BMTC has monopoly in operating road based public transport services in Bangalore. No-one is allowed to operate buses to carry general public in Bangalore. Special and closed situations like Private companies shuttling their employees, and schools hauling in their students are the only exceptions to this monopoly.
There are long ongoing debates on whether breaking BMTC's monopoly is a good, or a viable option for improving quality of road based PT in Bangalore. Reform proposals being floated include range from ideas to let in private players via BMTC starting out with private players to run local shuttles or feeder services, to introduction of competition for BMTC on all routes, to suggestions that BMTC withdraw from operating buses itself and lease out route bundles, clusters or zones to private operators.
Many are not convince that local public transport is a profitable enough business to leave to private players. Many see welfare elements in city based public transport service, and argue that broad coverage, quality services for all, and good driver behavior on road may not be possible in the privatized world.
Purpose of this gyan page is to hold together popular and knowledgable discussions on the subject, and document any concrete proposals or developments on the subject in Bangalore or Karnataka.
BMTC and possible open-market proposals or experiments
We are coming off from this debate. Idea is to leave the debate, and talk specific proposals. There have been some high level talk on the subject from Murali, asj, myself and more, which are around how to open up city transportation market, market size, and good and bad parallels for this from around the world (London, Mumbai, Delhi etc).
Murali, Naveen - I think there is a way for us to join our energies. See, the points for common grounds are:
- Need for a statewide regulator, from safety, amenites and pricing perspective. Refer these maxi cabs in Bangalore and Naveen's alleged dangerous drivers in Mangalore. Both require regulators. On amenities front, refer the contrasting bus stands (public and private) at Channapatna.
- BMTC's statement that local shuttles are unviable business. Not sure if their statement is on record, but we have heard this on some forums. Refer Murali's own business plan for Koramangala shuttles, and Narayan's old proposal about TTMC driven local shuttle serrvices.
- Poor performance of BMTC's "high-end" service - Vayu Vajra. Lets be fair here - BMTC tried something pro-actively and with good intentions - it assumed something anyone else would - that air travellers will need nice a/c buses. And this was a destination oriented service. But it hasn't worked. Whether its pedestrians or top company executives, people are either dying or getting hurt on NH-7 every other week, and Airport vajras haven't seen good uptake for same reasons we discuss so often - bus stands, information about services, time it takes relative to a taxi, last mile connect, bus interchange problems etc.
Now, our goal is common - make about 15-20% of car commuter shift to buses. Or, have BMTC/PT carry 55-60% of city's commuters. Right?
Now again, why would BMTC (or Minister Ashok) be apprehensive about opening up local transportation sector in Karnataka? Two possible things, right?
- Worry about BMTC employees losing jobs
- Possible mistaken notion that citizens at large may not like the change, basically, a belief that there are more Naveens and Vinay Baindurs than Murali or idontspam or Pranav or whoever.
With things laid down like above, wonder if we can lay down some clear and tangible proposals, like, say:
- Opening up local shuttle services?
- BMTC withdrawing from some routes to focus on trunk routes - TTMC to TTMC comnectivity?
- BMTC dividing city into zones, and auctioning routes for each zones with terns and regulations that include pricing guidelines as well?
- BMTC keeping destination oriented routes, and auctioning off direction based routes (Big10, upcoming circle routes) to private players.? Or Vice-versa.
And along with either of above, a constant would be for either KSRTC or DULT or BMTC itself (since it is the local transportation guru) to play the statewide regulator for urban local transportation.
Once we write some clear and little more doable proposals (compared to drastic ones that can't drive conversations like - sell BMTC off, or dismantle BMTC), I think we can try approach Ministers and Transport Secretary or whoever to lobby for them.
Better Bussing For A Green Bangalore
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.
For more, read http://traffic-transport-...
Delhi's bus privatization experiment
Excerpts from a 2007 paper about details of Delhi's city bus privatization process is reproduced below :
The green signal for the privatization of the public buses in Delhi was given in 1992. That year, Delhi became the first city in India to introduce private buses on such a large scale. It was also decided that the private buses would be directly under the administrative control of state transport department of the Delhi administration. By simply being allowed to avail either a stage carriage or a contract carriage permit, any individual operator was eligible to ply a private bus in the city. Individual operators, under various schemes like graduate scheme, SC/ST scheme, ex-servicemen scheme, suvidha scheme and so on, were encouraged to apply for these permits.3 Thus began the era of the Redline bus in Delhi which, with hindsight, one can label as the earliest prototype of today’s Blueline. Soon enough, the Redlines proved themselves to be not only a menace to traffic, with fast and reckless driving, but also gave Delhi a steady death toll of pedestrians and cyclists. Not unsurprisingly, the ensuring public outrage forced the government to call off the Redline scheme. But what should have led to a decisive change of perspective and policy in the management of public transport became instead a simple change of colour. The Bluelines thus were presented as the solution, without exorcising in either spirit or substance the disturbing ghost of the Redlines.
In 1996, the Delhi government attempted a further refinement of the privatization model, which they termed as ‘under DTC kilometre scheme’. The plan was to now forge a public-private partnership; the essential aim being to enforce a level of discipline amongst the disorderly ranks of the many Blueline entrepreneurs, who were now operating across a number of bus routes in the capital. The ‘under DTC kilometre scheme’, was intended to subject the Blueline buses to the operational discipline of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Thus, as part of this new public-private partnership, the Bluelines were expected to follow the DTC timetable and have a DTC conductor (ticket collector) on board, with only the drivers in the employ of the bus owners. Further, the bus owners holding the requisite permit would get a fixed amount depending on the distance covered by the bus in a day. With these changes, the Delhi administration presumed that the scheme would be self-sustaining and require no subsidy. However, the kilometre scheme rapidly broke down, the partnership discontinued by early 2002, and the privately operated Blueline buses were released as an unchecked fearsome force onto the roads of Delhi.
In 2002, the Delhi administration once again sought to tinker with the transport plan with measures intended to be even more radical than those previously taken by the government. The plan, titled ‘Strategy for Deregulated Sectoral Operation of Delhi’s Stage Carriage Public Transport System’, argued that there was a need to further enlarge the scope of the ‘private sector’ in the existing public transport system by introducing ‘a scheme for augmenting the bus fleet …through corporate houses and big operators.’ Clearly, the Delhi administration, as early as 2002, had already begun to introduce corporate profit to regulate public transport in Delhi. This despite the fact that it was only too evident that both the Redlines and the Bluelines had turned dangerous for the commuters in Delhi precisely because of the attempts to privatize and run them on the principle of unchecked profit.
The plan of 2002 was widely criticized, especially by the innumerable small time bus entrepreneurs, who clearly were going to be the first victims of the entry of large capital. While big fish eating small fish is the general trend in processes for capitalist accumulation, the Delhi administration, as an added bonus to corporate profit in the public transport sector, even decided to sink the fishing boat itself so that there would be no check on the fattened big fish.
The brief account of the introduction of private buses in Delhi shows that the present crises of Blueline buses is being essentially sought to be cured by a more relentless commercialization/privatization of transport. The new twist this time round, however, could be that any added gain in safety from the ‘high capacity’ premium buses would be balanced by the fresh problems of access. That is, a large number of the poorer sections of the working population of Delhi will now have to pay higher fares for their safety and travel or be forced to risk travel on perhaps cheaper but even more rickety and dangerous private buses, whose owners will be even more voracious in their appetite for money as they will be constantly squeezed by the big transport players.
One can already envision how the problem of transport access is likely to take shape. The ‘high capacity’ buses are expected to charge high fares because the government would not provide any subsidy, a policy already outlined in the National Urban Transport Policy of 2006. The policy document unambiguously states that ‘the basic principle in financing public transport systems would be that the government should provide the infrastructure but the users (direct and indirect within the city) must pay for the operating costs and the rolling stock.’
Clearly, public transport in Delhi is moving rapidly towards its tryst with full-fledged corporate led privatization. For those making the decisions, it doesn’t seem to matter that the experience with profitable transport has been a chilling race with death. Since 1991, the mass public transport logic on the ground has basically been created to push small bus entrepreneurs to embrace desperate and fatal practices: they have to race for money to fill their buses to the brim with hapless commuters and cut corners with safety regulations. A vast chain of corrupt practices have developed in which traffic police and transport officials have been paid to look the other way instead of checking violations. Finally, roads are now increasingly crowded by the middle class that is apathetic to bus commuters because it drives cars acquired through loans.
In the original scheme of things, in Road Transport Corporation Act 1950, the rationale for mass public transport in the country was to facilitate social and economic development by offering cheaper travel, linking the hinterland with urban centres, providing subsidized service to the poor and students, better passenger amenities and well-organized maintenance. The commercialization of Delhi’s bus service has not only defeated the above but clearly makes the whole question of privatization suspect in terms of realizing goals such as safety, efficiency and affordability.
Thus, the recent attempts to solely blame ‘errant drivers’ is inadequate, if not fallacious. These ‘errant drivers’ have been made possible by the logic of public transport privatization; they are the result not the cause for turning buses into killers. And unless the monster of unchecked profit, whether by small players or corporates, remains the mainstay of the transport planning, Delhi’s roads will be unsafe and the body count will rise. The meaningful debate should be on developing the means to revive and reconfigure a sustainable notion of mass transport as a public good that is regulated by carefully designed norms for efficiency, safety and affordability.