Namma Bengaluru: ‘Regulate, don’t ban ride share and car-pooling services’

Commuters say they need as many options as possible in the absence of a robust transport system and feeder services

After a gap of over two years, the Transport Department recently warned Ola and Uber of action if they fail to discontinue illegal ride-share or car pooling service on their platforms. However, like last time, both aggregators continued their service.

The government’s antipathy towards such services has not gone down well with a section of commuters who argue that in the absence of a robust transport system and feeder services, they have to rely on private operators.

Software engineer Sahana S., who relies on ride-share, says, “I find it cheaper than auto fare. If the government feels the service is illegal, it should come out with rules on fares, safety of passengers and other parameters."

Kavya Rao, another commuter, said, “While BMRCL needs a lot of time to connect the various parts of the city, BMTC lacks a reliable and affordable service. Obviously, people would explore other options.”

Transport officials maintain that though Ola and Uber violate the permit conditions of the Karnataka On-Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, they are convinced about the benefits of such services. In 2017, the department had written to the central government seeking guidelines and changes in the Motor Vehicles Act owing to growing demand for ride-share services offered by mobile app-based platforms. The Niti Ayog, too, has favoured ride sharing and car pooling.

A senior official of the Transport Department said, "Ride sharing or car pooling is not illegal if there is no commercial interest involved. The department had written to the Centre seeking guidelines. We are yet to receive a response. As per the existing rules, taxi aggregators can only offer contract carriage services but not stage carriage services, like city buses. Picking up and dropping passengers en route is illegal for taxis.”

However, users feel that department’s action is not warranted. They say that public transport is not evolving with the current needs and the government must facilitate co-existence of various modes of transport, including ride-sharing and bike taxis.

Drivers against shared rides

The government’s view finds some support among drivers who have attached their vehicles with aggregators.

Muniraju, a driver, said, “The shared rides are not economically viable for us considering the growing traffic in the city. More than that, the aggregator charges a commission of up to 30%.”

In the past, drivers had staged a protest demanding better revenue and had also sought a ban on shared rides.

For now, however, the status quo will continue until the department takes a final decision.

BMTC opposing parallel operation

For years, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has been asking the Transport Department to initiate action against private players operating maxi cabs, taxis and vans running parallel to city buses.

After Ola and Uber started car pooling in the city, the corporation took a hit as aggregators began offering the service on popular routes such as from the city to Kempegowda International Airport at cheaper rates.

BMTC Managing Director, N.V. Prasad said, “In city limits, the BMTC has a monopoly to offer services as a stage carriage. Any parallel operation is illegal. We have been asking the Transport Department to take action against ride -share services.”

According to senior officials, BMTC loses over 10% of revenue to illegal operations by private players. Conventional taxi operators in the city have also demanded action against ride-share services

B-Pac, Uber team up to improve city mobility

Uber has entered into a partnership with Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC), a citizens’ group working towards improving governance and the quality of life in the city, to address issues of critical importance such as traffic congestion, sustainable and green transportation along with policy suggestions to reduce individual car ridership and improving asset utilisation for efficient, reliable and affordable mobility solutions.

In the next six months, B.PAC is expected to raise awareness under its B.MOBILE programme, a mobility initiative that works on research, policy advocacy, stakeholder awareness in the areas of sustainable mobility, shared/pooled mobility, non-motorised transit and para transit to ensure first, middle and last-mile connectivity.

Revathy Ashok, Managing Trustee & CEO, B.PAC said, “Our goal is to find a good meeting ground between new mobility solutions and existing forms of mobility powered by technology.”

Last-mile connectivity is worst in far-flung areas

Where BMTC services are scarce or non-existent, residents, communities and companies have joined hands to come up with their own versions of ‘pool’ or ‘share’ rides to ensure more sustainable last-mile connectivity.

At Electronics City, for instance, Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA) operates free hop-on-and-off shuttle buses. Employees need to download an app that allows them to notify their pick up and drop off points. They have to show their work ID card while boarding the bus that connects Phase 1 and 2.

The initiative was launched a year ago. Four buses make three trips each in the morning and evening, starting at 7.30 a.m. Officials said more buses are being introduced.

“Many people were using their own cars or taking cabs owing to the lack of BMTC buses between the two phases. The entire E-city is around 18 km, and the distance between the two phases is around 10 km. We introduced the shuttle service to reduce traffic and encourage more people to stop using private transport,” said an ELCITA official.

Similar free services have been operating in Embassy Manyata Business Park for a decade. Pradeep Lala, CEO, Embassy Services said five shuttle buses are operating within the campus, with each bus making approximately 45 trips in a day.

Namma Bengaluru: ‘Regulate, don’t ban ride share and car-pooling services’

Residents, especially those living in gated communities or apartment complexes in the outer areas, have either successfully sought last-mile connectivity from the BMTC, or devised their own options.

Prakruthi Subramanya, who lives in Good Earth, a housing community off Kengeri, said residents formed their own WhatsApp group almost three years ago, which also serves as an indigenous vehicle sharing platform.

“When we moved in, there was absolutely no transport. There are quite a few people who don’t drive and are looking for options. We tried starting a shuttle service, but it was not feasible as we were few people. Now it has become a habit for daily commuters to post their travel plans in the group. Most people travel to the Mysuru Road metro station. They don’t mind waiting for someone who wants to tag along,” she says.

She added that residents of Sunworth Provident, an apartment complex near Good Earth, were instrumental in getting the BMTC into allotting a bus service into the interior road.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:15:32 PM |

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