Over the past 21 years, the State capital’s vehicular population has increased by more than 560%, but important mass transit systems, namely the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), have failed to keep up.
Between 1997 and February 2019, the BMTC’s fleet has grown by just 4,431 buses. On August 15, 1997, when the BMTC, previously known as Bangalore Transport Service (BTS), split from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), it started with a modest fleet of 2,098 buses operating on 1,036 routes. Today, it has only 6,529 buses operating 2,253 routes. In contrast, the city’s vehicular population crossed the 80-lakh mark in March this year.
This is not enough to meet the needs of Bengaluru, which is constantly expanding, said experts, citing the addition of 110 villages to BBMP limits in 2007 whose transport needs are not being met still. According to urban experts, the BMTC should have at least 10,000 buses in its fleet to serve citizens efficiently. Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL), in its draft transit-oriented policy released a few days ago, too pointed out that there was a need to build infrastructure to accommodate at least 14,000 buses by 2031.
As of February 2019, the BMTC had only 6,529 buses. There have been demands from various quarters that the State government come to its aid by extending subsidies to the cash-strapped corporation so that it can operate more buses and provide services at affordable rates.
“There is a need to increase the fleet of city buses. The State government should also work on prioritising bus transport by reducing the fare and providing dedicated bus lanes. One cannot expect people to travel in city buses when the fare is higher than if they travel on two-wheelers,” said Ashish Verma, transport expert.
Former IAS officer M.R. Sreenivasa Murthy, who was director of BTS in 1992-93, believes that the transport utility has come a long way since 1997. “Take the example of Geneva city where public transport works efficiently. Public transport should be heavily subsidised by the State government or the local body. Only a small part of the operational cost should be recovered from the fare box. Only then will the corporation be in a position to operate city bus services at an affordable cost. The government should not expect the BMTC to earn a profit.”
Bengaluru is expanding at the rate of 39 sq.km a year in peripheral areas, which are not served by good road networks and other facilities.