manage reaching their destination on their own by hiring costly taxis or seeking help of their relations or friends if they miss the last bus connectivity for some reason. Lack of reliable public transportation has forced Goans to not only have their own means of transport but also look for service like rent a bike or rent a car. This has led to a huge increase in vehicular population, with two-wheelers accounting for over 67 per cent of total vehicles in Goa. With roads remaining static, the increase in number of vehicles has led to traffic congestion and increase in accidents. Had the government taken steps to provide reliable transportation long ago, the increase in number of vehicles, pollution and accidents could have been prevented. Remedial steps should be taken straightaway.

With the government giving approval for employment of women during night shift, the need for a reliable public transport is very essential if the decision has to have any meaning. It is good to note that the KTC has decided to run buses during night time to provide last-mile connectivity to facilitate women to work at night in industrial units of the state. Besides, helping locals to commute distances during late hours such a service will also help tourists. The KTC management is going to utilise financial support available under ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ to add to its fleet of buses, smaller vehicles fitted with safety devices like CCTV, GPS and panic button,  which will go a long way in instilling confidence about the safety of passengers, especially women. The government should amend rules to permit use of smaller vehicles during nights to pick and drop people at their doorsteps or nearest to their homes and yet be economically viable.

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