BBMP shelters advertisers’ interests, commuters left out

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“There are two BBMP sheltered bus stops on 46th cross Jayanagar (one on each side of the road) between 9th and 11th main.  Both look new, but both are not in use. The buses stop away from them and people wait in the sun and rain. On the way back, my wife asked the 500C conductor why the bus does not stop at the proper bus stop and his reply was ‘nobody stands there!’.” Something is clearly wrong.

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Commuters wait in the open at Sarjapur Road opposite the construction at Iblur junction, while students get into a bus standing several feet away from the pavement. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent.

Participating in the Praja online discussion forum, this is how S Yajaman, a concerned citizen of Bengaluru, reacts to BBMP’s new plan to come up with 250+ bus shelters. Like him, many of you might have made similar observations.

But if you thought the reason for having more than one stop on a stretch could have been a mere bureaucratic cock-up, think again. There is more to this than meets the eye.

Multiple shelters in one lane.

As K S Vishwanath, Chief Traffic Manager, BMTC, tells DNA Today (June 1st), “Advertisers would tell BBMP that they need particular shelters to advertise their brands. So BBMP keeps building these multiple bus shelters throughout one particular lane though there would have been a shelter earlier. Many roads are without basic bus shelters since BBMP is engaged in building multiple bus shelters.”

Smug as it may be, but BBMP’s ‘work ethics’ have not remained hidden as they are being constantly dug out and torn apart by the Praja members. “Though BMTC has requested for more than 3,000 bus stands, BBMP is progressing very slowly. New bus stands are being introduced only in high-visibility locations (advertising benefits) and others areas are being ignored by BBMP.”

Annual ritual leading to nowhere

Each year, we read the news of old bus shelters being uprooted and new ones installed. Unfortunately, even a cursory look at the bus shelters tells a sordid story – badly designed and built, ill-maintained, wrongly located, or, as said earlier, multiple shelters in one lane. Where then is this annual ritual of razing and rebuilding shelters taking us to?

Chaos is simply the word to explain it all. Add to it crowded buses, irregular arrivals/departures and rash driving; you get a perfect recipe for a wrecked journey. If you are one of the four million BMTC patrons, you know what we are talking about.

Vishwanath tells DNA Today, “the city has 2,656 bus stops, but there are only 585 bus shelters. The rest are merely stops without shelters. Most of the bus stops do not have signboards because the pole would have fallen down or someone would have removed it during the process of road widening”.

In line with this, at the Praja discussion forum, K V Pathy lists out the locations where shelters do not exist and are badly required: HAL II stage at 100ft road/12th Main (towards Domlur); Domlur Bus stand which is under renovation, but not even a temporary shelter provided, putting a large number of commuters to hardship; and Kodihalli stop on Jeevan Bhimanagar main road (towards J B Nagar).

Division of responsibility gone awry

Follow the thread of discussion on Praja , the root cause floats to the surface – error-ridden division of responsibility. BBMP builds the bus shelters and BMTC runs the buses. A seemingly baffled citizen who calls himself “IDS” reacts: “So where does the passenger figure in this scheme of things? How did they (BBMP and BMTC) manage to get themselves into such a fine situation?”

Another Praja post says: “The advertising rights in bus shelters (are) completely owned by BBMP. Though a plan was put forward to BMTC to display live real time bus schedules/arrival times on LED/LCD panels at bus stands, the plan had to be shelved because BMTC didn’t have the rights to display such panels at the bus stands”.

An absolute mess in a city that is already struggling with its crumbling infrastructure. BMTC Chief Traffic Manager Vishwanath’s statement to DNA Today brings out the worst happening due to lack of co-ordination between the two departments: “A year ago we had given a proposal to BBMP to demolish bus stands that were hindering the movement of the traffic. Around 150 bus stops were demolished. There are around 2,656 bus stops in the city, out which 20-30 per cent is erected at wrong places. We had asked BBMP to demolish these but it has not taken any action.”

 

Traffic jams

While BBMP zeroes in on bus shelter locations keeping advertisers’ interests in mind – often very close to traffic junctions for higher visibility, BMTC buses stop many metres away from the bus stops. With this wrong choice of location comes another predicament – traffic jams as the buses speed through the green light and then stop away from the shelters with the rest of the traffic trying to whizz past and around the bus. For the city’s usually overcrowded roads, a small hurdle like this enough to end in serious snarls.  In its hurry to keep the advertisers in good humour, BBMP seems to have lost itself in the labyrinth and cares little about the commuters’ plight.

Passengers board buses at Sarjapur Road-Koramangala 80 feet Road junction. Two bus shelters adjacent to each other are located just 100 metres from the junction. Pic Konthoujam Sarda.

The upshot of it all is evident: confusion among bus riders who do not know whether to wait under the shelter or stand away from it.  Even as this ordeal persists, BBMP comes up with another baffling announcement of building 40+ such shelters although there already are 200 of them laying deserted.

Likewise, while it builds and spruces up such multiple shelters over and again, those built using MPLAD funds die a slow death. If anything, it makes one thing clear: no proper discussion among BBMP, BMTC, and the traffic authorities to decide on the ideal location for a shelter, let alone incorporating people’s suggestions.

Route info at shelters

Responding to one of the long-standing demands of people – proper signboards and boards displaying route information at shelters – a BMTC official tells Deccan Herald (Oct 26th) that existing signboards and bus shelters have been removed to make way for the infrastructure work taken up by BMRCL and BBMP. This has resulted in bus stops being shifted on a temporary basis. “Once the BBMP earmarks adequate space on roads and builds bus shelters, we are ready to provide proper route signboards,” the official adds.

With round-the-clock digging happening all over the city, how could one believe that these signboards, even if they become a reality, would not be shifted or removed?

Design, maintenance, coordination

With such messed-up inter-institutional mechanism in place, it is easy to find answers for the stolen asbestos roofs of the shelters, littered surroundings, bad design, and maintenance. Maybe, these are peripheral issues for these public agencies still grappling with basics.

Joining the Praja discussion, Ashwin quips: “Looks like there is a prototype of the new bus shelter at the Palace Guttahalli bus stop. While it is still not fully done, my initial impression is that it is a step back in terms of design quality and aesthetics. Wish BBMP involved the public more in the design and selection process.”

One of the main grouses of the Praja members is many shelters do not give real protection to commuters from rain and sun and do not allow the view of the incoming buses without blocking their line of sight.

However, K V Pathy will have to wait before bus shelters come up at Indiranagar and Domulur for there are many bigger gaps that still lay unplugged. This report from The New Indian Express (July 9th) lays it bare: “several high-end traffic and transit management centres are being built in the city and even on the outskirts, while one of the busiest areas – K R Market – still waits for a simple bus station.”   ⊕


4 Comments

  1. Fast forward five years. Nothing seems to have changed. Bus shelters pop up at close to traffic lights (see Old Madras Road). Local politician gets advertising mileage out of this. With bus shelter to the right (as in photo), crossing the road at the junction is a pain for the pedestrians. Such shelters promote jay-walking. Except for pedestrians/commuters and motorists, the civic authorities are happy:They have job-security from the mess they create!

  2. BBMP seems to have no shortage of money to spend on flyovers and underpasses. Why do they see bus shelters as a “nice-to-have” and therefore need sponsorship for this via ad revenues? Ad revenues should be a bonus and not the driver or this.

  3. Perhaps an answer to this thoroughly incompetent mess can be gleaned from Ashok – the Transport Czar who’s also the in-charge of Bangalore city and holds sway over every drain, bus, footpath and what have you in the city. Perhaps, a few ad dollars are in the Rajakaluve towards Ashok’s house. Lok Ayukta, please check this minister out.

  4. Great article! It clearly exposes how our bureaucrats are still several notches below on the evolutionary scale. This speaks volumes of how we, citizens have agreed to tolerate incompetence and mediocrity. Why haven’t we spoken up earlier?

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