Thursday, July 25, 2024

STEMS bus service receives good response from public


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SHILLONG, June 30: The Sustainable Transport and Efficient Mobility Society’s (STEMS) bus service for schoolchildren in the city has received a good response from the public.
The service was launched in October last year but the buses were rolled out this year. Currently, 745 students are availing the facility. A main objective of the initiative was to reduce the problem of traffic congestion.
Isawanda Laloo, the CEO of STEMS, said the public feedback regarding the quality and coverage of STEMS buses in Meghalaya has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“The STEMS buses have earned satisfaction from most parents. They have appreciated the convenience and affordability of the service. Students benefit from stress-free and comfortable commutes while enjoying the opportunity to interact with peers from other schools. The service, subsidized by the government, is affordable, making it a practical choice for many families,” Laloo said.
Launched with just one bus this year, the service expanded to a fleet of 27 buses by June, reflecting widespread acceptance. An additional 2 buses have been kept available as backups.
The pricing structure, initially set at Rs 1,800, Rs 2,000, and Rs 2,500 per month for varying distances, was later reduced to Rs 1,200, Rs 1,500, and Rs 1,800, making the service more accessible.
“While major areas are effectively covered, some localities with narrow roads remain inaccessible. However, plans are underway to introduce smaller buses to extend coverage to these areas,” Laloo said.
She said safety and comfort have been the top priorities for STEMS.
“STEMS places the safety and comfort of students at the forefront through efficient planning. Before establishing any route, STEMS undertakes extensive preparations, including scheduling, selecting designated pickup and drop-off points, and installing bus shelters wherever feasible,” she explained.
Additionally, she continued, the service ensures safe road crossings with zebra crossings and female caretakers at busy junctions.
The buses are equipped with first aid kits, and caretakers undergo rigorous training. Collaborative efforts involving PWD, Shillong Traffic Police, NIC, school authorities, and Dorbar Shnongs have rejuvenated key bus stops, ensuring seamless and safe operations, she highlighted.
She said there are several operational challenges but they are being addressed.
“As we expand STEMS bus operations to cater to more students, securing new parking spaces for the buses on and around school premises is crucial for ensuring smooth future operations. To address this, the STEMS team is proactively engaging with government departments, schools, other establishments, and private entities,” Laloo said, adding that some institutions have already supported the STEMS bus network by providing parking spaces.
She said training sessions and instructional videos have been provided to help parents, who struggle with technology, so they can use the STEMS app effectively.
Regarding changes in routes or schedules, STEMS adapts bus assignments according to parent registrations, conducting comprehensive dry and wet runs for each route.
Laloo said, “A feedback survey is being conducted among parents to assess the impact of the service. A detailed report will be published soon.”
“For example, for the route from Umpling to Pine Mount, we started with 12 students and today, we cater to 49 students, increasing from one bus to two buses. Similarly, we began operations in New Shillong with one bus and 13 students. Now, we have three buses serving 80 students,” she added.
“STEMS serves all students in Shillong. Parents can register their children through the STEMS application by providing their details and school information, which are then verified with the schools,” Laloo said, adding that there are plans in the pipeline to introduce PWD-friendly seats and boarding facilities to ensure accessibility for all students.
With 1,048 registrations to date, STEMS aims to be a stepping stone towards alleviating traffic congestion during peak school hours.


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