“To make the Volvo AC bus viable, link it with railways and Metro”

MAKING VOLVOS PROFITABLE

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There are ways to make Volvo buses viable. Pic: Shree

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport,” is an interesting remark by Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.

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Bengaluru needs to inspire a shift in the travel pattern of its citizens – from private transport to public transport. Buses are an awesome way to travel in the city. But we hear that BMTC finds Volvo AC buses unviable, and that the government is even considering taking these off the roads.

According to BMTC’s 2017-18 annual report, the state-run corporation had lost around 6.9 lakh daily passengers to app-based cab services and Metro over the previous four years. This indicates that the once-efficient bus service system is now on the verge of collapse.

How can we change this?

As a concerned citizen, the mere thought of BMTC’s Volvo buses going off the roads makes me uncomfortable. Here are my thoughts on how we can turn around this loss-making service:

  • Identify the pain points of travellers, and find effective solutions. This demands an active redressal system that ensures citizens’ voices are heard
  • Make bus travel a comfortable and reliable way of getting around the city, by transporting people on timeCurrently, people shy away from using buses as they are not sure of  the travel time. A good bus service needs to make information readily accessible, so that commuters can refer to it and plan their travel.
  • Buses are unable to follow their schedule due to unpredictable traffic conditions. Hence better traffic management is essential
  • High ticket pricing also contributes to low occupancy in Volvos. If the government subsidises BMTC, Volvo ticket prices could be lowered, making travel more affordable to the common person.

Here are a few alternative solutions that BMTC should explore:

  • Dedicated Volvo service to railway stations

At present, there is hardly any convenient, affordable option to travel to and from railway stations. We often end up taking cabs. And travel by regular Volvos is very inconvenient if we have more luggage.

The main City Railway station sees footfall of over two lakh passengers daily. Are they not potential Volvo bus passengers? If the passengers using Yeshwanthpur, Cantonment, KR Puram and Banaswadi railway stations are considered, this number would increase significantly. So we should seriously consider a dedicated Volvo bus service to and from railway stations, similar to the airport service. As in the case of the airport, there should be a dedicated bus bay right outside railway stations.

I have started a petition at Change.org, urging the government to start this service. This would be profitable to BMTC in the long run, as the number of people traveling by trains is set to  increase.

  • Volvo service at both exits of City Railway Station

At the back gate of City Railway Station, the only mode of transport available is a cab or auto. You have to hire either of these to go to Majestic bus stand, and then board a Volvo.

From the main gate, the only way to reach the Volvo terminal is to climb up the stairs, go down the subway, and climb up again. This is a cumbersome exercise, especially for families with children and senior citizens, who are also carrying luggage. Most of us then resort to the easy option of hiring cabs. If only we had a Volvo bus facility at both exit gates, even families and senior citizens could travel in comfort, at an affordable cost.

  • Volvos can provide last-mile connectivity from Metro stations
An over-crowded Metro train heading from Mysore Road to Byappanahalli. Pic: Shreenidhi D S

Many of us feel discouraged about using the Metro since we have to drive or hire cabs/autos to reach the nearest station. Using Volvos to ensure last-mile connectivity from Metro stations at regular intervals would encourage citizens to switch to public transport.

  • Dedicated bus lanes would increase the number of trips and revenue

To build dedicated bus lanes, parking on roads should be restricted. Many traffic snarls are caused by cabs and buses parked randomly or in no-parking zones, cramping the already-limited road space. The traffic police seem to ignore many private travel buses parked on busy intersections in Marathahalli, Koramangala etc.

Strict fines should be imposed in such cases. Cab and travel companies should also be fined if their vehicles are parked so. The recent fine revision for traffic violations, effective from 20th July, is a welcome move. From now, for parking violations, a two-wheeler would have to pay Rs 1650 including towing charges, and a four-wheeler Rs 2000.

Perhaps, the traffic police could also capture these violations electronically and issue a warning card; after warnings, the driver’s license could be impounded.

Such measures will ensure that road space is freed up for exclusive bus lanes. When people travelling in cars see Volvos zoom by, they would be encouraged to take the bus.

Currently, trips take long – two hours on average for a 40-50 km round trip. Hence a bus can barely make three trips in an eight-hour shift. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had said, “There are over 1000 air-conditioned Volvo buses being operated in Bengaluru city… It is profitable only when each bus runs 150–200 km a day”. With exclusive bus lanes, Volvos can easily do four trips a day, covering 150-200 kms, and be profitable.

  • Scientific study of routes and schedules

Bus timings need to be streamlined. Often you see several buses on the same route, one behind the other, probably running three minutes apart. A scientific study should be done to determine peak travel numbers and commuter timings, to decide bus frequency in each route.

It is timely to remind ourselves and the government about BMTC’s vision statement: “Make BMTC sustainable, people-centred, and choice mode of travel for everyone.” The need of the hour is to deploy Volvo AC buses in innovative and efficient ways, not withdraw these.

[Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.]

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About Uma Ranganathan 1 Article
Uma Ranganathan is an independent businesswoman based in Bengaluru. She is an alumna of Madras Christian College and the Indian School of Business

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