PRESS RELEASE - Bus Karo: Expanding Opportunities to Improve City Bus Services in India
Bengaluru, 17 November 2016: With fares lower than most modes of public transport, city buses plying long and short distances, offer an economically viable option to over 25 billion Indian commuters every day. However, despite being the backbone of urban mobility, the country’s bus penetration has been dismal – at 1.29 buses per 1,000 people in 2009, compared to China’s 1.89 and the UK’s 2.77, and less than a fifth of Brazil’s 10.3 (Bus Karo 2.0 – Case Studies from India , 2014). These numbers have seen little improvement over the years.
For the sustainable growth of the Indian economy – one which synchronizes with the country’s increasing urbanization, the people’s spending power and our climate change commitments – it is important to facilitate faster, more frequent and upgraded bus services in our cities today.
To deliberate on this issue and to devise a strategic vision for improved bus services in India, WRI India, in partnership with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, organized a two-day workshop ‘Modernizing City Bus Services – Vision 2022’ on 17 and 18 November 2016. This workshop was part of WRI India’s #BusKaro campaign.
National and international experts, as well as officials of State Transport Undertakings (STUs) and Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) from Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Delhi among others, participated in the workshop and discussed issues pertaining to finance, innovations, policy changes, efficiency and safety to improve bus services in India.
Successful models and initiatives in taxation policies, subsidies and innovative financing were discussed with a focus on improving the overall operational efficiency and safety of bus systems. A forward-looking roadmap was drawn for city bus systems, by bringing in major reforms in the management and operation of STUs.
Speaking about improving bus services in Bengaluru, Dr. Ekroop Caur, Managing Director, BMTC, Bengaluru said, “My vision for Bengaluru is to have 60 percent of the city’s modal share on BMTC buses. As a way forward, the city’s bus modernization plan should be technology driven, cashless and aimed at providing high quality services to its citizens.”
Leading a discussion on promoting innovations in public transport, Mr. Rajender Kumar Kataria, Managing Director, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), said, “KSRTC has been a pioneer in introducing city bus services in over 20 cities – 670 buses with 450 ITS enabled buses in Mysore. Through the use of public transport systems, we can reduce congestion, improve road safety and contain pollution levels.”
In order to help cities understand economic opportunities, WRI India also demonstrated an Accessibility Toolkit at the workshop. This toolkit enables experts to measure people’s access to jobs, schools, markets etc. using various modes including public transport, walking, biking and driving. It is being tested in Bangalore to understand transport effectiveness. The tool will also help in developing scenarios and improving transport access for better serving.
Pawan Mulukutla, manager of Urban Transport at WRI India said, “Identifying the need for better bus services in the country, WRI India launched the ‘Bus Karo’ campaign in 2009. Our vision is to ensure that bus transport in Indian cities comprises at least half of the modal share of all motorized trips by 2022. We hope to have 10 million or more people using buses and at least one-third of the modal share in small and medium-sized cities by this year.”
Among other notable participants at the workshop were Mr. Nagaraju Yadav, Chairman, BMTC; Mr. O P Agarwal, Executive Director, Indian School of Business; Mr.Victor Nagaonkar, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport; and Mr.Ravi Gadepalli, Shakti Foundation.
The two-day event identified the following key takeaways:
- There is need to set up a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities (UMTA), a statutory authority with legal and financial capability in all major cities, for coordinating multi-modal transport, master plans, urban transport standards and regulate fees and fares. This will ensure coordinated planning and an integrated management of urban transport systems in India.
- The Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) – that the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) encourages cities to prepare as part of its long-term transport strategy – needs to be made more participatory and citizen-friendly. There is also a need to make its format more dynamic. For instance, it can focus on a city’s budget allocations, as opposed to the current method of listing funding requirements of projects or aim at better demand management, as opposed to focusing on the supply side of transportation.
- Taxes levied on city bus services should be reduced considerably. Today, there are about 12 various taxes collected from public transport operators including the Motor Vehicle Tax and Fuel Tax. This issue should be unanimously resolved by the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU), the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and state governments, immediately.
- State Transport Utilities need to explore energy efficient alternative like electric buses. While these buses come with high capital expenditure, power generation, battery life and other operational/maintenance issues, they will reduce conventional energy consumption considerably. From the economic perspective hybrid buses may also be a viable choice.
- City bus services need to be modernized through better data collection using crowdsourcing and other digital means. Efficient use of data is necessary for optimising services.
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