The buses run by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) are perceived to be the lifeline of the city with their daily ridership placed at 54 lakh. While the corporation’s 6,650 buses sell around 52 lakh tickets on the 70,000 trips they make every day, it has of late been under pressure from the competition provided by cabs and the Metro Rail. BMTC’s new chairman, N A Haris, however, maintains they have not really dented its popularity and reels off a slew of measures the corporation intends to take to remain the most favoured public transport service in the city. Excerpts from an interview with NISCHITH N.
BMTC is considered the lifeline of the city, but it appears to be under pressure from the competition provided by cabs and the Metro Rail.
Not really, our ridership has gone up to 54 lakh even with the competition provided by the Metro and cab services. The BMTC is still a lifeline of Namma Bengaluru. But our bus numbers need to be increased as we need 8,000 to 10,000 to serve the current population of Bengaluru, and have only around 6,000. So we are in discussion to expand our fleet, but this can be done only with perfect planning due to the competition for road space and lack of robust infrastructure.
Why have you still not launched the much talked about electric buses?
We all know that electric buses are the only option for the future. But to start this new service, we need to learn more about how they operate. Moreover, our corporation has over 34,000 employees and they need to be trained. Also, we found that the earlier tenders for the electric buses were not up to the mark and now intend to float a new global tender to procure them. Initially, we will induct 80 buses and gradually more in a phased manner. A battery manufacturing unit will be established in the city to operate the e-buses and the BMTC will have to hold talks with the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company for setting up charging stations for them. But we hope to be ready in the next five to six months to run the electric buses in the city.
What do you intend to do about the complaints from commuters about the inadequate number of Metro feeder buses?
Last-mile connectivity from Metro stations has been a problem that passengers have been facing ever since Namma Metro became operational. To address this, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) and BMTC are currently in talks about the feasibility of operating mini-buses. The proposal is at an early stage of discussion. A decision will be taken soon to help last-mile connectivity from the Metro stations. We also plan to introduce a single mobility card for all public transport in a few days as part of our endeavour to make BMTC sustainable, people-centred and the first choice of a mode of travel for everyone. Currently, we operate midi buses that have 30 to 40 seats.
What are your future plans for the BMTC?
Reports suggest that almost 77 lakh people need to travel every day in the city, but we have only 28 lakh using public transport, which means that about 52 lakh commuters still depend on private transport, shared cabs and taxis. So our first intention is to increase the ridership and last mile connectivity of BMTC buses. We are already working on online ticketing and we plan to next develop an app, which will provide all information about BMTC buses, trace the location of the commuter and guide him to the nearest bus station. It will also provide him or her with information on the bus routes operating from that particular bus station. We may change the colour or design of the buses as well.
Why are the Traffic and Transit Management Centres (TTMC) in the city empty?
Only a few are empty. On the whole we are getting our rent regularly. The TTMCs are now in better shape and have helped BMTC earn an annual revenue of `4.19 crore. Also, we plan to build multiplexes or rooftop restaurants on their terraces. Terraces of four TTMCs and two bus terminals in the city are on offer. As I have taken over only a month ago, I need time to go through the tenders.