The emphasis on building airports, increasing reliance on private vehicles and poor connectivity (in some cases) are leading to a decline in the use of public buses, even in cities like Bangalore, where this mode of transport represents nearly 50% of all commuters.
According to the report “Sustainable Public Transport for Karnataka” prepared by Mr. Sreenivasa Murthy, Retired IAS Officer, to the State Government last week, the combined losses of all major transport companies are ₹4,600 crores.
This is largely due to the stagnation of the fleet which has remained around 24,000 for several years, while purchases of private vehicles have, on average, increased by 10-14% per year, flooding poorly designed streets and choking vehicular traffic in cities like Bengaluru. , which was judged to have the worst traffic in the world in 2018.
“There is a political reluctance to invest in buses. All governments, regardless of party, take the bus and its commuters for granted. They invest thousands of crores in metro and its infrastructure which looks brilliant but not in bus infrastructure which actually carries more passengers,” Vinay Srinivasa, a lawyer and member of Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara told HT. Vedike (Bengaluru Bus Commuters Forum).
There are only 6,769 buses in Bangalore for a population that currently exceeds 13 million. But the growth of private vehicles has increased exponentially in recent years.
According to government data, the number of vehicles in Bengaluru has fallen from 50.33 lakh in 2011-12 to 1.04 crore till March 2022. Of the total registered vehicles in the city, more than 69.31 lakh are two-wheelers and 21.97 lakh are cars.
According to the city’s traffic police department, out of the total vehicle density, two-wheelers account for 70% of all vehicles, 15% are cars, 4% are auto rickshaws, and the rest are cars. buses, vans and tempos.
The increased amount of time spent on the roads results in lost productivity hours.
“These high levels of congestion come at a huge cost in the form of reduced productivity, wasted fuel and accidents. As an example, recent estimates from the Bengaluru Development Authority, released as part of the 2031 master plan, suggest that 1.18 crore citizens waste 60 crore man-hours per year and nearly 2.8 lakh liters of fuel is wasted per hour in the city of Bengaluru due to congestion,” according to a 2018 report by NITI Aayog titled “Transforming India’s Mobility.”
Furthermore, the report adds that the combined cost of losses for Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Benglauru is over $22 billion per year.
Subway construction delays add about 5% per year to total costs.
In the 14 years since the start of construction of the metro, it has managed to operationalize just over 50 km. The metro’s highest daily ridership is just over 5 lakhs (on June 6).
Regional Transport Companies (RTCs) that operate inter-district routes and other longer routes outside Bengaluru also did not fare very well, according to data from the report.
Outstanding CIR liabilities amount to ₹4,426 crores as in March this year.
“Regional transport companies make 27% of all work-related trips. 20 lakh students (16% of all students) depend on bus passes (45% of pass users are female students),” according to the expert committee report.
There are 2,600 villages in Karnataka without access to RTC bus services, the report adds.
“The report is currently submitted to the government and will be submitted to the state cabinet for discussion,” said V Anbukumar, Managing Director of Karnataka State Transport Corporation (KSRTC).
He said that all the measures to be taken will be taken after they are presented to the government.
The expert panel recommended switching to “driver-only” buses, moving to electric vehicle options, reducing the cost of ticket distribution, among other cost-cutting measures.
“The report makes it clear that unlike other states, the government of Karnataka is not investing in RTCs. As many of us have been demanding for years, this is bad policy that harms public interest.This needs to be addressed urgently and the state government needs to at least double the subsidies so that there is no loss pressure on the RTCs and they can focus on the quality of service,” Srinivas Alavilli of Janaagraha told HT.
He added that the report did not also examine the positive environmental impact of buses. “Not just in Bangalore but in all major cities. The report is limited to bus companies but in the case of Bengaluru, a multi-modal integrated transport system is needed and a central planning authority, BMLTA is long overdue,” he added.