Driving along the Indiranagar-Koramangala IRR yesterday, I was intrigued by the sight of ads, all along the road, offering "AC bus services for your daily commute", showing a picture of what are generally termed as "maxi-cabs" (see picture), by a so far unheard of "ZipGo". Checking on the net (here), I now see ZipGo as yet another "services aggregator" (quite like Uber, Ola, etc), but now for the maxi-cab operations.
The maxi-cab services, operating as a parallel bus service, though licensed as "contract carriages" (which allows only operations like taking a pack of school children out on a picnic, or members of a family for a wedding, etc - check here for details), is an open secret in the city. And, though illegal, they fill a huge demand gap that the BMTC just can't meet.
As such, I have been demanding that the Contract Carriage Act, and such restrictive laws, be amended, so that professional players can come into the picture and provide better and safer services, in order to attract car and two-wheeler users to switch-over to the use of these services, with the ultimate objective of de-cluttering our roads. The new Transport and Road Safety Bill, that's in the consideration of the Parliament (check here), facilitates this, though, even if passed, it's the states that have to implement it.
Presently, these maxi-cab services are being operated by what I term the "riff-raff" lot, who, starting off illegally, go through their lives as the victims of the greed of the Transport Dept, RTO, Traffic Police and such officialdom, and in turn, perpetuate their own illegalities, making for an overall mafia-raaj, controlling the sector, with politicos obviously at the head of it all.
In such a scenario, rather than wait for the Act to be passed (and the states implementing the provisions under it, which is going to take ages), what ZipGo has done is to take the plunge (hoping to benefit from the first mover advantage), into an area that provides a huge business opportunity for the future. In strict legal terms, it's a circumvention of the law, making the commuters "members" of their set up. And, of course, it's going to be challenged by the state, prodded by the BMTC unionists and the associated mafia confederation, quite like they did (it's an ongoing battle) in the case of Ola/ Uber, backed by the auto-rickshaw mafioso. But, obviously, the ZipGo types have their strengths, and are not going to be giving in easily, as neither have Ola and Uber.
As for the citizens (commuters in particular), this should be seen as a most welcome development, in that they can dispense with the use of their cars/ two-wheelers, for the daily commute at least, reducing commute costs, and eliminating driving/ riding stress, therewith, apart from benefiting the city too by causing to reduce road clutter. Besides, with the maxi-cab operations shifting to the organised sector, one can hope for greater accountability from the operating staff (rarely do you see auto-rickshaw's and taxi's with number plates in "Kannada only" these days, as different from earlier); and there could be more too.
But, all in all, this caters mostly to the khaas aadmi needs. For total inclusion, it has still got to be regular bus services run by professional players (with BMTC continuing to operate, if it chooses to), all overseen by a properly constituted and empowered regulatory authority, as detailed here.