Use bus as a solution to traffic

BMTC has just 5000 buses, and carries 37 lakh people every day. Bangalore's 32 lakh cars and two-wheelers carry 32 lakh people.

During commute time in Bangalore when people are traveling to their offices, how many people do you see:
1.    In a car?
2.    On a motor bike?
3.    In a bus?

Answer : 1 in a car, 1 on a bike, 75 in a bus.

Here’s a small transportation engineering exercise.
If you count the number of vehicles on the flyover in the picture below, you’ll find that they add up to 150. Assuming the people in these vehicles are all going to or from work, each of the vehicles is carrying 1 person.

That means there are 150 people between the two red lines.

buses, vehicles

Pic source: G V Dasarathi.

Lets now divide these 150 vehicles into two groups of 75 vehicles each.


Pic source: G V Dasarathi.

If each of these groups of people decide to travel by bus instead of in their cars and two-wheelers, this is what happens (remember, we already decided that the average bus carries 75 people during rush hour).

buses, vehicles

Pic source: G V Dasarathi.

The congestion magically disappears !
This is no magic. It is proven every day on Bangalore’s roads by BMTC.
BMTC has just 5000 buses, and carries 37 Lakh people every day.
Bangalore’s 32 lakh cars and two-wheelers carry 32 lakh people.

This means that 0.15 per cent of the vehicle population is carrying 50 per cent of the human population.

To carry a person 1 km, a bus:
1.    Uses 1/30th the space of a car, and 1/20th the space of a two-wheeler.
2.    Emits 1/6th the pollution of a car, and 1/10th that of a two-wheeler
3.    Uses 1/15th the quantity of fuel of a car, and 1/3rd that of a two-wheeler

With extensive use of buses this is what can be achieved in Bangalore:
1.    Number of vehicles reduced to 1/10th
2.    Air pollution 1/6th of what it is now.
3.    Traffic density 1/10th of what it is now.
4.    Commute time reduced by 1/2
5.    Commuting cost reduced to 1/5th.
6.    Accidents reduced dramatically.
7.    The money that the government spends on road infrastructure will be available for improving water, power, education, medicare and housing.

We don’t have to travel uncomfortably, 75 people in a bus. We can have multiple classes of buses, like BMTC already has.

So where is the problem ? Why can’t we do this?

Let’s hear it from someone who solved the problem in Bogotá, Colombia, which has the same population as Bangalore, in an area twice the size, and had a similar traffic problem.

When Enrique Peñalosa became mayor of Bogotá in 1998, he asked a question that is changing the way people all over the world think about cities: “In Bogotá, where 85 percent of the people do not use cars for their daily transport, is it fair that cars occupy most of the space on the streets?

The city built 70 miles of bicycle routes and closed several streets to cars and converting them into pedestrian malls. Car use was restricted during rush hour, each car banned from the downtown area two days a week, based on the license plate number. The results were dramatic: the average commute time dropped by 21 minutes, and pollution was reduced significantly.

The city had been debating a multi-billion dollar train subway system for decades, but Peñalosa decided to build a rapid transit bus system (BRT) that was far cheaper.

In the words of Peñalosa, who says he succeeded because he focused on improving the lot of people, not their cars. “All over the developing world, resources are used to help the affluent avoid traffic jams rather than mobilising the entire population”.

People ask him why this is not done everywhere, if it is so simple and inexpensive. He says, “I tell them the only issue is a political one. They don’t want to take space from cars and give it to buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians”.

After Peñalosa showed the way, scores of cities the world over have switched to bus systems.

What we in Bangalore need now is our very own Peñalosa. ⊕



The Bogota Transformation : Vision and Political will

Indore Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) : Executive Summary

Presentation ‘Urban Transport in India:Beyond the Nanoand Metro …and Back to the Basics’.by Dr. Madhav Badami, Asst. Prof., School of Urban Planning, McGill Univ., Canada

Introduction to BRT


  1. Palahalli Vishwanath says:

    Interesting article. The problem in Bangalore is that some routes are pampered and some are starved. For eg. I have to take 2 buses to go from basavanagudi to koramangala (about 7 kms) where as I see umpteen buses going partially empty in some favoured routes. These nomalies have to be remedied.

  2. Aswin S says:

    I have been using only public transport ever since I started going to school as a kid.

    I have not inspired even one other person to do the same all this time. Most people don’t read, see or hear about the advantages it gives OTHERS and change.

    Everyone thinks that if they change, they’re going to turn out like me, a loner for the cause. This collective thinking is one issue we face.

    The other set of people, of course, won’t do it unless you force them to.
    Banning based on number plates is going to stop over 50% of the two wheelers and 25% of four wheelers (an outright guess). But there are people who will still pay the policeman and travel the same way.

  3. Gautam says:

    There are a hundred ways of encouraging people to use public transport but there is absolutely no willingness, let alone determination, on the part of the govt. to do it. The suggestions in the above article also need a cultural change in our society/ a change of mindset. I wonder when our govt. will wake up and force these changes. Its about the survival of the city itself!

  4. PK says:

    Lets try to understand why people do not like to switch to public transport.
    1) Fares –> I feel that the fares are too high considering switching multiple buses to the destination. Daily passes for Volvos are also very expensive. Given that 1/30 of space, 1/6th the pollution, and 1/15th of fuel, why is the fare 1.5 times?
    2) Crowd –> The example given here is 75 ppl in a bus. Is that realistic? Wouldn’t that add to hazards and accidents given that seating capacity is much lesser
    3) Connectivity –> One cannot depend on just buses to reach destination, autos come in picture and the less said about them the better
    There are loads and loads of such problems which needs to be addressed beforehand.

  5. smilie samuel says:

    What a foolish idea! If people start using buses, then the gvt have to put more effort to control the traffic of buses. its better to introduce flights instead of buses.

  6. KC says:

    Until BMTC introduces the grid concept bus usage will not increase. This point to point or hub and spoke concept will not work. I dont want to go to KBS when ever i dont have a direct bus. And it is humanly impossible to remember all the bus route numbers and where they go.

  7. Radhika Raj Narayan says:

    If BMTC can make a start by providing (and sticking to)the time-tables of various routes, specially the newly introduced vayu vajra and Big 10 routes, people can plan so that they spend minimum time waiting at the bus stop.

  8. AKS says:

    Honorable Minister,
    I have been travelling in BMTC buses from the past 2 decades. For persuading people to use BMTC and leave their vehicles at home, there are still many miles BMTC has to come along.
    Today morning, there were no G4 buses (which I use regularly) from 7:20 to 8:10 AM. This is a route which needs a bus every 10 minutes. The bus which arrived was extremely over crowded and it was a horrible sight to see women and old hanging on to whatever object they found. This is not a one off incident and happens almost every other day.With this kind of pathetic service whom do you expect to use BMTC, leaving their vehicles?

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