Use of personal vehicles should be discouraged: K R Srinivasa
Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation (BMTC) was originally a part of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and was established as a separate organisation in 1996-97. Initially, we were struggling to overcome the accumulated losses of the Corporation. But in 2000-01, we had a turnaround and made a profit. Since then we have not looked back. This year, our profit will be around
र700 crore. So we are comfortably placed as far as profits are concerned. But that is not our objective. As a transport provider, BMTC is more interested in the safe transport of people and goods. It has about 6300 buses running from 40 depots. Very soon it will be the largest fleet owner in the country. BMTC also has the largest number of Volvo buses – 550 – among all the State Transport Undertakings (STUs) in the country.
Many commuters in the urban areas expect comfortable facilities for travel. Taking care of their needs would automatically take care of the needs of running the organisation. We have focussed on this in a big way through the Volvo bus services, and have endeavoured to provide good, comfortable vehicles with modern facilities for Bangalore residents. In terms of infrastructure, BMTC has created a new concept in the form of ten excellent Traffic and Transit Management Centres (TTMC) with an investment of nearly
र500 crore in Bangalore city. This has been possible to a large extent because of the generous support from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) project. TTMCs have all the amenities needed for commuters’ comforts. In addition, they also have commercial spaces which the BMTC uses to generate additional revenue.
Another important service operated by the BMTC is the bus services to the Bangalore International Airport from different parts of the city. With 63 buses running daily on the airport routes, the corporation’s buses cater to nearly 10,000 of the 40,000 commuters who use the Bangalore airport every day. All these passengers use the Volvo buses. Thus, the BMTC Volvo buses have helped reduce the use of personal vehicles to a large extent.
On the airport routes and also on other longer distance routes, the Volvo buses also provide other facilities such as monitors and internet connectivity. On these routes, commuters can surf the net and watch entertainment channels. These are long routes, lasting 45 minutes to about an hour and a half, and commuters like to have these facilities. The organisation also has MOUs with nearly 30-40 software companies, under which it provides them buses on a semi-chartered basis with commuters being able to buy passes and travel to different places such as the Electronic City. BMTC is currently providing 1500 such buses and this year there is a demand for about 300-400 more buses from these companies.
The next sector which the organisation is targeting is the garment sector. There are almost around thirty to forty thousand workers in the garment sector in Bangalore. Instead of taxing them, BMTC plans to give them a subsidy so that they can switch over to public transportation. Plans are being made for an MOU initially of 100 buses which, according to the industry, would increase to about 500 buses for the exclusive use of the garment industry.
Thus, overall our aim is to encourage as many people as possible to switch over from personal vehicles to public transport. One of the issues facing BMTC and other STUs in India is the high level of income tax. The Government of India has to understand the difficulties of the STUs. The income from fare collection can take care of the cost of operations but they need to make money which can be invested in capital purchases. These include purchases of rolling stock as well as infrastructure. Unless the STUs have this type of additional revenue coming from either the operations or from the commercial services, it will be impossible for them to provide high quality public transportation. And unless this is done, we cannot expect people to switch over from other modes of transportation to public transportation.
Additionally, policy makers need to consider disincentives towards discouraging the use of personalised vehicles. For e.g., in western countries many cities have imposed a congestion tax which stalls entry to the Central Business District (CBD) area, particularly during peak areas. If somebody wants to bring his/her vehicle during peak hours to CBD, he or she has to pay a heavy tax. These are the issues which relate to the policy makers and Government of India or the state governments will have to consider this. Public transportation is as important an issue as health or education. The government needs to consider public transportation as one of the welfare measures since most of the time it is the common man who makes use of the public transportation. The initiatives of the ASRTU will certainly be helpful in this regard and we hope to see better things in the future.