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Case Study: Taking the Bus

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Navshot, digs into his company's efforts at providing a bus service to its employees and comes with some very interesting insights. Amongst other things, he discusses issues in route planning, user expectation, working with BMTC, scalability, quality of service issues and factors influencing them.

 

In general, information provided here may not be accurate, but is a rough sketch of things. This is so because of lack of records or lack of access to the records.

Background/History

Location of the company is C.V.Raman nagar (off old Madras road near  HAL/DRDO/LRDE). The company had contracted out transport services to a private firm.  It ran 6 routes with Swaraj Mazda. The routes covered were (may not be 100% accurate as history is not maintained well):
  • Jayanagar sector (covered Basavanagudi, etc)
  • JP Nagar sector (covered Banashankari, etc)
  • R.T. Nagar sector (covered Cox town, etc)
  • Mathikere sector (covered Malleshwaram, etc)
  • Vijayanagar sector (covered Rajajinagar, etc)
  • BTM layout sector (covered Koramangala, etc)
They had 6 Swaraj Mazdas running two trips each in the morning pickup and two  trips in the evening dropoffs.

Primary disadvantages
  1. Did not cover areas extensively
  2. Since there were only one vehicle per route, the same vehicle had to come back for the second trip: This resulted in uncertain timings for second trip (due to variation in traffic).
  3. Its size was limiting capacity
Hence, there was an initiative to increase the use of company/mass transport, as a wholesome solution to tackle the following:
  1. Personal: lower stress levels, lower fuel bills
  2. Company: lower usage of precious parking space
  3. City: lower the traffic snarls in peak hours
  4. Environment: lower pollution
Study

First phase of study involved a survey to find out the interest for an improved service. Majority showed interest if a company vehicle could be reached within 1 Km from their home. The survey also found that
  • over 70% of the people stay less than 8km from office
  • over 60% stay less than 5km from office
  • around 60% use cars for daily commute
The second phase was to actually locate each and every employee's residence.  MapMyIndia services were used where each employee could login, zoom in and mark where he/she wanted to board the bus (typically the nearest main road which was accessible by a bus).

Design/Planning

Primary objective was to cover maximum employees.

A "draft" set of routes were created that covered close to 100% (maybe around  96-98% in reality) of employees who disclosed their location. A team of  volunteers was created with atleast a couple from each of these routes.

In case where the preferred stop of an employee was not on the route, they were contacted and asked about feasibility for them to use a location on the route. Where ever feasible, routes were re-aligned to cover more employees.

Each of these sub-teams (one team per route) did a reality check and timing. They went in a cab measuring time. Based on this, they published start time and arrival at each of the stops.

Meanwhile, after rounds of talks and negotiations, BMTC was chosen as the  vendor. Some of the advantages with BMTC was:
  • Flexible (Surprise! Surprise!!)
  • Cost effective
  • Scalable
Based on cost/benefit analysis and other data, two trips of pickup and two trips of dropoff were planned.

The whole process was so tailored that the service could ultimately be  broadened to other companies in the neighbourhood and admin run by the  technology park developer where these companies reside.

Implementation

In all there were 11 routes to begin with that served long routes. Short  routes (of less than 8km) were served by Swaraj Mazdas of the existing private service provider.

The bus timings were fixed keeping in mind that it had to reach office by around 8:30AM/9:30AM for two trips. Evening trips started based on distance to the final destination (longer the route, earlier the start). But later it was scrapped and all the buses starting time 5:30PM/7:30PM respectively for first/second trips.

Route details are given in below.

After about an year's successful (maybe only partially) run, the complete administration of running this service was handed over to the developer of the tech. park that anyway maintains other services.

As of now, there are a total of five companies using this service. Since there was a dramatic increase in volume for some of the routes, one extra trip were added for such routes. Some new routes were created too and there are now a total of 14 routes that is served by BMTC.

A monthly charge of around Rs. 1450 is charged per person.

Issues

  1. Since coverage was given a priority, some of the routes were long. For example, the route destined to Yelahanka had to go via Cox town,  R.T. Nagar, Sanjaynagar and Vidhyaranyapura. Currently it stays as a single route as the volume is not enough to split it into two routes. As per the latest calculation, 30 users have to be there for the route to break even (given that there are two trips each in the morning and evening). Due to this, time taken to reach Yelahanka is sometimes as high as two hours in the evenings.
  2. Even though top management at BMTC is extremely corporate-type and flexible to customers, the middle management is still the same depot managers who are slow to respond. This is occationally shown as delay in bus arrival in the mornings and that very rarely don't turn up at all.
  3. Due to low volume for some of the routes, there are only two trips. Ideally, there should have been a trip once an hour barring afternoon. For example, multiple trips each at 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 in the mornings and 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 in the evenings. For this kind of frequncy to be viable, I guess the volumes have to tripple from the current ones.
  4. Since many companies are using the service, the whole system has lost a bit of flexibility. Some companies encourage flexi-time working and some others strictly enforce working hours (start of working hours that is. No restriction on end of working hours, as long as its later than 5:30PM!!!). One can know where it all leads to when the service has to be expanded and improved.
  5. The BMTC service served only longer distanced well. For those who stayed closer (less than 5 km), who were majority, it didn't serve well. Even shorter routes (covered by private) failed to make it  attractive. The reason: Most had to walk 5 mins to the stop, wait  another 5 mins and travel for 15 mins. Whereas, if they took their own vehicle, they could reach in 5-15 mins.

Misc. information

  1. As stated above, the top management of BMTC were surprisingly found to be more flexible than some of the other private guys. They agreed  to many special requests and were also very quick in responses. Very corporate like.
  2. Cost of running big BMTC buses are cheaper than Swaraj Mazdas!! It maybe because of BMTC's own service and repair division. Also, it might be because the buses, in the off hours, can be run on its own regular routes to generate more revenue.
  3. Each trip has a different bus, so first trip bus need not worry  about getting back to cover the second trip.
  4. From the current running, it seems there are no major issues. There is a variation of about 5-15 minutes in the mornings - mostly due to traffic conditions. 90% of the time the variation is around 5 mintues. In the evenings on the other hand, the variation is between 5 to 30 minutes to reach destination. Most of the time the variation is around 10 minutes (invariably late by 10 minutes). Ofcourse, this is dependent on the route. This data is derived after looking at a couple of routes for about a month.
  5. Another interesting observation on commute time in the evenings: Invariably, the bus arrives at destination later in winter/rainy days and earlier in summer's sunny days. One of the reason could be that, more people start moving towards home once its dark - and it gets dark sooner in winter. And, on rainy days, no need to explain - it would end up in multiple jams due to flooding and slow movement of vehicles.
 

Comments

sanchitnis's picture

Excellent work

Thanks. excellent work. Many people used to frown when hearing about BMTC running this service for MNCs. You have done pioneering work. I know now it is being used by many companies in Bagmane Tech Park. Hope the remaining companies take a cue from this. 
 
navshot's picture

Park and ride?

Shastri,

We did not consider park and ride or hub and spoke or such. I think park and ride would make sense esp. when metro lines are operational. Take this scenario - drive from home to the nearest metro station, use metro and land at a station closest to office (which would be old madras road for us) and company would run shuttles from there to office.

 

-- navshot
shas3n's picture

Thanks

Navshot/admin, thanks for sharing this! I only with every company did follow a similar systematic approach to shape its transport policies. Personally, I have worked for two companies using buses as the main mode of transport. One was using BMTC and other was using SRS Travels (private). From my experience, the private operator was more willing to go the extra mile when a bus breaks down or a driver does not turn up. It was also easy for the transport department at work to have one key contact on the bus operator's side and take them to task for things that went wrong. BMTC being a huge organisation, had very slow turn around time for complaints (as you mention) and on several days the bus would just not turn up. Just a thought, for longer routes, is is possible to cost-effectively run a park-and-ride kind of arrangement for employees? Or how about a partial hub-and-spoke model? They would both increase number of transfers for the employees and probably much more difficult to coordinate. But wanted to know if those alternatives were quantified as well. -Shastri

-Shastri

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