Tried reading a bus route number anytime?

Anachronisms in our public transportation buses - from where the bus number boards are displayed to what is displayed on them.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I enjoyed driving in Bangalore (as it was then). The run from J.P. Nagar to Century Club in Cubbon Park was a breeze.

No more. Things have changed – as they will. The human population has exploded; the vehicle population has increased even faster. Fuel prices have gone through the roof. Roads are proving inadequate and increasingly unusable. There is mounting recognition that the citizen should use public transport more and more.


The Administration is undoubtedly doing its bit – except that it is falling woefully short of needs. The ancient ubiquitous red-painted buses, built on Ashok Leyland chassis and bearing the B.T.C. logo, are giving way to sleek Volvo buses, with pneumatically operated doors, individual plastic padded seats, articulation et al. The buses are being brought under a GPS system; one-man crew operation is in vogue during off-peak hours. And above all, B.M.T.C. (the new avatar of the old B.T.C.) claims it is the only metropolitan bus system in South India that is making profits.

All commendable – but there are some anachronisms the citizen can do without.

First: this mono-linguistic fanaticism on destination boards. Pray, do the authorities think this measure is going to make the non-Kannadiga citizen learn the language? This section of the population (which is in a majority in the City) may – and will – learn the language for many a reason, but not to read the destination boards on the City’s buses! All that happens in practice is that the boarding passenger asks the driver/conductor for information on the route/destination – and thereby wastes the time of the crew. I have seen this happen again and again.

Second: the positioning of the destination boards. In some cases, you have to gaze up at the stars, in some others, you look straight. Again, in some buses, it is positioned in the center of the bus (at the top), in some others, it is stuck behind the windscreen, to the left! For goodness sake, can there not be uniformity in this practice?

Third, the sizing and color-coding of the route number. It is generally a struggle to read the number amidst the forest of lettering surrounding it. The typical passenger generally goes by the route number; the entire world over, that is the identification that stands out on the vehicle.

Fourth: a little thing that can save the passenger a lot of running to the front and rear of the bus, viz. a route/destination board hung on the passenger-side of the bus. The buses in Chennai use this and it makes a big difference.

Fifth and final: the primitive ground facilities going under the misnomer of “Bus Stops”. In the areas I have travelled, one identifies a “Bus Stop” by looking at a spot where one finds some ten or twelve people craning their necks in the same direction, “rubber-necking” past a couple of auto-rickshaws who deliberately stop where the bus is scheduled to stop.

To give one example, the bedlam one witnesses at the “Bus Stop” at the western approach to the Jayadeva Circle flyover would have been comic if it were not so pathetic. There are buses coming from the west, joined in by buses entering from the north, and the scramble from passengers running around to identify the routes, then seek clarifications from the crew and finally dodging the parked autos and the mobile vendor, to board the vehicles is a monumental shame for a city that prides itself to be the capital of umpteen things!

Why can’t the city learn from the bus shelter facilities in neighboring Chennai and the more distant Mumbai – they are absolute beauties, the way the various routes are nicely and legibly painted on awnings, both sides of the shelter, spacing apart of the bus shelters for distributing the rush etc.!

There it is. None of this costs million of rupees to implement, but calls for a will to do.

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