Chennai

For that cool ride

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami inspects the new AC buse launched last month; and file photo of commuters travelling

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami inspects the new AC buse launched last month; and file photo of commuters travelling  

With AC bus services found now on a few roads in Chennai, there are certain inevitable questions to be asked

Chennai is entering a new phase of air-conditioned buses, with the recent launch of services on a few routes. With the re-introduction of AC buses by the Metropolitan Corporation, there are certain inevitable questions to be asked. The primary ones are: One, have there been efforts to weed out problems that led to the failure of the first exercise? What are the factors that can make for the success of a public transport exercise?

Those connected with public transport planning and strategising told The Hindu that operational efficiency of any public transport, including AC buses, depends on four key factors — comfort, convenience, pricing and time of travel.

Every city has been facing some challenges in keeping its fleet of AC buses running. Sometime ago, Mumbai was complaining of low occupancy. Bengaluru also has a similar grievance with its Volvo buses said to be making loses and The Hindu reported that the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation is procuring electric buses fitted with air-conditioning, on lease.

Ashish Verma, Associate Professor Transportation Systems Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, says operational efficiency is not just about the cost of running buses.

The strategy relating to AC buses have to etched differently, because among others, it usually targets a section of people who have the choice of using their own vehicles.

“Unless you provide a compatible, comfortable and convenient service, why will people leave their cars to commute on AC buses?” he says. For this to happen, transport corporations must be able to influence commuters’ travel choices.

Where regular trips are concerned, the service should enable commuters to make these trips faster, says Verma, adding that Bengaluru, for instance, has introduced ‘Bus Priority Lane’ on a section of the city on a pilot basis.

“Unless we introduce bus priority on a mass scale or across a network, commuters will not see much difference in their travel time,” says Verma.

S.A.Vijayakumar, former managing director, MTC, says AC buses must not be viewed in isolation. He says access to bus stops and how passenger-friendly they are, are an important factor in getting a new section of people to patronise bus services.

“Intelligence transport system is very much needed to know real time of buses and also to offer any other information that a commuters looks for before making their journey,” says Vijayakumar.

In the early 70s, he says, a ‘collection incentive’ was introduced to improve efficiency of buses. “I know it’s still there but it is not so attractive for the crew to also play a role in driving the patronage of bus commuters,” says Vijayakumar.

In a report titled ‘Performance of City Bus systems in Major Indian Cities-2017’ by Sai Ratna Chiatnya Gurugubelli, the author says the financial gap can be bridged by taking various measures, including fine-tuning operations, optimising the use of resources and by route rationalisation.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:22:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/for-that-cool-ride/article30712020.ece

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