BMTC wants people to get back into cars

It was 759am when I got to ITPL bus stop in Whitefield, satisfied that I beat the odds to catch a 500C that usually takes off between 8-815. Even if I missed that, I knew I would get a 500K or 500NA.

A section of stranded commuters at 820am. The group increased to sizeable bunch by 845. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent.

The opposite happened. As commuters lined up steadily, two 500Cs, one 500K and one un-named volvo, all took their expected U-turn at ITPL. As passengers started moving towards the doors, the buses simply shot off, doors closed. Drivers signalled ‘oota‘ from inside, in the characteristic style where the closely held fingers go to the mouth and back. Breakfast time.

Commuters were peeved. And none of the buses came back quickly. The whole idea of reaching work by 9/915 went up in smoke with BMTC’s Volvos ditching commuters for over 45 minutes.

One of the upset commuters was a senior engineer going to Bellandur. "I started experimenting with using the AC Volvos to my office at Ecospace (Bellandur) a month ago", said a disappointed Mukunda Krishnappa, in his forties. Krishnappa, an Electrical Engineer, says he was commuting for 3 years by car, before he switched to the city’s popular AC bus system. He lives in Whitefield.

Mukunda Krishnappa, an electrical engineer (left) and Vinod Panda, a software engineer, spoke to Citizen Matters about their commutes on the AC Volvos. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent.

Another stranded commuter, Vinod C Panda, 30, a Software Engineer says he has been going to Jayadeva circle by bus everyday for a year. He was frustrated too. Just yesterday, he says he saw four or five 500 series buses ditch commuters between 730-8am. It was action replay today for him, only irking him more.

I called up BMTC Traffic at 18004251663. (Panda told me they would not pickup since that was his experience yesterday). For several minutes, I got a message saying "All of our call agents are currently busy, please wait on the line, your call is important to us." No one picked up after that. Operations Head Sampangi Ramegowda, on the other hand picked up his cell. (Media folks like me tend to have a few extra ways to reach officials!)

Ramegowda said he was out of town, and heard out the complaint. He then politely hung up after asking me to complain to the same control room!

"There was BMTC cabin here earlier where drivers used to sign in. It was removed three months ago when the Ascendas Park Avenue mall opened up at ITPL", he says. Panda conjectures that the cabin’s removal has something to do with the problem.

Fact is, this wasn’t the first time. Last month, when the same thing happened, several bus drivers told Citizen Matters that they had no other choice. They needed to have breakfast at some point, and 7am at Banasankari was simply too early. So when they reached ITPL, they take their breaks and come back.

A harsh morning sun races in with commuters as the 848am 500C gets packed near Marathahalli. BMTC AC Volvos, called the Vajra service, is now popular with the well-heeled working crowd. Pic: SV.

At 848am, finally, a new 500C showed up and finally all the south Bangalore-bound commuters rushed in with a sigh of relief and took their seats. ITPL origin commuters usually prefer the 500 series because they can get in seated for the long journey ahead. Some, like me, get work done on the bus – calls, emails, reading/reviewing work, etc.

Solution?

It is nobody’s case that bus crew skip breakfast for the sake of commuters. It is also to BMTC’s credit that the AC bus system has become very popular along critical commuting corridors of Bengaluru. 

But by allowing the situation to persist, BMTC says it does not care for bus drivers (no arrangements) and for commuters either.

Ashwin Mahesh, urbanisation advisor to Government of Karnataka, ABIDe task force member, and also advisor to BMTC acknowledges there is a problem. He says that the AC Volvos already have GPS, and tracking is already in place at BMTC. "It’s not being used for this type of problem", he points out. "However, the problem of breakfast for crew needs to be addressed first", he is quick to add.

For now, until BMTC finds a way, Whitefield-South Bangalore commuters are going to continue risk being stranded in the mornings. Some may even get back their cars.

2 Comments

  1. I noticed the same , this morning (18th Nov 2011 – around 8:10 AM). I was surprised to see another bus (route #500) appearing in front the bus that I was traveling. It was clear that the bus was already parked near Big Bazaar.

  2. This morning, I found out more about what is going on.

    After taking a U-turn at ITPL and leaving passengers stranded, the 500 series crew parks near Big Bazaar because the small eateries for breakfast are there. After that, they SWITCH ON their ROUTE numbers again and take off from Big Bazaar as if that was their starting point, not ITPL!

    When asked why they don’t go back two stops to ITPL to start over, the conductor of one 500C says they will get fined for more kms than usual.

    So I told them, the least they can do is TELL the ITPL bus stop commuters (when they leave them stranded) to take 335E and go further two stops to the Big Bazaar stop and wait there.

    I have filed a detailed complaint at the Control Room this morning. They say they need 3-4 days to come back with a status. Complaint number: 2700. Let’s see what happens.

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