MANILA, Philippines — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is calling for the continuous development of public transportation systems in the Asia-Pacific region amid the pandemic, as the impact of the health crisis will be felt for years.
During the opening session of the Asia and the Pacific Transport Forum 2020 yesterday, ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said urban transportation in the region’s cities struggle to adapt in terms of financial sustainability and the new requirements for safety amid the pandemic.
“The pandemic has dealt the transport sector a massive blow that will be felt for years. Urban public transport is struggling to adapt, as enforced travel restrictions, coupled with reluctance to travel on crowded systems, contribute to sharply reduced demand,” said Asakawa.
At the same time, many public transport issues that existed before the pandemic “still require action” particularly on infrastructure, road safety, and challenges in freight and public systems.
“To achieve a sustainable recovery, we need to take a holistic approach to rebuilding economies and transport systems,” said Asakawa.
“We are deeply aware of the ongoing need to improve transport infrastructure and services; and we will continue our efforts to support both government and private sector clients.”
He noted apart from its pandemic response to its developing member countries, the multilateral bank is also committed to sustaining support from infrastructure build up and improvement of transportation services in the region.
“Let me also stress that as ADB responds swiftly and decisively to the pandemic, we also continue to provide substantial support to build up the region’s transport infrastructure and services,” said Asakawa.
He cited the ongoing bus rapid transit system in Pakistan, inter-island shipping and port facilities in the Pacific, and improvements to the quality and safety of rural roads in Bangladesh.
“In addition, ADB is currently exploring measures to mitigate the operational and financial impacts of COVID-19 on public transport, aviation and logistics.
Moving forward, Asakawa said there is a need to address the dramatic changes in the mobility of people for work and study, and to provide cost-effective transportation options for low-income people.
“While many will choose to continue working from home, there are millions who do not have this option. Many of them will be dependent on public transport to go to work or school. The pandemic will also widen income disparities and force large numbers of people to fall back into poverty,” he said.
Ensuring safety is also essential to rebuilding confidence in public transport and addressing the unsustainable shift to private vehicles.
“Safety should be taken into account during the planning, construction, and operational phases which will provide increased resilience against various risks including accidents, natural disasters, and epidemics. A focus on safety will also accelerate the return of passenger demand and trust in transport systems,” said Asakawa.
He said that opportunities also arise for green transport via electric vehicles and encouragement of non-motorized transport systems with the accompanying infrastructure to promote safety.
“App-based delivery systems, which have rapidly become a fixture of daily urban living, also risk adding even more vehicles to the roads. This will contribute to increased congestion and air pollution,” said Asakawa.
“To address this, we must promote a Green Recovery focused on sustainability. One option is to support a shift to electric vehicles. ADB also sees opportunities to promote walking and cycling in Asian cities, and to improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chains.”
The transport forum that will be held until Aug. 28 provides a venue for experts to share best practices and new advancements in public transportation worldwide.
By: Czeriza Valencia