Bengaluru's Public Transport During Covid-19 Crisis
Bengaluru's Public Transport Through Shuttle Bus Services
Bengaluru is the fastest growing city in Southern India. Bengaluru caters to the popular technology and start-up hubs and has created many entrepreneurs. The city has witnessed a growing demand for public transport. Apart from public transport auto-rickshaws, Ola and Uber cabs, metro trains, self-drive vehicles, car-pooling, rental bikes, and scooters form a major source of transport for the urban community. The Government's Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation or BMTC is the lifeblood for most of the city commuters and operates in every corner of the city. BMTC has been operational in service from the past several decades and prior to 1997 it was popularly known as Bangalore Transport Service or BTS.
In 1997, BTS was rechristened as BMTC and was further bifurcated from inter-city bus services operated by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation or KSRTC owned by the government. The primary aim of bifurcation, amongst others, was to focus on city services and improve efficiency. BMTC now operates with over 6000 fleets of buses spread across 40 bus depots. BMTC has three primary bus station that caters to different areas, they are-
- Kempegowda Bus Station- Located in Central Part of the city
- Shivajinagar- Located near Central Business District
- Krishna Rajendra Market- Located near central Bengaluru and caters to semi-urban and rural areas.
Apart from the above three bus stations, BMTC also operates several bus stations integrated with Traffic and Transit Management Centers (TTMC) There are several TTMCs in Bengaluru that also operate as bus stations catering to the local commuters. Some of the popular TTMCs are located in Whitefield, Banshankri, Domlur, Shantinagar, Kengeri, etc.
Categories of Shuttle Services Operated in Bengaluru
BMTC operates on the bus routing system. There are primarily three categories of bus routes operational across Bengaluru by BMTC buses.
- Black Board buses
- Red Board buses
- Vajra and Vayu Vajra Buses (Air-conditioned services)
Route numbers 1 to 201 caters to urban areas under the jurisdiction of municipal corporation limits. They are popularly known as Black Board buses as the destination boards are painted in black colored fonts with white background. Blackboard buses operate only within municipal corporation limits and have certain distance restriction enforcements.
While the route numbers 202 till 600 and onward series operates in the residential, peri-urban area and caters to a large number of commuters. These buses operate outside the municipal corporation limits and the display boards appear in red-colored fonts with white background and are thus known as Red Board buses. However the ticket fares are higher in red board buses when compared to the black board buses. Commuters in red board buses are allowed to board and alight buses from blackboard destination limits too as most of the red board route travel via Bengaluru's municipal corporation limits. Both the black board and red board operations of BMTC buses comprise of only non-air-conditioned services.
BMTC also operates air-conditioned shuttle services both within and outside municipal corporation limits. The city's air-conditioned shuttle services are popularly known as 'Vajra' (Diamond) services. The route numbers for air-conditioned BMTC shuttles begin with a prefix V-XXX where XXX denotes the route number. Vajra services operate on the popular and major center of business and IT hubs such as Marathalli, Hebbal, Electronic City, Whitefield, etc.
BMTC further operates air-conditioned shuttle services to Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport from various residential areas and major business hubs of the city. Airport shuttles are popularly known as Vayu Vajra (Air-Diamond) and operate with fixed schedules and trips on a 24-hour basis from the airport. More details about Vayu Vajra airport shuttles can be read in this HubPages post. The ticket fares for airport shuttles are fixed on various factors including distance from the airport and taxes. Further information can be accessed from BMTC's information desk available at Bengaluru Airport's BMTC bus terminal.
Public Transport in Bengaluru During COVID-19 Crisis
As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every sector across the globe, Bengaluru's public transport has also been severely affected. During the initial stages of the pandemic, BMTC operations were completely canceled and no buses were operated within the city under its jurisdiction. The move affected many people including regular commuters who otherwise relied on BMTC for commute within the city. Several measures were undertaken to otherwise contain the spread of the virus by effectively disinfecting and cleaning the buses, providing sanitizers to the crew while instructing the crew and commuters to adhere to social distancing norms.
For few days BMTC began its limited bus service to the commuters by ferrying only the passengers in need of medical attention whilst operating 'Hospital Special' buses. These buses operated from dawn to dusk while restricting regular commuters movements alongside enforcing social distancing norm for travel in buses. While considering the vulnerability of air-conditioned travel during the pandemic BMTC also ceased air-conditioned operation of shuttle services in the city and to the airport.
BMTC has currently commenced its regular bus services from dawn to dusk in a graded manner. The buses operate frequently on earmarked routes originating from various BMTC bus stations. The crew has been instructed to enforce social distancing norms while making masks mandatory for travelers and restricting only 30 passengers per bus. As also the need for a cash-based transaction has been done away with, which otherwise involves human contact exposing to vulnerability.
BMTC may further utilize technological infrastructure to implement a cashless ticketing eco-system and implement the same at least on an experimental basis on some route. Thus below are some of the suggestions which can be implemented to encourage cashless ticketing system in BMTC buses-
- Introduce introduced smart-card based ticketing system which encourages online payment of tickets and ensures contactless ticketing system
- Designate ticketing counters at major bus stops and bus stations to issue only pre-paid tickets upon online payment. The system will discourage cashless transactions whilst allowing discounted ticketing fares upon online booking.
- Introduce online booking payments to purchase tickets at least for daily, weekly, and monthly passes. The online booking of tickets will ensure hassle-free and cashless payment system and such an innovative solution will help BMTC to surge into a technological marvel
- A token-based travel arrangement will ensure a paper-free environment otherwise in practice now. Smart tokens may be issued to travel in BMTC buses in lieu of paper tickets and thus help reduce carbon footprint especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Smart card ticketing may also be integrated to travel in Bengaluru's Metro Trains. The integrated smart cards may act as a single source to travel and utilize public transport extensively through the services of BMTC buses and metro trains
- BMTC may introduce advanced booking of seats only to cater to airport shuttle services for now. The move will encourage the passengers to book online tickets to the airport and thus help BMTC to retrieve a passenger's basic travel details in the system while adhering to social distancing norms during travel
- Airport shuttle services may also be integrated with airline boarding foil in both the directions. The boarding foil may be used to validate a passenger's identity, details of travel to the airport, and then integrate the same with technology through the mobile app booking system. The mobile apps may act as a bonafide travel document to the airport and thus ensure a hassle-free ticketing experience.
- BMTC may introduce mobile apps to issue journey tickets and also ensure a paper-free ticketing system. Mobile apps may be integrated with advanced features to book and cancel tickets for any day on a chosen route. The screen display of the ticket may then be utilized as the valid document of travel during a journey.
Public Transport in Bengaluru operated by BMTC is the lifeline for many regular commuters. The COVID-19 has affected the otherwise smooth operation of buses within the city and such an adversity may be utilized to bring in innovation with the help of technology.
Smart card tickets, tokens, online booking systems, mobile apps to book tickets, etc are some of the key areas BMTC may focus on to further improve efficiency, switch to robust digital transactions, and ensure the smooth operation of BMTC buses. The people-friendly initiatives implemented will help BMTC to build a positive image and thus gain momentum to become a popular choice of public transport.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.