1.1 Recent Trends in Urban Bus Transport in India
1.1 Recent Trends in Urban Bus Transport in India
In the last decade, six areas witnessed reforms in the urban bus industry – policy-level initiatives, on-the-ground pilot projects, technological applications, branding initiatives,financing efforts and the advancement of bus-based transport to Bus Rapid Transit Systems (BRTS). At various levels and scales, these reforms are paving the way for increased modal shares of public transport in India.
In the last few years, the Indian Government, along with the support of global institutions, introduced some policy-based improvements to the transport system. These initiatives were aimed at providing technical and financial inputs.
Central Government’s JnNURM Funding Programme
With the intention of providing an economic stimulus to heavy industry, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) initiated a bus procurement programme for city bus operations, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM). The mission combines an offer of financial support for infrastructure projects under a cost-sharing arrangement with state and local governments. This is linked to a structured governance model that includes central assistance and mandatory reforms.
In 2009, the JnNURM provided funding for 65 cities to procure 15,000 buses. City authorities responded and the scope for funding was expanded to include the procurement of an additional 10,000 buses and ancillary infrastructure such as depots terminals, and intelligent transport systems (ITS). The programme was made available to all Indian cities, towns and urban agglomerations (including non-JnNURM cities).
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Funding
The GEF is a partnership for internal cooperation, aimed to assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote ecological sustainable development (Global Environment Facility n.d.). Under the GEF, the MoUD and the World Bank, proposed the promotion of efficient and sustainable bus transport systems in India. The purpose of the fifth round of the GEF programme is to encourage private to public transit mode shift, through focus on the operational, financial, regulatory and fiscal constraints of city bus systems.
The GEF programme includes three components:
- Technical Assistance (TA) on regulatory, institutional and fiscal issues
- City Demonstration Project – TA & Capacity Building
- City Demonstration Project – Physical Investment (Global Environment Facility n.d.)
The expenditure under the JnNURM Round 1 scheme for bus procurement is to be treated as counter-part funding by the Central Government, to avail the World Bank loan (Global Environment Facility n.d.). Presently, four cities are short-listed for the programme: Bhopal, Mira-Bhayander, Jaipur and Chandigarh.
Urban Bus Specifications (UBS) II
The MoUD created an Urban Bus Committee in March 2012, to work towards revising the existing urban bus specifications and implement uniformity in the bus manufacturing industry. The guidelines were aimed to shift from the use of truck-chassis and to establish bus-based designs. Program objectives include driver and passenger comfort, enhanced safety, universal design, in-built ITS components, etc. The specifications are also aimed at achieving lower pollution and higher fuel economy. In addition, new bus types to include BRTS applications were also introduced. The UBS-II with all these characteristics was published as a reference point for city authorities (Recommendatory Urban Bus Specifications – II n.d.).
On-the-ground Pilot Initiatives
The second area of city bus reforms included demonstration projects which were implemented to pre-empt and assess impacts.
Large-scale Route Rationalisation by BMTC, Bangalore
The BMTC operated roughly 6,500 buses over 2,400 routes, with an average of three buses for each route (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation 2014). Like most cities, this was managed as a destination-based approach, which connects any destination directly to other major destinations in the city. Due to the large number of routes, this approach resulted in poor service quality on account of low frequencies. Route rationalisation can be challenging due to the requirements of a major systemic change not only in operations and planning, but also in usage.
To simplify the network, BMTC introduced the Bangalore Intra-city Grid or BIG Bus Network in 2013. The BIG Bus network is a citywide network of very high frequency services along major roads, which forms a ‘connective grid’ of routes to provide coverage across the city. This bus system also incorporates transfer facilities, service branding, a simplified numbering convention, restructured fares, and passenger information delivery.
This direction-based network structure is planned for 12 major arterials, the Outer Ring Road, and in other high-density and high-demand areas of the city. At present, three major arterials are functioning as direction-based routes with a 185-strong bus fleet. BMTC is currently working to increase frequencies and upgrade three additional corridors.
Fuel Efficiency Training
As a step in the direction to improve the financial sustainability of city bus agencies, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation’s (APSRTC) fuel efficiency program was showcased as an effective initiative (see Figure 7). Through EMBARQ India’s Talking Transit platform, APSRTC demonstrated a fuel efficiency training framework used to train and monitor drivers and manage the system to optimise fuel use.
APSRTC reports one of the highest fuel efficiency standards in the country (over 5 kilometers per litre or kmpl, as compared to the industry standard of 3 kmpl) (Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation 2013). EMBARQ India collaborated with APSRTC (see Figure 7) to facilitate pilot programmes with several public transport undertakings, including BEST, BMTC, MTC, Janmarg BRTS, Star Bus, NMMT, AICTSL, and Jaipur City Transport Service Limited (JCTSL). In the last 2 years, programmes on fuel efficiency training have been conducted in (Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation 2013) 12 different cities. A total of 19 classroom trainings amounting to over 65 hours, and 15 on-road practical sessions amounting to 110 hours have been conducted so far. While classroom trainings engaged almost 1800 drivers and training staff, field practice training was undertaken by 700 drivers. As a result, on average, the cities experienced a 75 percent increase in fuel savings and in some cases post-training monitoring for the pilots indicated up to a 100 percent increase in fuel efficiency (EMBARQ India 2014) (see Figure 8). In 2013, BEST and NMMT began to scale up these efforts.
Land Provisions and Financial Assistance for bus services in Mumbai
Cities face difficulty in earmarking space in prime locations nearer to transport demand, due to rapidly growing urban population. An increase in fleet size and operations required BEST to construct a new depot facility for maintenance and bus parking. In spite of the difficulties, in April 2014 and after 15 years, BEST inaugurated its 26th depot at Malad. This new infrastructure accommodates up to 120 buses and allows for the expansion of services to the Western part of the city (Brihan Mumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking 2014).
Additionally, due to a significant growth in vehicle ownership and motorisation in the city, resultant traffic congestion continues to diminish the reliability of bus services. BEST has subsequently witnessed a drop in ridership over the last decade, seriously affecting the agency’s revenues. In 2012, a significant loan was sanctioned by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) for the BEST Undertaking. Over the next five years, this loan can prove to be a tremendous boost for the organisation and public transport services in the city.
Innovations in Contracting Bus Services in Delhi
For years, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) operated its bus services with 5,500 buses in use, in a city where the requirements have surpassed a 10,000-strong bus fleet. The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) introduced a new model for the operation of private stage carriage services to replace the existing private stage carriage service scheme. This system is changing the way urban bus services are provided, by increasing the involvement of the private sector. As a result of this contracting service, private bus operators will now function in line with benchmarks and processes set by the city. This enables the city to maintain a level of uniformity across the bus services offered.
The existing network of 650 routes was remodelled into 17 clusters. Under the Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System (DIMTS), each cluster will be served by the DTC and the private stage carriage in a 40:60 ratio. The scheme will provide an optimised solution for the scheduling of resources, planning of routes, and utilising of assets through data-sharing. Currently, nine clusters with 1,150 buses (under private operators) are operational. However, one of the forefront challenges for further expansion is the need for depot space (EMBARQ India 2012).
Public-Public Partnership Model at Jaipur
Until 2013, bus services in the city were managed under a unique kind of public-public partnership between the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) - Jaipur City Transport Services Limited (JCTSL) and Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC). This partnership functions under a gross-cost model 1 , where the SPV is in charge of supervising, controlling, and monitoring operations. This enabled the SPV to build on existing knowledge, operations and infrastructure in the region.
By the end of 2013, JCTSL contracted a private operator to manage 120 buses and provided the operator with a depot facility. The remaining buses were taken over from RSRTC and are operated directly by JCTSL. The agency now manages all functions including the hiring and training of drivers. This model can be useful in initiating operations, since most states have an existing State Road Transport Corporation.
Introduction of New Services in Tier 2 and Tier 3 Cities
In 2012, the Northeast Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) initiated basic bus services in six cities, which were previously managed by informal transport services. As a result, Gulbarga now has a total of 10 bus routes, with an operational fleet of 40 buses. Bus services were also introduced in Bellary, Bidar, Yadgir, Hospet, and Bijapur with about 175 buses in total.
Midi Buses in Bangalore and Chennai
In 2014, in an exercise to expand services and respond to a distinct urban demand, bus agencies in Bangalore and Chennai introduced the midi bus. The aim of these services in both cities was to improve service accessibility to areas of low-demand, particularly in the peripheral parts of the metropolitan areas. In Bangalore, midi buses serve as feeder services for the BIG bus network. MTC is using these buses in Chennai to serve parts of the city that cannot be accessed by larger vehicles. They are useful in providing public transport access for residential catchments located in constricted parts of the city.
Initiatives towards Financial Sustainability
Being at the forefront of discussion, innovations in the financial sustainability of city bus agencies also witnessed a number of initiatives. The following section introduces two initiatives undertaken by the BMTC.
Traffic and Transit Management Centres in Bangalore
Long-term visioning and effective planning enabled the BMTC to use land-bank planning as an approach towards financial sustainability and public transport accessibility. Over the years, the agency purchased land parcels across the city as an investment for future operations. As the city grew, BMTC developed these sites and designed them into dual-purpose terminal facilities for interchanging passenger use and commercial activities (see Figure 9). Since 2009, BMTC has been operating ten Traffic and Transport Management Centres (TTMCs), allowing the agency to leverage its land holdings and promote bus transport use through integration of feeder modes, including the private car and bicycle. The revenue from these commercial uses eases the financial burden on the agency by significantly offsetting a part of its operational costs.
Scientific Approach to Fare Revision at BMTC
For its ordinary and differentiated bus services, BMTC employs a scientific approach to fare revision to determine the rise required to absorb increases in diesel price and staff payments. BMTC conducts a fare review twice a year and determines the change required. This process manages gradual increases in fares, which also places a more manageable burden on users. Furthermore, any decrease in diesel prices also results in a reduction in bus fares.
Technology Initiatives in Bus Operations
Several cities adopted and took steps towards incorporating technology to collect data and improve services. The following section includes some examples of these initiatives.
ITS and Computerised Staff Scheduling at BEST, Mumbai
As pioneers in adopting and implementing multiple new technologies and innovative processes, BEST experienced significant operational improvements through applications of resourcing softwares (Brihan Mumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking 2014).The agency is proficient in utilising surveillance cameras and passenger information systems to enhance commuter safety and convenience.
In addition to this, BEST introduced a computerised system to prepare its staff schedule. The software uses a specifically-designed algorithm to create shift timings for over 23,000 of the agency’s drivers and conductors. In mid-2013, a pilot programme was initially implemented in two depots and later expanded to 12 more. By June 2014, the agency introduced this system to all 26 depots. As a result, BEST reduced their staff requirements by approximately four percent (BEST 2014). Like most public transport agencies, BEST manually prepared schedules for its drivers and conductors - cumbersome process taking several weeks to complete. For large agencies, scheduling resources is critical to maintaining system efficiency. In the next stage, BEST expects to introduce computerised scheduling of buses and depots to match efficiency in staffing requirements.
Passenger Information Systems in Mysore
In November 2012, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) implemented a unique ITS solution known as the Mysore Intelligent Transport System (MITRA). The project implementation covers 500 buses, 105 bus stops, 6 bus terminals and 45 bus platforms. The system primarily consists of vehicle-location and passenger communication solutions. The ITS vendor is expected to operate and maintain the system for the next three years (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation n.d.). The first level of implementation involved data collection, which was used to convey information to waiting commuters so they could plan their journeys. The second phase of the pilot implementation incorporated an analytics solution where data was analysed and used to provide inputs into the planning and scheduling processes. Operators also use this information to efficiently deploy buses and maintain convenient headways.
Electronic Ticketing Machines in use
The application of technology in public transport saw a dramatic rise in implementation over the last few years. Multiple transit agencies upgraded to the use of Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETMs), which simplifies back-office processes for the agency. ETMs make available data that can be analysed for the improvement of services and operations. Several cities are progressing towards automated ticketing systems: Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal, Mysore, Vishakhapatnam, Jaipur, Gulbarga, and Bhubaneswar have ETMs on their entire fleet, while Chennai is working towards equipping their fleet. The status of ETMs in each city is as follows:
- 4533 buses in Mumbai
- 110 buses in Indore
- 225 buses in Bhopal
- 416 buses in Mysore
- 560 buses in Vishakhapatnam
- 408 buses in Jaipur
- 74 buses in Gulbarga
- 150 buses in Bhubaneswar-Puri-Cuttack city bus services
- 200 buses in Chennai
- 40 percent of the cluster model operated privately in Delhi already use automated ticketing
- BMTC and DTC have tendered for ETMs
Numerous cities use ETMs to collect data, paving the way for data analysis and inputs into enhancing system performance.
Efforts to brand public transport and communicate information to users were prominent in the industry. Initiatives to upgrade city bus services and introduce BRT systems incorporated strong branding and outreach strategies
Rebranding the Bangalore City Bus Service
In 2009, the Bangalore Integrated Grid, or BIG Network lead to the rebranding of BMTC’s services, which created a distinct identity for the service. The new brand enables users to understand a simple route structure and identify with a visually-uniform bus system. With attractive livery schemes, the bus system gained popularity among users.
Marketing the BRTS in Indore
As the second ‘complete’ BRT system, Indore’s iBus established a new benchmark for marketing and communicating in the public transport field. The processes adopted by the team were far-reaching and their impacts were successful in gaining the support of the citizens of Indore. Engagement strategies included social media use, specialised focus group sessions, and free trial runs, which were able to create continuous focus on the project, throughout its planning and inception. Ultimately, when the system was launched, ridership along the pilot corridor was double that of initial estimates.
Bhopal BRTS Stakeholder Communications Strategy
Bhopal’s MyBus also devised a comprehensive communication plan to implement during the course of the project. Strategies to increase public awareness were implemented through workshops, public discussions, periodic newsletters, and constant media attention. In a first-of-its-kind exercise, Bhopal marketed the system through high-quality aerial imagery of the corridor to maximise their effort. The system witnessed strong public support throughout the project.
BRT Systems in India
The last decade witnessed a growth spurt of bus corridors and BRT systems across the country, with operations being started in over ten cities. This amounts to over 180 kms of BRT systems operational or underway and over 440 kms of BRT systems under planning. In addition, there are eight operational bus corridors and BRT systems in India. Six more cities have BRT lines under construction, and an additional five announced future plans to build such a system. In less than a decade, the number of BRT systems and bus corridors in India will have gone from zero to 24 (see Figure 1.5).
In 2014, a closed BRT system was launched in Surat. Currently, nine buses are operated along a 10-km corridor. The first corridor along Surat Navsari Road caters to a per day ridership of 5,000 passengers. The Surat system identified nine corridors for BRTS operation, of which two have been sanctioned ( Surat Municipal Corporation 2014).The system entails all features that make up a full BRT: bus stops in the road’s median, stations with prepayment and level boarding, good quality buses, information technologies and a distinctive image (EMBARQ 2014).
In 2013, the first pilot corridor of iBUS was launched in Indore. The 11.45-km corridor running along AB Road from Rajiv Gandhi to Niranjanpur is functional, with 20 median bus stations and a daily ridership of 40,000 passengers and growing (Atal Indore City Transport Services Limited 2014). The system includes off-board payment facilities, a segregated corridor, dual-entry buses, and one of the most advanced ITS systems in India, used for tracking buses. The proposal is to build a network of 120kms of BRTS for the city.
The first phase of the MyBus system totals 44 kms, with 24 kms presently operational, making it the second-longest operational BRTS corridor in the country (see Figure 9). The corridor is an open system that runs through mixed traffic in some parts of the corridor. The first corridor from Bairagarh to Misrod sees a daily ridership of almost 48,000 passengers in 185 buses (Bhopal City Link Limited 2014).
The Rajkot BRTS, or Rajpath, began operation in 2012 with a total planned coverage of 63 kms. The current operational 10.7 kms are served by 10 buses running within a closed system. The second phase includes two additional corridors. In April 2014, the average ridership was around 10,680 passengers per day (Rajkot n.d.). The salient features of this system include the following:
- an automatic door system at bus shelters: to enhance passenger safety at stations
- passenger information systems: to allow passengers to plan their journeys more precisely
- real-time vehicle tracking: to provide for dynamic bus scheduling
- off-board fare payment: to reduce bus waiting times
Janmarg was acclaimed internationally and is acknowledged as the first ‘complete’ BRTS in India. The Janmarg system of Ahmedabad has expanded and currently includes 86 kms of operations. With a 143-strong bus fleet, the system serves 1.3 lakh passengers per day (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation 2014). The system has median bus lanes and includes three types of services: trunk, complementary, and feeders (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation 2014). It has all elements of a complete BRTS, including prepayment, overtaking lanes, branding, well designed stations with level boarding, and centralised Information Technology control.
Subscribe to our mailing list
Register to receive news and announcements from WRI Cities Hub