The fact that many people are leaving Dhaka over the coronavirus scare has resulted in fewer passengers on local buses but more passengers on long route buses in the last few days.
People working in transportation services such as buses, CNG auto rickshaws and ride-sharing services say that the number of passengers has decreased to half after schools, colleges and universities across the country were closed on March 17.
At around noon on Thursday, this correspondent boarded a bus belonging to the Talukder bus service – a local bus that runs on the Mirpur-1-Chittagong Road route – at the Bangla Motor intersection and found it almost empty.
"Normally we make three trips a day and earn at least Tk3,000 per trip, but for the last few days we have been earning only Tk1,400 per trip," said bus driver Mohammad Hira.
"This is because people are not coming out of their homes as they are worried about the new virus," Hira explained.
Saiful Islam, a driver of the Biswa Zaker bus service that runs from Gabtoli to Jatrabari, echoed Mohammad Hira's experience.
"I used to earn at least around Tk3,500 in four trips daily, but the income has decreased to half for the last few days," said Saiful sitting inside his bus at the Gabtoli Bus Terminal.
Like city buses, the CNG auto rickshaws on Dhaka city roads have also been getting fewer passengers.
Faruk Hossain, a CNG auto-rickshaw driver, said he normally earns Tk1,500 between 8am to 2pm, but his income has shrunk significantly over the last few days.
"Yesterday, I earned only Tk1,200. I paid a deposit of Tk1,000 for the vehicle and bought CNG gas for Tk200 so I went home empty-handed," said Faruk, who started the profession 30 years back.
Another CNG auto-rickshaw driver named Mohammad Farhad shared a similar story of getting very few passengers in the city.
Alam Khan Joy, a motorcycle driver of the Uber ride-sharing service, told The Business Standard that it has been tough for him to continue work because the number of passengers has reduced to half.
"I started working at 9:30am and now it is 2pm. In the last five hours, I have made only three trips and earned only Tk300. In normal days, I would make six trips and earn at least Tk800," said Alam Khan Joy, who was waiting for a passenger at the Bangla Motor intersection.
Mujahidul Islam, another motorcycle driver of the Uber ride-sharing service said he got only three calls till noon. He also made three trips and his income was Tk240.
"In this coronavirus outbreak, many passengers avoid riding motorcycles as they have to use common helmets. The government should take this into consideration and relax the enforcement of the law," said Mujahiddul Islam.
Buses full of passengers leaving Dhaka
On a visit to the Gabtoli Bus Terminal on Thursday, this correspondent found that a large number of people were leaving Dhaka because educational institutions have closed.
Manjila Khatun, a passenger waiting for a bus with her 10-year-old son at Gabtoli, said she decided to spend some days in her hometown after her child's school was closed.
Nurul Islam, counter master of Shah Fateh Ali Paribahan, which plies on the Noagoan-Rangpur-Bogura route, said they have been getting more passengers over the last few days.
"It seems like tomorrow is Eid, as many people have been leaving Dhaka every day. We have already sold out all the tickets for today," said Nurul Islam.
Twenty-five buses of the company leave Dhaka every day.
Milon Roy, manager of Shamoly Paribahan, told The Business Standard that they have also sold out all their bus tickets for the day.
"The main reason for the rush for is the closure of schools, colleges and universities," said Milon.
However, some bus companies have stopped long-route buses from Rajshahi until further notice to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The district Motor Workers' Union and Bus Owners Association jointly took the decision considering the situation in the country.
There were no bus services from Rajshahi to Dhaka, Barishal, Sylhet, Chattogram and Khulna from Thursday afternoon, said Mahatab Hossain Chowdhury, the general secretary of the Motor Workers' Union.
But there will still be a limited number of inter-district buses services, Mahatab added.