When the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) announced a steep fare hike on January 20, it projected a 40% increase in revenue. Officials at that time did not talk of commuters finding cheaper options to the State-owned buses. But two months on, the chickens have indeed come home to roost. The corporation’s customer base has shrunk by some 30%, leading to a dent in the hike in revenue.
A senior official of the MTC said that before the fare revision, the daily collection was ₹2.5 crore. This has increased to ₹2.8 crore. Officials had earlier claimed the increase would be ₹1 crore.
The suburban train services on all the four sections, with their lower fare and inexpensive monthly pass system, have been the principal beneficiary. The Tambaram/Chengalpattu line and the Mass Rapid Transit System have been big gainers. Share autos are filling the gap, especially where bus services are poor.
Holding its ground
The deluxe services seem to be particularly off-putting for commuters, who say that the old, creaky buses with seats that are peeling off in no way justify the premium fares. Where the MTC has been able to hold its ground are on arterial routes In these, it has increased the number of ordinary bus services and replaced the deluxe buses.
On some routes, the lack of viable alternatives has forced commuters to stay loyal to the MTC. Several bus services like 27 (Anna Square to Avadi), 29C (Besant Nagar to Perambur), D70 (Velachery to Ambattur Industrial Estate via Koyambedu), 583 (Tambaram Sanatorium to Sriperumbudur via Oragadam), and 66 (Keelkattalai to Poonamallee via Kundrathur) continue to be attractive.
S. Ranga, a resident of Nanganallur, said several bus services in the area, which were previously operated in the express or deluxe mode, had been converted to ordinary services. He pointed out that the MTC could do well by operating bus services from Nanganallur to Ambattur, as there are no direct services on this stretch.
The only saving grace for the MTC has been the monthly bus pass and ₹1,000 pass segments. Anxious commuters seem to find the discounts offered by these passes more attractive now. A senior official of the corporation said that in the past two months, the sale of the ₹1,000 bus passes had been increasing, with 85,000 passes sold in February, earning ₹8.5 crore, and 94,000 sold in March, earning ₹9.4 crore. The sale of the monthly season pass has also increased. February saw 39,906 passes sold (revenue ₹1.57 crore) and March saw 41,000 (revenue ₹1.61 crore).