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Illegal buses - Bootlegging in Prohibition?

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BusPublic Transport

Illegal private bus services on the rise in Bangalore

"We do not have sufficient space to park seized maxi cabs and buses that indulge in such operations."

Transport Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said that he requires at least 250 inspectors as against the present 40 , to monitor over three million vehicles in Bangalore alone

"We are concentrating on basic services such as issue of driving licences and permits, and collection of tax"


Naveen's picture

Buses operating illegally

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The news report states :

One can see a number of old buses, most of them bought either from the coastal districts of the State or from a neighbouring State, plying between K.R. Market and Nagawara via Shivajinagar; K.R. Market and Hessarghatta via Majestic; K.R. Market and Marathalli; K.R. Market and Hoskote; K.R. Market and Vijayanagar K.R. Market and Kengeri, and K.R. Market and Ramanagaram to name only a few routes.

Thus, most of these sub-standard buses appear to operate out from KR market. I don't think it would be hard to accost them there itself - at KR market. Once they are driven out from there, they will of course find a new location, but the efforts to weed them out has to be done continuously.

I also noticed a lot of shabby mini-buses on Hosur road with TN or Kerala plates - something needs to be done there as well.

silkboard's picture

have been meaning to post this

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Good report there. The rise is really noticeable. And in one case, I saw some exchange (money? not sure) between a traffic cop and a bus that was parked at Marathahalli.

Don't think all the routes run till K R Market. I definitely see some buses and mini buses do the marathahalli to Whitefield station route. The bus that does these rounds in the morning and evenings carries the Bangalore Hoskote board.

Who owns these buses? Hope Hindu does digging at this level as well.

And what does this say about the demand supply gap for public transport services?

Time for BMTC to rethink and let other players play in the local public transport market. There is scope for everyone. BMTC can make more than what it makes today, and perhaps 2-3 more players can thrive along.

idontspam's picture

Al Capone

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 And what does this say about the demand supply gap for public transport services?

We are creating Al Capones and Veerappans. Shouldnt RTO be building a Regulator instead of a Police force. If you have ban you will get deadly arrack and not a Jhonnie Walker.

silkboard's picture

deadly arrack - in waiting

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Would this be the deadly arrack in waiting then? Perhaps it would take a few bad incidents (hope not) to wake up, or rather create a regulator.

Pic sourced from ryancordell@flickr, but won't take me more than 30 mins in the morning to find 3-4 of these.

As you rightly said, traffic Police will think enforcement (and easy money), where as BBMP and BMTC should think partly or fully open market for local public transportation with tight regulation.

Naveen's picture

Will tight regulation work ?

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And what does this say about the demand supply gap for public transport services?

Time for BMTC to rethink and let other players play in the local public transport market. There is scope for everyone. BMTC can make more than what it makes, and perhaps 2-3 more players can thrive.

If you have ban you will get deadly arrack and not a Jhonnie Walker.

Good points to ponder over. First of all, I think BMTC has services to all the destinations pointed out in the Hindu report, as also the Whitefield-Marathalli route, but frequencies may be insufficient & reliability low, I guess.

These mini-buses & vans may also be charging lesser (& make up by excessively over-crowding their buses /vans & spending less on maintenance). Thus, some find it attractive & are prepared to take risk/s to save some money.

I see two possibilities :

1) Ban them altogether & carry out very strict enforcement to eliminate them & continue monitoring to ensure they do not operate + increase BMTC frequencies to all these areas.

This is unlikely to happen as enforcement is pathetic & may also be a difficult objective before mass-transits are in place, given that volumes of traffic are too high & traffic cops are busy & engaged in monitoring road traffic as a whole.

By increasing private participation of the kind seen on urban or semi-urban routes (ie. contract carriages with the resultant misuse & corruption), what is bound to happen is misuse on a much bigger scale with sub-standard services & this will lead to unsafe roads, similar to the blue line in delhi, mangalore or kochi, where road conditions are much worse.

Presently, since the scale of these operations is less, it hasn't posed too many risks here, yet.

2) Allow them to operate in semi-urban /peripheral areas, but again monitoring will have to be very tight to prevent misuse. Here again, this might be difficult in the prevailing conditions with too much traffic.

Either ways, I think we lose out - the key is to first make things more manageable, which is to reduce traffic to acceptable levels. The kind of formal licenses issued to bus operators in mangalore, kochi or even in chennai, despite the lesser no. of vehicles there, has not resulted in attracting the better, more responsible players who offer good services. The quality of service has remained pathetic & BMTC is better, though they need to improve on reach & reliability.

As regards comparisons with Al Capone, he did provide good quality liquor in chicago illegaly (importing it from Canada).

The ground reality here is quite different - & it appears that you only get arrack, at least that has been the story so far if you see the buses in mangalore & kochi !

BMTC can be good by itself, but it has some way to go to get there.

idontspam's picture

Who is the regulator?

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has not resulted in attracting the better, more responsible players who offer good services

That could be because the public bus service corporation has vested interests in not putting up bus quality standards as a part of the contract.

he did provide good quality liquor in chicago illegaly

Do you believe the current providers will bring in volvos into service when they know it can be seized? 

silkboard's picture

Quality is a function of regulation

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Regardless of the side you take in this monopoly vs open market debate, last line from IDS is true. If this was legal business, you would not be seeing such shabby illegal buses on the road. Like this one:

Keep that debate aside for a moment. But do agree that without a responsible regulator in place, hazardous quality levels like above would be possible in both public monopoly as well as open market worlds. If you do, then I would say pitch for that tight regulator first. And we will use the time to settle the evergreen public private debate.

silkboard's picture

Take one more, a low cost ride

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I actually sat in this one. Kundalahalli to Varthur Lake. 3 Rs for the ride, I think he charged me double since I didn't look the part. How prejudiced of him! Anyway. Same route on Big10 would cost Rs 4 to Rs 6 depending on honesty levels and availability of change with yourself or the conductor.

Now, so what if this mini bus is shabby, or unsafe? Net net, you have a demand for ultra low cost transportation in the city. And you may have the same for high-end services as well.

The point is, would you rely on Tata to make a Nano, or would you pay Rs 3 lakhs for a govt made Ambassador?

Or, would we keep burdening BMTC with Volvo vs aam-aadmi debates, or leave to it the aam-aadmi itself to pick a Volvo or Eicher or Leyland for himself?

Naveen's picture

Ultra low cost transport

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the public bus service corporation has vested interests in not putting up bus quality standards as a part of the contract

What you mention is quite likely. A mangalore or a kochi can possibly also make do with the "one size fits all" norm that has existed in India for long & quality concerns may not matter much there, yet. Further, road traffic levels, though very chaotic are not as high as in bangalore.

Do you believe the current providers will bring in volvos into service when they know it can be seized? 

This is a valid point & I agree that if quality levels, such as vehicle type, age, etc. are set out, the standards may improve, subject again to strict enforcement - & this will involve multiple agencies.

But I would like to ponder over SB's observation :

you have a demand for ultra low cost transportation in the city

Very true - the pictures demonstrate this well enough. SB says pitch for that tight regulator first, but we are nowhere close to this - & we are not sure if we will ever have such a regulator. Low fares automatically mean low service quality, & one cannot expect much other than what we see in the pictures. If service criteria is set out to improve quality standards, fares will go up & be on par with BMTC !

Perhaps we could confine such ultra-low cost operators (with minimal service criteria, & therefore very low fares) to areas outside ORR - this may have a chance for some enforcement to be effective, I think. This would of course ignore such services to areas within ORR - I'm sure there is such a need too.

n's picture

Prevention idea

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The matadors or vans typically transport stuff and on their return journey, the drivers with or without owner's approval transport people instead of travelling empty. These are different from the overcrowded maxicabs (banned now?) that had closed doors or had their "conductor" hanging at the door acting as a buffer preventing people from falling out.

Agree with Naveen that banning won't work and enforcement is difficult due to lack of personnel, corruption etc (enough rules probably exist). Also, people will try to save money (paise wise rupee foolish?). How about mandating that any open vehicle that moves should have a grill (metal or plastic or stiff rope) with openings not greater than say 4"x4" so that even babies don't roll over on to the roads? They can be self-locking and can also be mandated on open lorries with workers travelling in the bed of the loaded or unloaded lorries... Hmm - will expand on this concept and write to the RTO and see if they respond. Pneumatic closed doors did wonders to curb footboard travel on BMTC buses.

murali772's picture

Kochi bus services

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@ Naveen

Kochi is my home town, and I visit the city quite often. And, I use every opportunity to avail the buses services (totally privatised) there (inspite of having enough cars at my disposal), largely because of the excellent connectivity, frequency, reliability, and cleanliness (check page 41 of this report, where the PT trips percentage for Kochi is listed at 51 - amongst the highest in the country, whereas, for Bangalore, it is 35. Again, for comparison purposes, for Trivandrum, where the services are again the monopoly of the government, it is just 21).

The only negative aspect of the Kochi services is the rash driving, resulting mainly out of the unviable fare regime - read the following excerpts from the study commissioned by Ministry of Petroleum, cited by me here.

  • Clearly, there is a strong case for promoting private enterprise in meeting transport needs in urban areas.
  • 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.
  • With improved efficiency, the fare structure can continue to remain low while still providing for overall viability of the operations.

Whatever, in this aspect also, I don't think they are any worse than our own BMTC. And, if freed from the license-permit regime, they could provide a model for the rest of the country to follow, atleast at the lower end.

I have stated this many times before, and I didn't want to repeat myself all over again. But, unmindful of it all, when you carry on as if you are the ultimate authority on the Kochi scene, I feel compelled not to allow it to pass without comment.

I expect it's more or less the same in Mangalore (again, fully privatised) also. But, since I do not have first hand experience, I shall refrain from making any assertions. However, here's a view which more or less corroborates mine.

Further, quoting you from here

When I had suggested operation of mini-buses on narrow streets to access interior areas that are difficult to access with larger buses, they had stated that they would rather operate the larger buses than mini-buses as maintenance costs were higher & it was difficult to maintain mini-buses since they were not reliable - thus, operation of mini-buses was unviable. I found this hard to accept as many mini-buses were in operation satisfactorily (such as Swaraj Mazda & Tata Starbus) - being operated by several private companies for their staff.

But, for all that, it's surprising that you would rather remain an apologist for BMTC, than demand the opening up of the sector for competition. Oh yes, the regulator has to come first, right!? It's the chicken and egg situation all over again. And, the answer to that, I have tried to state here. But, you would prefer the status quo. And, that's exactly what the BMTC, Transport Dept lot want too. But, mind you, it's the city and citizens, particularly the aam admi, that are having to pay the huge price for it all.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

BMTC - Atleast a ray of hope

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Mr Murali,

You may know Kochi better than me since you are from there & are accustomed to the buses there, but to me, as a visitor & a road user, those buses had been a bad experience.

When driving my car in Kochi, on atleast three occasions, I was run off the road by rash buses. On another occasion, a bus overtook me on my right, swerved to the left & slammed his brakes as he had spotted likely passengers on the side. I had nearly smashed into his back as he hadn't given any indication of stopping.

Mangalore is my place, & it is no different. There have been many accidents involving buses. Some buses have fallen off the road into paddy fields 50 ft below or into the nethravathi river itself, killing many. Some years ago, one bus had even fallen into a large well by the road side in my uncle's house, killing six people & injuring many ! Opinions of a few is never conclusive. I have many relatives in mangalore - & most of them dread the buses on the roads there.

Such blue-line like bus services, in my opinion are a menace & a real danger on the streets in any city. Vans & minibuses, pictures of which have been posted by SB above are safer than them, any day since they are not so rash. Thus, I feel that it may be worth exploring their utility as a provider for low-end services, for which there appears to be a market here.

You speak of an unviable fare regime - are fares being regulated by the government in Kochi ? If so, could you please provide any links to such regulation ?

I don't think one can conclude that bus services are good on the basis of number of trips alone. The public is using them because there isn't any choice, just as there is no choice in bangalore other than BMTC largely, which has about 42% mode share. There are many other factors such as city terrain, distances, economic levels, availability of other modes, etc. that determine trip numbers. Bangalore is a much wealthier city & 42% is decent considering that the road network is diffuse & complicated, & bus trips are time consuming.

I'm not an apologist for BMTC as you state, nor do I want govt to continue in any field other than absolutely necessary. Please refer to this post that you seem to have missed out.

However, I see a ray of hope & think that if groomed properly, BMTC can deliver what we desire safely. It has many things in it's favor, such as the best inventory of buses in the country, profit generation, large depot infrastructure & land assets. BMTC has also been responsive to inputs, unlike many other govt services. Hence, I feel it may be worth engaging with BMTC.

silkboard's picture

Common grounds and possible proposals

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Fair enough - Murali's word against Naveen's on quality of bus services in Kochi and Mangalore. Regardless, I see some common ground in all the well-meaning talk that has happened on this subject.

Just to give this a bit more visibility, allow me to create a new thread to talk concrete proposals around BMTC and possible open-market experiments.

We have been doing good discussions (and some members are engaging with BMTC as well) on suggestions for BMTC to work and improve in the present monopoly setup (local shuttles, bus stands, routing reforms, etc etc). It is only fair that we explore the open market angle also a bit deeper, and without rhetorical for or against arguments.

silkboard's picture

Created this one

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Made a new post to talk proposals:

The debate alone can carry on here at this post itself.

abidpqa's picture

What I expect from BMTC buses

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What I expect from BMTC buses is at least 50% chance to get a seat. If you get in a BMTC bus from Binnamangala to KR Puram after 7 p.m., there is 90% chance you wont get a seat, so I try to go in private buses in that route, school buses and buses with BPO contracts. The reason for lack of buses at that time I believe is the passes, which people buy only in the morning.

About Kochi, there are many faults. Most bus owners employ extralegal measures. Many, many who used to run buses have gone bankrupt because of these practices. Then the number of buses drastically reduce after say 8 p.m. then the preference is profit over service.

The competition between buses, I believe, is different from competition in other fields because driving over the speed limit and other traffic violations are criminal offences and they employ such practices to get competitive advantage.

The interstate buses run by private sector are very expensive. I believe this is mainly because only luxury buses are running in interstate routes. Ordinary buses are prevented from running in those routes by some laws, which is anticompetive but designed by private sector itself. They also try their best sabotage alternate facilities like railways, as has been discussed before.

Sunil Kumar's picture

Dedicated Bus Lanes & More Buses (Routes Rationalised)

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I was browsing through Pune Public Transport & noticed they have dedicated bus routes. This should be bought into Bangalore roads. I know it is tough inside the city but it is possbile out the Outer Ring Road Strecth.

Today I dont think BMTC Staff is not taking in account the collection per bus per day. If they start to do this they wil come to know that plenty of the buses run in full strength & people go standing. This will help them to run more buses on the same route at peak hours. Lot of Buses run on general shift & the buses leave the destinations by 6.30-7.00 & go towards the depot to complete the shift by this way the peak hour traffic is making the private taxi drivers / maxi cabs / private office buses to make money. I suggest the general shift buses also to run in the 1st & 2nd shift mode to make passengar friendly. Today BMTC has over 5000 + buses & I am sure 60% of fleet opreate on the Genral Shift.

BMTC started the Grid Route MBS routes but the blue color have gone. Any reason Y ?

BMTC started Ladies special / Hospital Special / Mall buses service even these have gone. Any reason Y ?

BMTC spent a lot of money in sending its staff to visit lot of Europe countries to understand the Transport Models. What did they learn & what did they implement?

JNNURM is a wonderful way for BMTC to improve its fleet in a more structred way.

If Private operators come into service I am sure there only be fight between the drivers of both the bus services. It will lead to street fights & passangers suffering.

Introduce Bus Bays for buses to be parked in the right place & not hafazrd parking & also this will help passanger the right shelter & not stand elsewhere for buses other then bus stops.


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