Read this Citizen Matters article on the initiation of bus day concept.
The Bus Day took shape. And a couple of folks asked, why not call it BMTC day. Good question, but you need traffic police to help move Buses on priority at crowded points, you need Pollution Control Board to measure air quality level at these same crowded points to measure how Bus-ing helps. Further, you need industry associations from major commuting destinations to pitch in with support; you would want Bus loving citizens, ordinary folks or celebrities to brag about their Bus rides too. The point is the Bus Day is mostly about BMTC, but not about BMTC alone. This is why when BMTC celebrated the anniversary of Bus Day; invitees included groups mentioned above, and more.
Some of us have watched BMTC and early Bus Days from close quarters. What did we see – good, or bad about the concept, and more specifically, BMTC.
BMTC bus day anniversary function was held at Hotel Chancery Pavilion on 2 February. Arun Chakravarthy from BMTC, talked about how the idea initiated by Praja was adopted by BMTC. Bus Day has been used as an event to raise awareness about bus routes, and to interact with citizens and understand their needs. They spent time on identification of corridors especially the car clogged IT areas.
They have got support from the various government departments and ministers, industry organisations like Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) and Electronic City Industries’ Association (ELCIA) and citizen groups.
BMTC says they have recorded decrease in pollution and increase in bus usage on select routes on bus days.
Suresh Heblikar, an environmentalist who spoke, said better public transport can avoid drastic measures like road widening; for as BMTC claims, in Whitefield alone, there were 3700 less cars and 1500 less two wheelers on the road on one of the bus days. He requested BMTC to target not just IT folks, but also students, who think bikes are cooler.
Transport Minister R Ashoka, said city’s public bus transport is now so good that people say, "Bus andre Bengalurige hogi (If you want a bus (service), go to Bangalore)".
– Meera K
The good part first.
BMTC is thought of as a government organisation, as in slow and weak on execution, incapable of working with other government organisations. Bus Day showed us that if you give them a very clear goal (Bus day on 4th of every month), they can execute, and work with other organisations. Night outs to sort out logistics for Bus Day, yes night outs, surprised some of us. Recces were done on the focus corridors to watch every pothole, bus stands, and possible choke points. Bus Day showed some of us that if given a clear goal, with some crisp directions on what could be done (pick focus corridors, put extra buses, get route maps out through radio, newspapers etc), BMTC can do it.
The not so good part next.
BMTC seems to be shy of "marketing" itself. There could be two possible reasons. Marketing expenses are perhaps harder to justify to whoever approves them. And it shows. The outbound communication channels at BMTC are all broken. Website, route maps – at BMTC offices, BangaloreOne counters, shops or wherever, awareness-building events etc – are all either missing or broken. Only thing somewhat in place is PR via media. The second reason could be that BMTC is not geared up to deal with the expectations that marketing activities would generate. Knowing their limitations, they may not be interesting in going beyond the 34% share they have today (that is % of commuters who use the Bus).
Bus Day was a marketing event. It made many people aware about what BMTC is, and also what BMTC isn’t. The end output of Bus Day has been increased revenues at BMTC, and also high levels of feedback, and awareness about things that BMTC MUST do to get even better. You see public transport lovers talking about problems like last-mile, passenger information system, better bus stands, driver behaviour etc.,
So at the end of an year worth of Bus Days, the ball is firmly in BMTC’s hands. A bit of marketing can give you more revenue. And communicating more with commuters, showing that you can work on feedback, can get you even more. So go BMTC, market yourself even more. And when marketing raises expectations, do be ready act on them. Some of that happened during the 12 Bus Days, but 66% of city is still not commuting using the Bus.