There are many “unsung heroes” in times of crisis, and we recognise that our public transport professionals are some of them. Our ‘Guardians of Mobility’, are an integral part of the front liners keeping essential services available throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the course of these next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from our own community on what’s being done to keep public transport operations running around the world, and to shed a little light on our sector’s contribution to fighting this pandemic.
Today, we hear from Baku Transport Agency sharing experiences from Baku, Azerbaijan.
Baku Transport Agency
With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Azerbaijan registered in February, the Cabinet of Ministers formed an operational headquarters with all the related state officials, including Baku Transport Agency (BTA), in order to develop a response plan for the pandemic outbreak.
In March, precautionary measures became more critical and strict, and the headquarters made the decision to suspend all in-person educational activities, close shopping centres and parks, as well as to have all restaurants offer food delivery services only.
We are doing our best to be flexible and meet the mobility needs of the community, whle maintaining social distance
There are more than 2,000 buses operating on 150 routes with more than 2 million passengers transported daily in the Baku metropolitan area. As the public transport authority, BTA has ensured that the necessary public transport services are maintained to provide mobility services to the community and especially for those working in vital sectors.
“Public transport professionals are part of the front liners in these critical times and our first priority is to keep the citizens safe and healthy”, said Vusal Karimli, Chairman of BTA. “We are proud to be serving our people by providing continuous mobility services for essential travellers.”
The authority reacted quickly by organising an operational team to formulate a contingency plan to keep staff and passengers protected. BTA began by implementing the ongoing extraordinary disinfection of all buses, taxis and parking areas in use, as well as transport hubs and stations. All drivers are also requested to wear protective gear such as face masks and gloves while operating on the front lines, and hand sanitiser dispensers were installed in all buses.
In a show of solidarity with the government and their community, BTA also implemented awareness raising campaigns. Posters explaining how to protect oneself against the virus are hanging in stations, while booklets on hygienic education were distributed to passengers at the Koroghlu Hub with the participation of transport volunteers.
In an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the government decided to suspend the operations of Baku metro. Despite serious decrease in passenger ridership, the closure of the metro has caused public bus operators to work in full capacity. To meet the new ridership demand efficiently, BTA began operating seven express bus lines that run along the route between metro stations. Special seating requirements are imposed for the passengers and buses to ensure passengers maintain the necessary social distancing, therefore using only half of their capacity. BTA also deployed additional staff members to transport hubs in order to prevent overcrowding during peak hours.
While BTA has taken excellent initiatives to solve mobility problems in this short-term, they stress the need to think about long-term solutions.
we need to think about how mobility should look in the long-term
“We are doing our best to be flexible and meet the mobility needs of the community, while maintaining social distance”, said Karimli. “The crisis has forced us to be very innovative with our services. But eventually, we need to think about how mobility should look in the long-term. We will need to further diversify the public transport means that will offer more alternatives for the community to choose under any circumstances.”
We thank the Guardians of Mobility in Baku for their dedication to providing accessible mobility in a time of crisis!
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UITP is doing its part to support the public transport sector in this unprecedented time. Please see our dedicated webpage on all of our activities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic for more information on what's available.