Friday, September 10, 2010

A Bangalore Volvo lesson

When I came to Bangalore about a decade back, public transport in this city was a mess and continued to be so until about a year or so back.

It is partly an attitude issue - people here don't use much of public transport - and prefer the convenience of their bikes and cars - and partly an issue of poor service as well. So, it was a vicious circle. Bad public transport, low usage and hence there was no reason to increase or improve the public transport services. Roads were in a sad state too but that's a different story. About 4 years back or so, BMTC introduced Volvos as an experiment on some routes. And for a while, they weren't making money. Buses ran empty - those who got into them were happy to have an entire bus to themselves, but for the corporation, I am sure, it was not a pretty sight.

And in the last couple of years, BMTC has taken a some more initiatives to ensure that Volvos are appreciated and accepted. This, in a city, that loves its bikes and cars is no mean feat.

First, they flooded the roads with Volvos so one did not have to wait forever for a bus to come by their way. Second, they targetted the high density routes - the routes that service the IT sector areas in Bangalore. These are the people who don't mind paying for good quality transport. And these are also the people who don't mind using public transport - most IT companies have their own transport routes too. They came up initiatives like Bus-day working with IT companies to publicise the usage of buses. They introduced new routes - there are routes that originate from large apartment complexes. There are private public partnerships where organizations work with the BMTC to introduce new routes and many of them are successful too.

There are a few lessons from this. First, you remove waiting time and hence improve predictability of reaching work and back. Second, you promise a comfortable ride each way. Third, it is way better than a bike and sunburns and traffic. Fourth, there are no arguments with rickshaw drivers to endure. And then again, it is a green way to work too. Once these issues are tackled there are no excuses left for not using public transport.

Most transport corporations fail because they don't give enough bus services for people to use them. If somebody has to wait 20 minutes for a bus to come their way, that is a long time in a commute time of possibly of an hour. And this is where it is a great story for Bangalore. On some peak routes, there is a bus every few minutes - timings even a metro railway service would be proud of.

And all their efforts have been rewarded with those great buses turning in a profit!

Bangalores volvos are turning in a profit, ridership is increasing and this gives rise to a positive vicious circle. More ridership means more money which in turns means better bus services. But the trick is to get to the tipping point and ride over it.

All this augurs very well for the upcoming Metro service. Now can somebody increase parking  fees and road taxes for private vehicles, create bike lanes and walking paths too?

1 comment:

Dark Covenant said...

I completely agree with you. While travelling to Hosur road for my project, I used to take the Volvo to and fro almost everyday. What comfort! Never thought bus travelling could be such a luxury. When I took up the project, I was dreading the commute. Volvos made it totally worth it. Oh and they have plug points too. Watch a movie fellas :)