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Public transport rethink needed

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Schools opened this week with gymnasium and lyceum students in class for the new academic year, as elementaries open on Monday, with traffic reaching its peak as everyone rushes to beat the bell.

In any other country, this may not be a problem, but in Cyprus, it is exacerbated by the fact that schools start and end their day at the same time as civil servants show up for work and leave to go home.

In the age of the digital economy, banks, too, still operate around the same schedule, with the vast majority of the public all rushing together in the morning and just after lunch.

Soon after that, the next round of to-ing and fro-ing gets underway, with schoolchildren shipped off to afternoon tutorial classes due to the low standard of our state education system.

So much time is wasted in pointless traffic jams or slow-moving lanes, with cars guzzling fuel, spewing pollutants and motorists getting agitated, none of which contribute to a healthy environment or workplace.

The past year proved that schools could operate somewhat remotely.

Banks are gradually catching up with technology to avoid in-person presence in branches, while civil servants’ absence was often unnoticed.

After some teething problems of buses adopting a self-driving technique in Nicosia and Larnaca, while new fleets have been invested by network operators in other towns, sitting on a bus is no longer a gruelling experience, unsure if you will reach your destination and on time.

At present, the only regular passengers are high school students, a handful of university students, foreign workers, and pensioners, happy that the ride will add colour to their routine day.

This demand cannot sustain the public transport system as a profitable operation, and subsidies will be needed again.

Nowadays, for a motorist to give way to a bus is like watching a sprinter who sees the ribbon of the finish line ahead and will allow nothing to get in the way.

Although no longer reckless, some with up-to-date training, bus drivers too need to be allowed to do their job – carry passengers to the next destination, on time and safely.

But to do that, reintroducing priority way on the roads must be considered, and properly rethink the bus-lane concept, that failed miserably when an experiment at the entrance of Nicosia a decade ago went wrong, causing more traffic jams and bottlenecks.

Perhaps, a gradual start for schools would be a first step in the right direction, considering that high school students prefer to take the bus, while teenagers need just as much sleep to be more alert and productive in the morning.

An additional half-hour or so could do wonders.

With that in mind, changing the work times in the public sector might also need a general overhaul, as well as the banks and public utilities that reflect the lifestyles of most Cypriots.

So before taking the plan for a tramway out of the drawer, costing the taxpayer billions more than is necessary, a better road network is needed to allow buses to operate smoothly.

And preferably, running on electricity and clean energy.