Monday, June 21, 2010

Bus Day - Bangalore

It's an era of publicity and creating awareness. There are thousands of awareness campaigns going on - from "save tigers" to "sev puri". One tool of creating awareness is commemorating a "Day" for that occasion. And so, we have the Earth day, the World Environment Day, etc to create awareness about environmental issues. The newest one in this series of "Days" is Bus Day.

Bus Day, is observed on the 4th of every month to get more people to use public transport - which not only reduces traffic but also reduces carbon emission. I think it's a very noble cause - and i am sure there must be some study done by someone to show how many more people used the public transport and how many liters of petrol/diesel got saved and by what degree the carbon footprint reduced. And I am sure that these numbers would be very encouraging.

But, on the 3rd and 5th of the month, the situations goes back to where it always were. It, essentially, implies that due to the awareness, publicity and hype created on the name of the Bus Day the pollution reduced. This indeed marks the success of the Bus Day as a campaign.

Let's look at the bigger picture. The reason for having the Bus Day is, to put in simple terms, reduce pollution and traffic And the act to achieve this is to create awareness among people to use public transport. It's like giving them a test-drive and telling them that it's not that bad to use buses.

I would like to take a step back and try to answer a more pertinent question - Why do people use private vehicles in the first place. There could be multiple factors - status symbol, convenience, hobby-ist riding/driving, etc. I think, a lot of people are buying entry level cars and bikes because there isn't a good public transit system in place.

The condition of buses are good. The fares are reasonable. But the problem is  that the buses are very infrequent. I thought that it is to do with the last mile problem. Maybe, the place where I stay is cut out from the city despite hosting an IT park. I later figured that there are a lot of places facing the "last mile" problem. Even the main roads - the one connecting Koramangala to Indiranagar - has very infrequent buses. Not only the buses are infrequent, there are high chances that you would need to change 2-3 buses if you want to go to a far off place which is not in line-of-sight. For example, from Cox town, if you want to go to most part of the city - you would need to take a bus to Shivajinagar and then take another bus. So, both the problem of infrequent buses and lack of adequate direct buses compel people to take private transport.

A stark contrast to this is Kolkata. Here, even people having private vehicle prefer metro railways as it is faster and doesn't have problems of parking. Most people in Kolkata uses public transport - a good indicator would be the percentage of college students using private transport. I am sure it would be way below that in Bangalore. Now, I understand, there could be multiple reasons to it - from cultural ones to historical ones. But the fact remains that the key driver to this is good public transport system. The buses may not be as comfortable as in Bangalore but they are frequent and connects different parts of the city well. I guess, from what i have read, that Mumbai is very similar. The local train network is very good and people prefer it to their private cars. I am, no way, saying that transport system in Kolkata/Mumbai is better/worse than Bangalore. transport system/traffic has many other factors which i have not considered.

We should have the basic facilities in place first. Creating awareness is very important but doesn't come before creating the core product. Get the buses on road. Make them frequent. And then, the public would start using the services.

With the current infrastructure, Bus Day campaign is akin to spreading awareness on how good pulses are for health in a famine affected area.

12 comments:

Crusader June 21, 2010 at 11:52 AM  

Nicely said. Good analysis.

alpesh June 21, 2010 at 5:20 PM  

prashant, i agree with u partially on infrequency factor but it's not the only factor as for example i have recently been to delhi and believe me there is quiet a significant change in the transportation now, as compared to 7 yrs back.. govt has done a lot to improve public transport u will find direct buses to almost all the destination u wanna visit, but still ppl over there use private transport as bcause of status symbol, in typical kichdi's Hansa tone...."Har ek ghar mein car to honi hi chahiye!!"

Anonymous June 21, 2010 at 6:45 PM  

I think one of most important factors is population. And population as a problem comes into picture in peak hours. To give you an example of Delhi Metro, in peak hours, even though the frequency of metros is pretty high, one would hardly find space to stand.

A possible solution is not only to have a good public transport system, but also to have it in the form of different modes of transport - possibly a combination of metros, local trains, buses etc.

I hope Bangalore metro would be completed soon, or probably something like Commonwealth Games is needed to give that kick.

avik June 22, 2010 at 1:17 AM  

Prashant- Nice article.
I cannot comment on the bus facility as a mode of public transport in Bangalore since I have not used it there but I would like to add to your article the fact about Hyderabad buses.
They are least bothered about public. In most cases teh buses do not even stop for adequate time for passengers to get down or board it. This leads to the risk of life. The conductors are truly ill mannered and misbehaves with almost everyone in the bus.
But never the less I would still prefer to go by a bus if I get to catch it :)
since few minutes of pain may give me few minutes to live more.

Prashant Mehta June 22, 2010 at 3:13 AM  

Crusader ji
Thanks!

alpesh ji
I agree with you. There, definitely, is a cultural and social dimension to it - but the degree of it is dependent on the demography and region. India is a diverse country. The reasons/logic applicable to Delhi may not be completely applicable to Bangalore.

Anonymous ji
yes. more alternatives is a good option. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai - all have more than one form of mass transit system.

avik ji
Yeah. I have witnessed that in Hyderabad. I thought it was a one off incidence, but looks like it's not so. The ride in Bangalore is much safer.

Prashant Mehta June 24, 2010 at 1:15 AM  

Hey Guys,

Stumbled upon - http://www.mybangalore.com/article/0610/internet-and-lcd-screens-in-volvo-buses-catering-to-bia-.html

A nice initiative! A progressive one as well. But the need of the hour is something more fundamental. But that shouldn't stop everything else

Krishna July 3, 2010 at 1:59 AM  

nice article...reading ur blog after a month....

The solution to the given problem probably would be to introduce different mode of transports (frequency is key) and then may be awareness campaign....

Prashant Mehta July 3, 2010 at 2:54 AM  

Krishna ji

Thanks! I agree with your solution, in principle

Thoughts.. July 5, 2010 at 12:45 AM  

I believe that the "frequency of buses" have been addressed by the Central Gov by procuring buses under the Jawahar lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), a phase II is also very likely.
Moreover, as the country becomes more developed, people like us would be forced to take accommodation in the outskirts of new cities.(rents in the city being skyhigh), so the total possibility of eradication of private transport is not very viable as the time saved by using a private vehicle is immense.I personally use a private vehicle to go to office to save atleast 90 min in transit time.
Regarding the pollution factor, even if we use private vehicles it can always be eco friendly. Not far are the days when we migrate to CNG, Hybrid and even Bio fuels. I even saw a hybrid Auto and Motorbike by TVS in this years Auto expo.

andu August 13, 2010 at 5:28 PM  

Why go out of home for work in the first place? People who are IT/software profession can work from home. I agree some staffs are required to be present in office but majority of the work can be done from computer & phone at home. IT is suppose to make process easy and efficient but i see the roads of Hyd(and probably blr) conjusted with cars owned by s/w professionals only.

Kartikay September 20, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

I believe a good solution involves a mix of buses, high speed rail transport, walkways and (for those who have difficulty in walking) autos.

To travel longer distances, lets say 10 kms or more, one should take a high speed rail transport (metros, etc). Bus routes should aid this network, taking the commuter to shorter distances. Finally, the last mile to your home should be a short (upto 10 mins) walk or even an auto ride.

This way I can easily travel from one corner of the city to the other, land at a nearby shopping center, and then come back home with probably 30-45 minutes spent in traveling alone!

Ideally, private "road space" should be converted to public "road space", rather than widening roads and increasing private "road space" :)

Great blog!

bashabai April 14, 2014 at 5:05 PM  

We should have the basic facilities in place first. Creating awareness is very important but doesn't come before creating the core product. Get the buses on road. Make them frequent. And then, the public would start using the services. Congress Youth Leader in Bangalore Central

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