It has been a season of ideas – some new, some old – for decongesting Bengaluru roads. The #Cycletowork Fridays was the most recent one. Of course the most talked about idea was the bus priority lane announced by the government in an effort to popularise public transport. The fulcrum here was time-saving for road users – we give you dedicated space so you are not stuck in traffic for hours or have to deal with driving stress.
However there is another important element that needs to be worked on, to make public transport more attractive – cost.
BMTC fares is among the highest in Indian cities
As things stand, the cost of a bus ticket in Bengaluru is among the highest in the country.
|Bus Operators||Fare for travelling 5 kms|
|Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Services (AMTS)||Rs 8|
|Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking
|Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC)||Rs 8|
|Chandigarh Transport Corporation (CTC)||Rs 5|
|Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC)||Rs 10|
|Metro Chennai Transport Corporation (MCTC)||Rs 8|
|Pune Mahangar Parivahan Mahamandal (PMPML)||Rs 10|
|Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC)||Rs 15|
Source: BBPV (Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike)
In 2018, the then-Minister for Transport, D C Thammanna, had proposed an 18 percent hike in the fares of both BMTC and KSTRC, citing increased price of diesel. That would have added approximately another rupee to every kilometer. That doesn’t sound too much for some of us who can afford that little extra.
The Volvo monthly bus pass fare of Rs 2363 doesn’t pinch our pocket much considering what we’d spend on diesel/petrol plus the time we’d spend driving. But for those who struggle to afford the Rs 1050 monthly pass for ordinary buses because it is a substantial part of their salary, the fare hike would be a disaster.
As it stands, that proposal for price hike is still pending with the government.
Competitive costing is a key criteria in popularising public transport around the world. Cities like Paris have even looked at making public transport free, to combat private transport. On the other hand, cities like London, whose public transport has been voted the best in the world consistently, have high fares.
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer for Transport For London (TFL), who was visiting Bengaluru to discuss the city’s mobility options with the government, explained that the trick was to make public transport the cheapest of all mobility options. TFL is the government body responsible for all transport in London – buses, tubes, waterways, regulating taxis and private vehicles etc.
Verma says, “Yes our [public transport] fares are high. But if you compare it to the other options like private transport, we are a lot more easy on the wallet, especially for the working class people and even those who are doing well for themselves. Nobody wants to pay 60 pounds of congestion charge (charge for using private vehicles in high-density roads) everyday if they can help it.”
So how does the cost of private transport compare with that of BMTC fares? Let’s look at two-wheeler riders since they form the bulk of our private road users.
Two-wheelers far cheaper than BMTC
As the table above shows, the cost of travelling in Metro is closer to the cost of BMTC, but Metro has the advantage of time savings and a proper schedule.
In contrast, two-wheelers are far cheaper than BMTC. They are also more easy to navigate in traffic. To get people off two-wheelers and onto buses would be near impossible – it offers the advantage of neither a more cost-effective travel option nor a timely and reliable one.
One of the main reasons BMTC fares are higher than bus fares in other cities is that BMTC has a revenue-generating model. Vinay Sreenivas of BBPV says “About 90 percent of BMTC’s revenue is generated by ticket sales. The state government needs to step in and subsidise BMTC. We had even given them a detailed plan on alternate sources of revenue for this.”
Of course there are those who wish to argue that public transport should be a service and not have a revenue-generating model. I will refrain from expanding on that in this article.
But all the numbers at our disposal show that, clearly public transport- buses especially – are fighting an uphill battle. Add to it the chaos of an unreliable time schedule, and the option becomes less and less attractive. So while we push for public transport, it is imperative that the price is also looked at.