From February 7, infotech companies along Outer Ring Road are using a city-provided Common Bus System (CBS) to transport their employees to and from work. The system, initiated by Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) - which comprises 24 companies including Cisco, Intel, AOL etc - is expected to get more IT employees to use buses instead of private vehicles.

BMTC Managing Director Syed Pasha dressed in white shirt towards the back of the bus, and Seetharam Vishwanath, ORRCA General Secretary at the flagging off ceremony of CBS on February 4. Pic courtesy: ORRCA.

ORRCA reached an agreement with the BMTC to dedicate five Volvos (high end AC buses) for ORR companies in two shifts - 8-10 am and 5-7 pm. The fleet was flagged off by BMTC Managing Director Syed Zameer Pasha on Friday after a trial run.

Nagesh Raju, Managing Director (Facilities) at Intel and a Rajaji Nagar resident who uses the facility, says, "There were issues with the shuttle services offered by companies, such as driver not coming on time. Hence I used to go by car to office. But with Volvo, the time of commute is almost similar and it is more comfortable. Drivers are very courteous too."

The five bus routes include Viveknagar-Koramangala, Indira nagar-Kodihalli-HAL, Majestic-Residency Road-Old Airport Road, Hosakerehalli-Banashankari IInd stage and Rajaji nagar-Shanthi Nagar-Koramangala. The 205 employees, who have signed up for using Volvo, have been given monthly bus passes at Rs 2050. Though this is higher than the regular Volvo pass rate of around Rs 1400, users do not mind as a seat would be reserved in the buses allotted for them. The passes can be used in regular BMTC Volvo (Vajra) buses as well, but without the seat reservation.

General public will not be transported in the buses during the shift timings. Employees can board the bus from any prescribed pickup point in the mornings, and in the evenings they will be picked up in front of their respective companies.

Though ORR companies already use chartered buses, CBS is different from them in that its cost is lesser, employees from multiple firms use the buses, all users have assured seats and that the passes can be used for other regular BMTC Volvo buses.

"A regular chartered bus operates at the cost of Rs 25-50 per km, which is quite expensive for companies. CBS works well for the government also, as it gets assured income in advance," says Seetharam Vishwanath, General Secretary of ORRCA. There are plans to include non-Volvo buses in the system as well.

ORRCA had initiated discussions on CBS with BMTC in April 2010. "BMTC's response was enthusiastic; it took 7-8 months for us to discuss and work out the system. Manyata Tech Park in Hebbal also initiated this - they have 30 dedicated buses now. BMTC has assured that ORRCA Volvos will be WiFi-enabled within the next two weeks," Vishwanath says.

BMTC MD Pasha says that CBS and other bus services will be extended to public if they request it, and that there is no particular preference for IT companies. "BMTC has a team that conducts surveys on ridership, number of buses etc in each area and recommends if additional services are required. If public or RWAs approach us, we will hold surveys and deploy more buses," he says.

Software solutions company RCN Tech will co-ordinate the operations of the buses (such as maintaining records of bus timings, employees who use the service etc) along with ORRCA Transport Managers. "For the first three months we will see how the system functions. Then we might increase the number of buses and to get general public, who travel in the same routes, to use the facility. More people in buses would mean better traffic conditions and lesser pollution. We are also developing a system with which public can track the location of their buses," Vishwanath says.

ORRCA companies also plan to support BMTC in its city-wide initiatives such as building 300 new bus shelters, displaying status boards with details of trips and maintaining a bus stop opposite Eco Space Tech Park.