In the face of growing criticism, the State Government is reviewing the towing vehicle policy. However, experts say that a long-term solution is needed, one that will boost the existing mass transit systems and decrease people’s reliance on private vehicles.In the last decade, the number of vehicles in Bengaluru has increased exponentially. In 2011-12, a total of 41.56 lakh vehicles were registered. Cut to 10 years later: as per November 2021 data, the number of vehicles in Bengaluru has crossed one crore – 1,00,44,491.
When it comes to private vehicles, the number of two-wheelers jumped from 28.67 lakh to 66.97 lakh, During the same 10-year period, car registrations rose from 8 lakh to 20.94 lakh.
But public transport networks have not expanded fast enough. The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation has failed to increase its fleet to significant levels.In 2011-12, BMTC had a fleet of 6,064 buses. As on February 3, 2022, it has 6,776 buses.
The daily ridership count has dropped from 45.3 lakh in 2011-12 to 33 lakh per day by 2019-20. After the pandemic, it plummeted even further to barely 14.1 lakh. The number of routes BMTC operates has also seen a decline from 2,442 in 2011-12 to 2,196 in 2019-20. With the pandemic, it has dropped to 1,843.
Good public transport
Krithi Venkat , senior project associate (sustainable cities and transport) of World Resources Institute India (WRI) stressed on the importance of public transport in decongesting Bengaluru. “Research conducted by WRI India highlights that to keep pace with the city’s growing population, BMTC will need between 8,000–9,000 buses by 2025. This implies an addition of 2,000–3,000 new buses by 2025 to cover the deficit and another 1,000 buses to replace the agency’s ageing fleet,” she said.
BMTC caters to lower- and middle-income sections of society. “Given this, there is a need to provide adequate and high-quality bus services to meet livelihood, educational, and healthcare needs. BMTC cannot be expected to be self-sustaining or generate profits. The State Government needs to step in and play a crucial role by supporting the agency with funds not only to procure new buses but also to operate existing services,” she added.
People who are fighting for a robust public transport system that is affordable say the Government is not doing enough. “Successive governments have failed to take measures to discourage use of private vehicles and traffic congestion. Though the parking policy was approved nothing has been implemented on ground. There is a need to streamline the towing system by ending corruption and harassment to the general public,” said lawyer and activist, Vinay Srinivisa.
He added that the government should focus more on BMTC while coming out with plans on mass transit systems. “While Namma Metro is getting thousands of crores, BMTC is not getting support even though it has a larger reach and ridership,” he said.
Officials too admit that there is a need to expand the fleet. “Considering the city’s population we need at least 12,000 buses but the existing fleet is not even half of that. The pandemic has hit the finances of the Corporation, despite that we have started inducting new buses in the current financial year by using the State Government and central subsidy on electric buses,” said a senior BMTC official.
Another mass transit system that would help lakhs of commuters, but has been languishing till now is the suburban rail network. Citizens have been waiting for decades for the project to take off but civil works are expected to begin only this year. While Namma Metro has been expanding its reach, work has been slow with many missed deadlines, and last-mile connectivity remains a problem. Currently, 56 km of Namma Metro lines are operational, and the State government has set 2025 as the deadline to complete 130 km.
( This is the third in a series on the issue of parking in Bengaluru and the controversy around towing of vehicles.)