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Where did this bus stop come from?

April 12, 2011

Writer – Mumtaz J.

Every day an average of 26 lakh commuters use the bus services provided by the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) in Bangalore. In and around the city, there are currently 900 bus shelters, while the BMTC operates roughly around 2,400 buses. For some, the bus is an option. Those commuting by bus everyday are not hard to identify – they are usually seen comfortably chatting away to fellow commuters about their daily routines and lives.(Participatory Planning, Ramanathan Foundation 2003)

Commuters vary from young adults, pregnant women/women with children, students to the elderly. How well are they being serviced? Is it safe for women to commute at late hours?  How accessible is your bus stop from your work place, home and community as well as private amenities like malls, and come other public amenities like railway stations and bus tops? What kind of research goes into planning a bus stop and who decides where it should be located?

Surprisingly, in Bangalore, there are no documents or set of rules and regulations that defines and make mandatory how and where a bus stop should be placed. This leaves the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) – whose biggest concern regarding bus stands is the lack of available space – to build bus stops wherever they find space, inevitably compromising walkability, safety, accessibility and traffic management.

Unfortunately, Bangalore bus routes are not a result of any planning. When a new area develops and there are a significant number of possible commuters, the BMTC manager directs the bus driver plying service in the closest route to that area. Since such routes are not reviewed, some routes as old as 40 years continue without change even though a good analysis every 5 to 10 years could make commuting much easier for many people.

While many campaigns and awareness programmes are aimed at encouraging private vehicles to switch to public transport, it is important to make ensure that those making this choice. Shashidhara H L, Coordinator and Transport Planner at City Connect-Bangalore says, “In Bangalore, people are not very comfortable with the idea of route transfers. We want to sit inside a bus that takes us to our destination. Most people take a single bus as close to their destination as possible and then take an auto for the remaining journey. Such habits and comfort levels requires extensive research before a bus stop and a bus route is being planned.”  This is possibly why the Big 10 buses, which connect and ply along the 10 biggest roads in the city, are being well-used while the hop-on-hop-off campaign, with frequent stops connecting busy areas, was a failure.

Looking further into convenience and accessibility of public transport systems, there are two factors to be taken into account: the first is a commuter’s experience in the bus, and the other often over-looked factor is his experience before getting on the bus and after. This makes bus-stop placement and facilities provided in a bus stop an important priority. In a multi-lingual city like Bangalore, route planner, maps and information on the bus should be in as many languages as possible, with English and Kannada being mandatory.

Pavani Mehta, an Investment Banker and frequent traveller, feels that easy accessibility to airports and railway stations as well as to surrounding areas by bus is essential for any city. “Considering that the BIAL buses seem to be doing really well –  as they are well-connected, comfortable, have luggage space and Wi-Fi – why can’t similar initiatives be undertaken for the Majestic and Cantonment railway stations as well?” he asks.

Ideally, for a bus stop and a bus route to be planned, through research should be undertaken to understand and learn traffic and commuter patterns. The planning committee should include a representative from all road users, most importantly the traffic police, commuters, RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations), commercial owners and offices, the BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), BMTC and the BBMP. All meetings should be open to the public, in the process providing room for participation, feedback and suggestions.

Original article – Janaagraha – Who is planning our bus stops?

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