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On May 25th at 3 pm, the day Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) launched its ambitious Intelligent Transport System (ITS), the screen at ITS Control Room in BMTC head office was brimming with statistics. One particular screen was displaying a graph with following figures:
- Buses skipped the stop – 1,470
- Deviation – 83
- Early arrival – 401
- Schedule not departed – 414
- Late departure – 852 and
- Over speed – 644
One click on the “over speed” graph and there pops up another window. It has information about the buses that have over-sped that particular day. The information includes the bus number, GPS sim number, the route on which the bus plies and the number of times the bus has recorded overspeeding on a day.
BMTC officials say that not just the ITS control room, the same information is monitored in all the 40 BMTC depots across Bengaluru. Upon monitoring, the depot manager can warn the bus crew who fail to function efficiently.
This is one side of the ITS. Another important feature of the “intelligent system” is the BMTC app for commuters to track the real-time bus movements. After a lot of dilly-dallying, the BMTC has finally launched the ITS on Wednesday, touted to be first of its kind project in India. Within no time, commuters have started using the service and the complaints of unavailability of information on several routes are already being reported.
In this backdrop, here is all that you should know about ITS and how it can help a bus commuter.
What are the key-features of ITS?
Main features of ITS are GPS-enabled Vehicle Tracking System (VTM), Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETM), Passenger Information System (PIS), control room and data centre, BMTC mobile application.
How do they all function?
All the above mentioned features are interrelated. According to BMTC IT Director Bishwajit Mishra, all the 6,400 buses have been installed with GPS based VTMs. The VTM monitors the movement of buses and transmits the information to ITS control room at BMTC Head office in Shanthi Nagar. The GPS device keeps track of various factors like the real time movement of buses, skip stop, deviation, early arrival, late departure and over speed (speed limit for BMTC buses is 60 km per hour and for airport buses 80 km per hour).
Almost 80 per cent of the buses are provided with GPRS enabled ETMs. ETMs are used not only for issuing electronic tickets, but also help track the distance covered by a bus, number of passengers using the service, running time, number of tickets disbursed etc.
Under Passenger Information System, 35 information displays are installed in 11 major bus stands namely Kempegowda bus station, Shivaji Nagar, Shanthi Nagar, Yeshwanathapura, Kengeri, Jayanagar, Vijayanagar, Banashankari, ITPL, Mysore Road (MCTC) and Airport. It is supposed to provide real-time information of the buses arriving and departing via those stations. (In reality, at the time of writing this article, only Vijayanagar and Yashwanthpur were functional with limited information)
A 24X7 control room at BMTC head office monitors the data. The control room with 40 BMTC staff keeps track of all the information transmitted from GPS and GPRS systems in the bus. Data comes from each bus every 10 seconds. So one can imagine the kind of data gathered here.
Information collected through the above system will be put to commuters use through “BMTC” mobile application.
Some initial glitches
When we checked the app, we observed the following lacunae:
- The bus K-5 that plies from HSR layout to Mallasandra could not be located on map.
- For many other buses we checked, we could get ETA, but there were several buses for which we could not get ETA.
- The bus in which we were travelling had all the devices and ETM, but its location could not be traced on the app.
- The bus driver claimed that he was not trained by anyone to operate the wireless transmitter fitted in the bus. Though it was supposed to be used in case of emergency, it was dysfunctional.
- Even for the buses that had their ETAs displayed, there was no bus number available to trace it.
- Information was not available for several airport buses that have foolproof GPS and ticketing mechanism.
How do I get benefitted as a commuter?
You are supposed to be benefited in different ways. From the commuter’s point of view, the most important of all is the mobile app. One should download the “BMTC” app (with red volvo bus logo) from google play store. The app helps the commuter to plan a trip, bus timetable, route information, bus fare and estimated time of arrival. There could be 4-5 minutes variation in the estimate time of arrival, and extreme delay could happen in case of accident or sudden traffic jam. The app draws the traffic information from Google map.
So, if you want to leave your home or office in next 15 minutes, it will be convenient for you to check the bus availability and then plan your travel accordingly.
With the introduction of ETMs, you can never complain of the conductor overcharging you for the bus tickets. (But please take care to collect the change back!)
Will the ETM accept smart cards and debit cards?
Not at the moment. The ETMs are designed with an option to process smart cards, visa and debit cards. Minister for Transport, Ramalinga Reddy at ITS launch event declared that BMTC will implement the smart card system in July.
Who has developed the ITS technology?
The system has been developed by Trimax IT Infrastructure and Services Ltd. The same firm has provided IT services to BEST, UPSRTC, MSRTC and DTC. Trimax has been working on developing ITS for BMTC from two and half years. “This is for the first time we have integrated everything to evolve a comprehensive IT system for a bus corporation. The data generated is enormous and complex considering the 6,400 buses that ply in this city. For every ticket issued, one packet data is released. So imagine the packets released for 50,00,000 passengers who use BMTC,” says Trimax Vice President (Operations), Khemchandra Birhade.
Can I track all the buses through the BMTC app?
BMTC claims that all the buses are fitted with GPS technology, hence tracking should technically be possible from the day of launch (May 25th).
I am unable to track a few buses. The app says no bus running on this route or no buses available on map. Why?
Yes. There are issues in tracking several routes. BMTC IT Director attributes these issues to initial glitches. Unavailability of route information could be because of the error in the mapping, the bus conductor may not have used ETM or closed the trip pre-hand. Also those who are searching for Vajra or Vayu Vajra buses should not remove “V-” which comes as a prefix to the bus number you are searching. “We have just started. It is a complex system and it will take some time to stabilise. I request everybody to have some patience. The issues will be rectified and the system will be stabilised in 3-4 months,” says Bishwajit Mishra.
The IT Director says ideally a commuter should have 7-8 alternatives while travelling. “But we thought, in its absence, let people have at least 3-4 alternatives. Now if a person wants to travel from one point to another, even if there are 6 buses plying on that route, he/she will get information about at least 3 buses through the app,” he says.
There are plenty of BMTC apps on Google play store. Which one is authentic?
None of the apps except the one that the BMTC launched on Wednesday are official. The BMTC officials say that the private apps cannot give real time information, but can only list down the bus timings (departure and arrival). In fact, the BMTC has decided to write to some of the private app developers for using the BMTC logo, which they say is illegal.
How do I submit complaint or feedback about the disfunction or issues in tracking the routes?
It has been made easy. If you have downloaded the app, you can complain or submit feedback through the app itself. There are two options in the app – feedback for the bus and for the mobile app. In the “bus” section various issues have been listed out and you can choose the one relevant to you. In the mobile app section, one can complain about issues related to tracking the routes or give feedback on improving the system.
Complaints/feedback can also be registered through www.mybmtc.com or by dialling 1800-425-1663. All the complaints are received and aggregated at the BMTC call centre. A separate layer for complaints and feedback received through app has been integrated. Whenever a person raises a complaint in the mobile app it will come to a separate mobile complaint corner. The IT Director Bishwajit Mishra says the team will try to respond to the complainants at the earliest – in one or two days. Steps will be taken to ensure that complaints that are received through the mobile app are responded promptly.
Feedback from citizens and techies is most welcome. THe team will review the feedbacks every week and resolve it as much as possible. Based on the inputs from users, regular changes will be made in the app and the system, he says.
Will the BMTC data gathered at the ITS control room made available to public?
“Yes, it will happen,” says the BMTC IT director. “BMTC is generating a whole lot of data and we are definitely interested to share it with public. It is just a matter of time. We have now made a committee comprising the professors from IIM and IIT who are looking into the issues of data sharing policy. They will come out with a draft policy on which we can take a call,” he says.
So should I be an English-literate to use the BMTC app? What about those who are not well-versed in English?
BMTC will come up with a Kannada version of the app in a month’s time, according to the IT Director.