16 things to get right with Bengaluru’s public transportation

How can the humble bus or the local train be made attractive to Bengalureans? From ensuring seats to creating apps, a lot needs to be done for this. Here are some pointers

Public transport in Bengaluru has deteriorated rapidly. Though the government declares magic bullet schemes such as elevated corridors and bus priority lanes, these pop out of thin air without any city-wide planning for transportation.

Rather than jumping to ad-hoc solutions, we should first be clear about the problem. At the core of this is how we measure the performance of our transportation.

If any public transport agency wants to win over the public as its customers, it will have to consider the following Key Success Factors (KSFs) for mobility, and find optimum solutions.

  • End-to-end connectivity
    • Pickup within 300 m of the origin point
    • Drop within 300 m of destination point
    • Clearly distinguishable day-and-night signage
    • Safe passage (such as unbroken footpaths, wheelchair-friendly design)
  • Assure availability based on travel needs of the population
    • No wait at starting point of the journey
    • No wait at the transit interchange in case of a multi-hop journey
    • Service frequency of 10-15 minutes
  • Reliability (no cancellation of trip for any reason)
    • Alert users in case of rare breakdown/delay
    • Instant alert if the schedule is changed due to last-minute factors
    • Advance alert at least a week before, if a schedule is going to be changed
  • Rapid commute and on-time performance
    • Travel time between any two points not to exceed 60 minutes
    • Travel Time Reliability (TTR) – that is, consistency in travel time – despite varying congestion levels on road
  • Fast and comfortable transit
    • In case of a multi-hop journey, the walk required to board the next transport option should be minimal.
  • Ease of choosing multi-hop/multimodal trips
    • The routes and timetables of different transport modes should be coordinated. And an app should be created that allows the user to pick any of the transport options based on:
      • minimum walking
      • fastest arrival
      • most frequent trips
    • The app should allow users to plan multimodal journey based on real-time availability of buses, Metro and trains, from ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) data
    • The app should be simple to use
    • It should allow the user to set a preference for ‘walking distance’, and show trip options accordingly
  • Comfort at bus stops
    • Availability of seats; shelter from sun and rain
    • Availability of public toilets within 300m
    • Clear signage to point out direction and distance to public toilets
    • Well-maintained garbage bins
    • No nuisance from two-wheelers (For example, when it rains, riders park their bikes on the road, in front of the shelter, and occupy the shelter and block the way to lift/skywalk)
    • No puddle at bus stops (For example, on ORR, all stops are in puddles when it rains)
    • Buses must stop exactly aligned to the bus stop, and shouldn’t require users to race to it
  • Comfort in bus
    • Availability of seats
    • No leaking roof or wet seats
  • Safety 
    • Safety measures for women and children, especially at odd hours
    • BMTC buses must stop along the kerb, not in the middle of the road
    • Prevent two-wheelers from overtaking from the left of buses
  • Affordability
    • Longer the distance, cheaper the ticket must be
    • Special discounts for workers from economically weaker sections
  • Easy ticketing 
    • Without hassle of finding change. For example, a single Smart Card that’s valid in all public transport modes, PayTM, BHIM etc
    • Offline sale of tickets. For example, in many countries, tickets are sold through shops and supermarkets
  • Multimodal smart cards (valid in all public transport modes)
    • For a multi-hop journey, the passenger must buy a separate ticket for each hop. A single end-to-end (multi-mode) ticket would cost much less.
  • Scheduling must be responsive to travel demand
    • Rapid deployment of extra trips if crowd size increases at any spot
    • Allow users to project increased demand due to events etc. There are models to predict the extra traffic generated during events like Aero Show or a Kere Habba. An app should aggregate the extra demands and trigger special trips.
    • Predict demand peaks by analysing past ticketing data
  • Meaningful information at bus shelters
    • The current information is of poor quality. It shows a vague ‘You are here’ map, and a route chart that does not mention either the frequency or timetable. So, instal displays with real-time schedule, and timing of the next two bus arrivals
    • The app must show real-time position of buses along any route
  • Prestige
    • If a person uses a luxury/chauffeur-driven car, it is difficult to wean him away to public transport. An equivalent class, that gives an exclusive-club feel, needs to be created to massage their ego
    • A permanent PR campaign is needed to convince hatchback or sedan users that it is ‘cool’ or ‘smart’ to switch to public transport
  • Emotional bonding
    • The unified multimode transit body needs a short, sweet name and logo. Say, Bangalore Transit (BT). (This is a stop-gap name, for the following discussion. Replace it with a more emotive name)
    • BT must create a humane persona for itself.
    • BT must try to create an emotional bond with its commuters. Mumbai’s suburban trains have such an ecosystem. For example, BT can leverage its commuter database to launch multiple community events (locality-wise).
      We also have youngsters from across India who live away from home. They have an unmet need to connect with others, contribute to society and be accepted. BMTC can tap this emotional need.
      • Create Personal Social Responsibility (PSR) events. For this, get CSR sponsorship from individual businesses, or from lobbies such as CII, NASSCOM, FICCI. Offer free/discounted travel to commuters who register. Sponsor special trips to adopted villages to let commuters work there
      • Invite youngsters to improve the life of BT staff and their family
      • Hold ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ at BT adda in all depots: Collect freewheeling ideas from commuters. List these ideas for voting by the entire commuter community. Honour the winners. Demonstrate that the idea was implemented promptly.
      • Humanise BT staff in the eyes of commuters. Share their stories. (Airlines use this trick in their in-flight magazines)

How do our mobility agencies fare in these KSFs?

Bengaluru has BMTC, Namma Metro, and trains. These agencies operate independently, and don’t coordination (such as trip connectivity, common ticketing and passes etc) with each other.

Of the three agencies, BMTC has a special place since it is the only agency that can serve all corners of the city, and change its deployment with agility and flexibility.

At present, all agencies score very poorly on all dimensions. If they wish to increase penetration and attract private vehicle users, they must make a major effort to make themselves attractive in all these areas.


  1. Muralidhar Rao says:

    Shuttle, the bus service aggregator, is already doing most of these in Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Kolkatta, etc. But, Bengaluru is being held to ransom by the Transport mafia confederation, which includes the “labour aristocracy” as also groups claiming to represent the commuters. What is needed firstly is licencing and facilitating Shuttle kind of operations, and restructuring BMTC as described @ lineshttp://praja.in/en/blog/murali772/2019/07/16/outline-most-equitable-public-bus-transport-model , along the lines of the most successful and equitable Delhi power supply model

  2. Sumit Kapoor says:

    Wishful thinking. The first and most important thing is to get roads in order. That by itself would greatly impact the mobility. Unfortunately in this city people of localities are literally taking to the roads to get to roads around them in order.

    Second would be to have a separate well marked corridor as far as possible for the buses because unfortunately I everyone is in a hurry and size starts mattering on the road.

    Thirdly, better traffic management with clear segregation of lanes depending on the direction of travel using dividers has to be setup.

    Finally a sense of courtesy needs to be inculcated in the population…to learn and respect fellow citizens right on the road.

    But I guess I am also resorting to wishful thinking now.

    • nagesh says:

      Your points are meant for BBMP, which I have not addressed yet.
      This article is meant only for mobility-providers (BMTC, metro and trains).

  3. Satyan says:

    I am a retired person, 70 and busy. I don’t drive a car, but for short distances hail an ‘auto’. It is the bus that I prefer though. But the bus is more often than not overcrowded, and I often wonder why I should undergo the ordeal, when I can afford to travel in better comfort. But how? There are very few Volvo buses originating from the place I live in, Yelahanka New Town. If only there were more Volvos, I and people like me who take their cars out would commute by bus. Many airport Volvos pass in the parallel Bellary Rd. but none touches where I reside. I suggest that some of them may be routed via Yelahanka Police Station. Pl help wean car users to buses.

  4. Malini rao says:

    You have not mentioned anything about private buses. They are doing a good job wherever they have been allowed. So why not allow them in bangalore also?

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