As the night sets in, autos hope to grab a share of people who want to reach their home but don't have buses. File pic.
What do you do when you finish your duty at 9 pm and want to get back home, but your office does not have cab services? You are forced to hire an auto or a cab. Because, there is simply not enough bus transport available at that time of the night.
Bangalore is no longer the small provincial town of the last century, but a mega polis where different industries contribute to the city’s income. There is a demand for late night transport in Bangalore, but city’s services are far from adequate.
BMTC’s services have come a long way since the time when they offered services through red buses. They were the first corporation in India to do away with subsidies, also the first to start Volvos in India and also the first to start electric buses. However, currently BMTC does not seem to be caring much for passengers as much as it cares for profit-making.
Nightlife extended, but transport remains woefully inadequate
A city with a population of over a crore needs a transport system round the clock. Unfortunately, this demand seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Even the much touted Bangalore Metro system shuts its services at 10 pm. This is unlike Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) whose services run till 11.45 pm.
'Bangalore lags behind other metros'
Shashank Kumar had started an online petition which was signed by nearly 15,000 people. BMTC initiated a survey to finalize on the routes for night services. He opines that Bangalore lags behind cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata Delhi and even smaller cities like Lucknow when it comes to late night transport.
He says: “One could travel in Mumbai from one corner of the city to the other in Rs.4 to Rs.16 and about Rs.32 in Delhi. But, Bangalore has double meter and at times triple meter at night. Even the buses are expensive when compared to the distance travelled in each of these cities. Every person has a right to public transport and at the most minimal pricing... We need quick access to public transport and we need it fast.”
In case of Metro, it may be argued that the ridership numbers are still too low to extend the services, no such argument can be extended to BMTC. Bangalore has a huge floating population, which means there are people landing in the city and going out of the city at odd hours. Safe and adequate public transport options are a must for this class of customers.
he previous Commissioner of Police, Raghavendra Auradkar in an interaction with BPAC and other civic groups had in fact cited the lack of public transport at night as one of the reasons for not extending nightlife.
However, the government went ahead with its plans of extending nightlife without actually making arrangements for late night transport. The closure timings for restaurants was extended from 11.30 pm to 1 am on all days. Bars and pubs are allowed to be open till 1 am on Friday and Saturday. However, the demand for late night services seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
There seems to be a perception in India that nightlife is all about bars and discotheques, which is not true. People who have lived abroad for a considerable period of time would vouch that apart from regular bars and pubs, nightlife is also about creating a cultural space such as a night bazaar. Most importantly, it is about having a skeletal transport system 24X7. This is unlike what BMTC and BMRCL offer.
Why does Bangalore need 24X7 transport?
Bangalore also has a lot of business establishments, IT and ITES enterprises and industrial units which work 24x7 catering to the needs of clients across the globe. Most companies running these offices are forced to provide transport services to their employees because of the woefully inadequate transport facilities at night.
Late night services would reduce the instances of drunken driving to a large extent, as people can use public transport instead of their own cars or two wheelers.
“Everyone would feel safer in a bus or rail rather than in an auto or unlicensed cab. Most auto drivers fight with the commuters, refuse to drop them at their destination, etc. All these problems could be solved with late night buses or public transport. Women would also feel much safer in a train or bus than in an unknown cab or auto,” says Shashank Kumar, the lawyer who petitioned BMTC.
What is stopping BMTC from running late night services?
The previous Managing Director, Anjum Parwez had made the necessary ground work of finalising on the routes and BMTC had promised to provide late night services through mini buses.
Now, BMTC claims to be operating 55 late night services in the city. Veeregowda G N, General Manager - Traffic for BMTC states the current night services are not running at full utilization, which is why the case for offering late night bus services does not exist. He says: “People are not patronising our late night services. People are still worried about last mile connectivity and therefore they prefer to use their own vehicles.”
Late night bus service by private players?
Muralidhar Rao, founder of Praja-RAAG opines that reputed private players need to be encouraged to enter the intra-city bus city transport in Bangalore. He argues that issues such as women safety, reliability of services, passenger comfort and accidents could be addressed by a regulatory body, which could comprise members of civil society and not bureaucrats alone.
In Rao's words, "Since BMTC is reluctant to run late night services, private players should be allowed to enter this space. BMTC charges quite heavily for its services, but it is still struggling to make profits. It does speak volumes about its inefficiency. Allow private players to enter this space and make profits. At least the quality of service shall improve and it shall help reduce the congestion on Bangalore’s roads.”
Advocates of private entry into transport say that private players should be allowed to use BMTC’s facilities upon the payment of monthly charges to BMTC, which would become an additional source of revenue for BMTC. However, only a proper regulatory mechanism by a competent authority with members from civil society can ensure required quality in the services.
However, this view is not held by all. Shashank Kumar opines that allowing private players would worsen lane discipline woes in Bangalore and increase the cost of public transport in Bangalore. He feels that this may eventually kill BMTC.
However, the online petition and the survey that followed the petition have shown contrary results. More than 15,000 people signed the online petition or extending the services. A total of 6,800 people were given a survey by Change.org out of which nearly 98.36% people wanted the services to be extended beyond the current 10:00 PM. The survey findings also showed that 80% of these respondents were regular users of BMTC’s service. If one considers the results then the case for extending BMTC’s services does exist.
Dedicated services to the city railway station and Yeshwanthpur along the lines of 24X7 airport services could solve a lot of late night transport hassles in Bangalore. BMTC too has thought about this. Veeranna Gowda says that BMTC currently has no plans of running dedicated services to the city railway station as it lies in close proximity to Kempe Gowda Bus stand and there are services round the clock to KBS. He however adds that there are plans of linking Yeshwanthpur Railway station with services similar to KIAL once phase one of metro is complete.
He adds, “We have plans of linking Yeshwanthpur TTMC with the railway station and Yeshwanthpur Metro station.” It is still unclear as to whether this would be a 24X7 service along the lines of KIAL services.
Late night public transport is practically feasible
BMTC seems to have gotten its act right as far as TTMCs are concerned. Most TTMCs do have 24X7 parking facility, which means a lot of thought was put into designing these bus stands. Late night services to these bus stands could mean people could safely park their cars and two wheelers at these stands and use BMTC’s services.
There are instances of BMTC and BMRCL extending their services late into the night whenever there are IPL or international cricket matches. In a city like Mumbai, last mile connectivity even at odd hours is not an issue as the auto services are highly reliable. This is not the case with Bangalore. Late night transport options can definitely could provide some relief to the hassled commuters of Bangalore. However it remains to be seen whether the government will wake up to this need.