Recognising the importance of shared transport to schools and its critical role in Kolkata city traffic when the rising ownership of cars has made it the favoured mode of transport for children,
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur has identified qualitative aspects of school buses such as safety, security, staff behaviour, punctuality, protection from pollution and comfort as priority areas of intervention to make shared services attractive to parents.
The IIT research has highlighted the necessity of shared modes as a method to minimise congestion on the narrow roads of the city, said
Bhargab Maitra, professor of civil engineering at IIT Kharagpur.
The findings of the project justify a shift from the current fare-centric approach to an improvement of the overall service with adequate emphasis on relevant qualitative and quantitative attributes, Moitra said.
The research began about five years ago with the identification of a comprehensive list of attributes that affect the choice of the mode of transport to schools, views of the school authorities and vehicle operators' perspectives. An extensive survey was conducted to understand the perceptions of parents in the city, considering the needs of both sections — those with and without cars, he said.
In Kolkata, nearly 12,000 parents were contacted for the survey and over 7,000 of them responded, said Moitra.
The survey was conducted in two rounds. In the first round, it found out the priority attributes that need improvement, while in the second it captured the impact of improving priority attributes on the choice of mode for transport to schools.
As part of the research, a standard operating procedure was developed for all stakeholders involved in school trips.
“Improvement of identified attributes are expected to increase the attractiveness of shared modes for school trips and bring down the share of private cars by 5-7 per cent. Also with the improvements, the generalised cost to the non-car-owning parents is expected to reduce by 2-3 per cent indicating benefits. The overall reduction in the traffic volume during school opening and closing hours is expected to reduce vehicular emission and bring environmental benefits,” Moitra said, quoting the study.
The report said schoolchildren, their parents, school bus drivers and conductors, as well as the enforcement authority, school administration and police are stakeholders in school trips and suggested standard operating procedures (SOP).
According to the SOP, the police, school management and enforcement authorities should maintain police records of all the drivers and conductors involved in school transportation.
Every driver should have at least five years of driving experience prior to taking up the assignment in schools, a record of all the vehicles involved in school transportation and enforce speed governors for school vehicles, it said.
The SOP also asked parents of school children to check the driving license of the driver, keep a copy of it, note down the registration number of the vehicle, check the condition of its tyres of the vehicle and strongly discourage the use of worn off or resoled tyres and not allow a child to travel without a seat belt.
It asked drivers and conductors not to smoke, consume alcohol or tobacco while on duty, always follow a fixed route and follow instructions of police, always park vehicles at designated places and never leave small children unattended while dropping them off near their homes.
As for children, they should walk on the designated footpaths, not cross roads without the assistance of an elder person and go back home for help if they miss the school vehicle.