Reopening cities in the aftermath of COVID-19

Transportation is the heart of an economy, playing an incontestable role in the betterment of the country. A sustainable, well-developed transportation system signifies an abundance of opportunities for people to gravitate towards better employment in the city, thus boosting economic growth.

In Bangladesh, 64% of the total population depends on public transport. Transportation contributes almost 11% into the country’s GDP.

Emerging economies have continually been facing a multitude of challenges throughout the years. Despite holding great promise, these cities came to a standstill in the pandemic era, creating a great chasm between their futuristic development plans and the reality of locked down cities. After a year and a half, cities today are opening back up, welcoming the progress and possibilities of growth once again.

Dhaka, home to some 1000 people per square kilometer, has been facing a myriad of challenges in the transportation sector for decades now. About 400,000 new residents find their way into Dhaka every single year, and yet its mass transport system of buses can carry only 30% of the passengers. This has led to hours of endless traffic and unbearable pollution, wasting 3.2 working hours a day and costing 6% of the country’s annual GDP. The inhabitants of this bustling city are forced to choose between two options- to opt for public transportation or arrange private vehicles. While private vehicles aren’t suitable for low-income families, public transport remains unpredictable, dangerous, and dilapidated.

In a post-pandemic world, thousands of cities like Dhaka around the globe demand a tech-powered solution to reopen cities and mass transit. While digitization was merely an option earlier, cities now simply cannot function without the auxiliary support of technology and regulation fostering COVID-19 guidelines in every ride. Public transportation platforms like Jatri offer contactless payments, sanitized vehicles, and perhaps the most important of all, strict adherence to the preventive measures of COVID-19.

Working closely with Government regulatory bodies like BRTC-Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, Jatri has revamped and redefined its milestones to introduce tech-enabled transport to the citizens of Bangladesh. Enabling Jatri’s tech into the existing bus line, the operators can leverage efficient fleet management, reducing their operational cost and the passengers experience becomes better. Though the bus operators of the country were assaulted with a standstill in their income during the first few lockdowns, they are benefiting from Jatri’s fleet management services to open up operations once again and keep their buses on the roads. With their expenses, accounting and projected income taken care of, these operators can focus on what they do best- take people from place A to B.With the desire of a safe, sanitized and cost-effective mass transport on the rise, Jatri engineered smart and systematic remedies to address both pre-existing crises and post-pandemic issues simultaneously. Promoting contactless payment, regularly sanitized vehicles and smart ticketing, Jatri’s premium bus service featuring coasters and microbuses carrying passengers in safe, reliable and affordable vehicles is a shift away from the traditional dilapidated buses with long queues with cash-only transactions.

At a crucial time like this, strictly imposed guidelines are the best way to bolster safer travels, and Jatri has been at the forefront of sparking behavioral change amongst passengers. With the “No Mask, No Service” policies highlighted and inflicted on every vehicle, passengers worried about their safety can breathe a sigh of relief and continue their commute in a safe manner.

Bangladesh was the second-most COVID infected country in South Asia (right after India), counting high rates of coronavirus cases up to 30% on 29th May 2021. A strict lockdown was imposed immediately, shutting down all means of transport throughout the country. Around August 8, the Government lifted the lockdown with the permission to operate half of the total fleet of vehicles. Eventually all vehicles were allowed to operate, thanks to the lowering infection rate (currently around 12%) and ongoing mass vaccination drives since February 2021. The economy, however, calls for due diligence from both government and private infrastructures to combat the crisis caused by the pandemic. Jatri is contributing its part in the rapid economical recovery of Bangladesh, relaunching full-scale operations with safety & hygiene precautions and counting over 20,000 tickets every single day. Jatri’s coverage to digitize the public transport is growing rapidly, and will eventually lead up to 30,000 tickets a day in the coming months.

As unregulated and disorganized transport has been the status quo for decades, Jatri’s quick accommodation to new situations, continuous innovation of services, and coordination with operators have helped its cities bounce back swiftly after the world pandemic. Jatri continues to battle age-old obstacles to mobility alongside tackling adverse COVID-19 consequences, navigating the cities towards connectivity, autonomy and development.

Kazi Ayesha Rahman

3rd September, 2021