The Metropolitan Transport Corporation is likely to commission a comprehensive city-wide route rationalisation study soon.
A pilot study conducted by Anna University on two bus routes, 21C and 70A, which looked at boarding/alighting patterns and journey time variations through the day, will be submitted to the MTC shortly.
Route rationalisation is the process of scientifically estimating the number of buses required on each route, identifying time intervals when overcrowding occurs, determining new routes based on travel demand, introducing cut-services in stretches of existing routes where occupancy is high and recommending curtailment of existing routes that do not generate adequate patronage.
The study raises some interesting aspects such as the directional dependence on passenger loading during rush hour. Though the same numbers of buses are deployed in either direction, there is a marked difference in occupancy.
Higher efficiency could be achieved by diverting more buses on routes coming into the city in the morning and going out of the city in the evening.
K. Gunasekaran, Assistant Professor, Division of Transportation Engineering, Anna University, said real-time information from devices such as onboard GPS and hand-held ticketing machines were very good sources of information for planning.
The Anna University study recommends combining those two information streams to determine how many passengers are on board a bus on each of MTC 670-odd routes at any given point of time. The GPS on board unit in MTC buses transmits the position of the vehicle every 10 seconds.
“If the day-wise and hour-wise travel pattern is studied, more buses can be deployed on segments which attract the highest passenger load,” said Mr. Gunasekaran.
He said that since the average speed of an MTC bus had dropped to 10-15 kmph, a rationalisation study could help in scientifically estimating the trip duration, based on which a revised route chart could be fixed.
A senior MTC official said while route rationalisation was important, it would not be make any difference unless the fleet was augmented to at least 5,000 buses, from the present 3,400.