Bengaluru: Despite dip in footfall, BMTC stays away from on-demand service | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: The pandemic outbreak has dealt a deadly blow to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) with daily ridership dropping from 51.3 lakh in 2014-15 to 35.8 lakh in 2018-2019 to 22 lakh now. Apart from virus scare and work-from-home scenario, BMTC’s fixed route system has been a major hurdle.
Though the city’s travel pattern has changed over the years, a majority of BMTC’s fixed and scheduled bus services continue to be on routes like Majestic, KR Market and Shivajinagar. This means passengers headed to other destinations will have to change buses at multiple places, wait longer at bus stops and even if they get one, there is no assurance of seats and can often lead to haggling with conductors over change.
Many passengers have been demanding BMTC launch on-demand buses which operate like phone-booked cabs. However, similar proposals in the past have remained on paper. “BMTC should operate buses on routes and timing as per public demand instead of fixed routes and timings. It’s far better than running near-empty buses on fixed routes which was designed several decades ago. The city has transformed and travel patterns too have changed,” said Vivek Kalkur, a public transport activist.
“There was a huge demand for direct bus service between Kudlu Gate and HSR Layout, but BMTC failed to operate it. Earlier, farmers from the city’s outskirts used to travel to KR Market to sell products but it has now reduced. Buses are required for poor people including construction workers and now they all have smartphones and on-demand bus service will benefit them also,” he added.
Experts say on-demand service which allows people to book a bus (14–22-seater mini bus) for pick-up and drop-off through an app could be effective. The benefits include tracking of the location of a bus and its estimated arrival time, free WiFi and guaranteed seating. A similar service is available in major foreign cities such as Helsinki in Finland, Chicago, New York and Washington in the United States and Sydney in Australia.
In 2018, the then BMTC managing director V Ponnuraj had said they will allow passengers travelling in a group to book a service through an app. BMTC was supposed to pick up customers from residences or offices and ferry them to their destination by the fastest route with as few stops as possible. Passengers with monthly passes could request a pick-up at their location provided at least 20 will board the bus. However, the plan was scrapped after his transfer.
Many app-based bus aggregators have been forced to wind up operations in the city after the transport department seized their buses for plying without licence. BMTC has exclusive rights for stage carriage permits in the city and private operators are not allowed to pick up or drop passengers from different points. The transport department had earlier cracked down on app-based mini bus operators like Zipgo and Ola Shuttle, citing violation of permit rules.
“There are no immediate plans to launch on-demand service. Passengers will soon be able to track buses through our new app. They could book seats in advance in Vayuvajra airport buses through KSRTC website. There are no further plans. We earlier had some discussions with firms like Shuttl, which runs app-based office bus service, but it didn’t take off due to various reasons. Now, most AC buses are not operational due to less demand” said a senior BMTC official.

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Sagar Biswas

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