There's no denying that the tree cover in Bangalore is being lost largely due to road widening. Road widening is necessitated due to unchecked growth and usage of private vehicles. To address this problem, you have to have excellent public transport services. METRO may be a solution. But, it is extremely expensive, and at best a solution in the long-term. BMTC cannot cope up with the needs, however much they may appear to have become efficient, which they are not and cannot be, as long as they continue to enjoy a monopoly status. The simple answer is to facilitate the entry of TVS kind of companies (my first exposure to TVS was as a bus service provider in the city of Madurai) into the fray. The present rules do not provide for that. It facilitates only the 'Sharma' kind of operations, which in turn only helps provide fodder for the die-hard opponents of the private sector.
A ‘policy paper’ detailing the lines along which this could be done is appended below. Though everyone who has bothered to read it, readily agrees with the overall concept, very few are prepared to back it openly, because it is seen as politically incorrect. And, if our trees are to be protected, there is only this way to go. Apart from that are the immense benefits that will accrue in very many ways to the city because of this one reform in this key infrastructure sector.
STATE PUBLIC BUS TRANSPORT POLICY PAPER
1. Government to use every means to encourage use of public bus transport services, particularly in cities.
2. Movement of public bus transport vehicles to be given top priority. Traffic authorities to ensure this.
3. Government to discourage use of all personalized forms of transport, particularly cars
· provide room for more (public transport) buses,
· reduce fuel consumption, and consequently pollution,
· de-clutter the roads,
· get people into the healthy habit of walking, atleast upto the bus-stands.
· increasing road tax; introducing congestion tax
· introducing ‘pedestrians only’ zones in city centers. (Contractors may be facilitated to operate slow-moving, mini-buses for people to shuttle between the parking lot and the shopping areas).
· restricting plying of private vehicles on the main city arteries during peak hours, as may be required.
4. Public bus transport sector to be opened out totally, for open competition between various players, on a level playing field, subject to concessions noted below.
5. Classifications such as stage carriages, contract carriages, maxi cabs, etc to be withdrawn, and annual license fees charged on the basis of the vehicle floor area.
6. Service providers to be totally free to adopt their own fare tables. There are to be no restrictions on fares, whatsoever.
7. Service providers to be free to choose the routes they wish to operate on, as also the schedules. RTO to be empowered to impose restrictions only in the case of overcrowding of routes/roads.
8. All bus stands to be taken over and run (or better still - leased out to professional contractors) by local bodies, like BMP, City Corporations, Municipalities, etc, making the facilities available to all service providers against user charges.
9. Public bus transport vehicles to be maintained in exacting road-worthy condition. No public bus transport vehicle to be more than 10 years old.
10. Policing of public bus transport vehicles to be made very strict, with heavy penalties being levied in cases of offences like over-speeding, rash & negligent driving, drunken driving, over-loading, etc.
11. Auto-rickshaws to be gradually phased out, particularly from trunk and arterial routes (meant for movement of high speed vehicles), and replaced by four-wheeler taxies.
12. An efficient bus transport system (with government and private players operating in open competition) to form the backbone of the public transport system. In large cities, these to be supplemented by METRO rail as the situation warrants.
1. KSRTC (and its subsidiaries) and BMTC may be incorporated into companies, with employees holding substantial stake.
2. KSRTC (and its subsidiaries) and BMTC may be allowed 100% concession on annual license fee for their vehicles for a period of 3 years (from the date of the policy coming into effect), and 50% concession for the next two years, and 25% concession thereafter.
3. Buses run by co-operative societies may be allowed 25% concession on annual license fees.
Likely scenario resulting at the end of 3 to 6 months of implementation of policy:
1. Corporates like TVS, Ashok Leyland, etc, alongside the present contract-carriage operators like Blueline, VRL, Sharma Transports, KPN, etc, apart from co-operatives like those formed by ex-servicemen, likely to come on the scene with hundreds of buses, catering to all kinds and classes of demand.
2. The resulting competition will automatically drive the different service providers to come up with innovative schemes of attracting more and more people to switch over to the use of the buses rather than relying on their individual vehicles.
3. At the lower end, you will have the ‘Janata’ services, stopping at all bus stops enroute, and charging the barest minimum (which in all possibility will be much lower than BMTC’s present charges).
4. At the upper end, you will have the A/C deluxe services (possibly with broad, reclining seats, newspapers & magazines for reading, etc) catering to corporate executives, and operating from say Whitefield to Residency road, with just some 5 stops in-between. These buses may also cater to students of say Bishop Cottons School, possibly with a 25% concession being offered to them.
5. In between, you will have a wide spectrum of services, with each service provider making known his USP through the local media.
6. Even within a Jayanagar or a Indiranagar, you will have mini-buses operating in given circuits, catering to the local shopping and other needs of the residents.
7. The usage of two-wheelers and cars will reduce drastically, atleast for commuting, leading to
Ø de-cluttering of city roads, thereby providing room for speedy movement of buses,
Ø reduction of air pollution with lower per capita consumption of fuel,
Ø spread of population from city centres to out-lying areas due to ready availability of cheap and efficient means of transport,
Ø promotion of the healthy practice of walking atleast to & from the bus stops,
Ø an appreciable drop in the monthly family transport budget.
8. In the rural areas also, the demand for good public transport will lead to entrepreneurs / co-operatives coming forward to meet it, and healthy competition will ensure efficient and cheap services.
In this connection, a reference is made to the report on ‘Bus Transport Systems’ displayed on the website of the Union Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (www.petroleum.nic.in/ch_1...), salient excerpts from which are listed below, for a ready reference:
1. Promoting public bus transport should be viewed as a priority in any strategy to improve urban road traffic and in controlling air pollution from automobiles. The country can ill afford the luxury of unchecked growth of private vehicle population. The costs to the country’s economy in terms of higher fuel consumption and to the society in terms of health are significant enough to warrant urgent action.
2. Clearly, there is a strong case for promoting private enterprise in meeting transport needs in urban areas.
3. An aspect of public policy that impacts on provision and expansion of public transport either by state owned utilities or by private entrepreneurs, relates to the unviable fare structures imposed by the authority.
4. With improved efficiency, the fare structure can continue to remain low while still providing for overall viability of the operations.
As will be noticed, the ‘policy’ enunciated above takes into account all these factors.
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