Bus Karo 2.0 – Case Studies from India

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

In the last few years, Indian cities dramatically transformed their mobility through the implementation of many bus transit solutions. Urban India experienced several major accomplishments on multiple fronts:

1. Innovative policy-based initiatives in public transport

2. Various pilot reforms to enhance operational efficiency

3. The growing potential of technology applications

4. Wide-reaching and successful strategies in branding and marketing approaches

5. A significant increase in Bus Rapid Transit Systems and the optimisation of city bus services

Pilot initiatives and trends indicate that the city bus will continue to be the backbone of urban mobility in India. In the Bus Karo Guidebook v2.0, the objective is to analyse and document the implementation of these practices in the urban Indian context. Multiple case studies are investigated in great detail and the learnings are highlighted. These learnings are assessed as per the needs of bus operators, and contextualized in a way to inform planning, design and operational decisions.  The purpose of this guide is to parallel the many initiatives of the Indian Government, and to strenghten bus-based public transport towards establishing larger mode shares. 

Defining the Problem

While the various initiatives have created success, the industry requires additional efforts and further impetus towards strengthening systems. The public transport industry faces challenges in employing innovative approaches to provide improved services to the public. There are three broad areas of issues:

  • The shortage of trained and skilled workers to manage adequate standards of maintenance and operations gravely affects operating agencies.
  • The paradoxical nature of providing public transport as a commercial function, yet with a strong social objective, places financial pressure on the sustainability of operating agencies.
  • The lack of coordination among the multiple players to allocate land for transit infrastructure needs, results in the industry falling short of its potential.

On a parallel path, similar to their global counterparts, Indian cities are undergoing global trend paths such as urbanization, motorization and congestion. Coupled with declining public transport use, the problem is further exacerbated and Indian cities are quickly losing out on the standard of living they offer.


Recognising several areas requiring focus, this Guidebook gives an in-depth assessment and documents practices and the existing challenges in six areas in the bus industry.

1. The dynamic nature of cities requires a redesign of the transport system to effectively respond to the population’s changing needs.

In light of changing urban trends and the resultant impacts on mobility patterns, cities assess the mobility needs of their population, ensuring that the transport system responds effectively.  Data collection is an effective tool to assess these changes and design the system as per travel patterns, system performance, public perceptions and growth in demand.

2. Safety and accessibility are two significant design components in planning for transport infrastructure.

Planning for a transport system requires a comprehensive approach. The planning and designing of safe and accessible infrastructure is critical for system operations, maintenance and expansion.

3. A structured framework to optimize fuel efficiency is important and four areas of focus can be effective: driver training, management systems, vehicle maintenance, and incentive schemes. 

Many agencies have begun focusing on ways to optimize expenditure. As fuel costs make up between 35 and 50 percent of total expenditure, training for fuel efficiency has been adopted by multiple agencies across India as an optimizing strategy. A systematic framework, in this case, is effective to promote fuel-efficient driving through consistent monitoring as well as indicate the seriousness of the initiative.

4. Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are useful to obtain data and use data analytics as a way to enhance operations.

The application of ITS in Indian cities has witnessed significant traction over the last few years. This brings further opportunity to collect and analyse this data for input into operations including driver monitoring, passenger information, and service planning.

5. Branding, marketing and communicating are three critical components to augment public transport outreach.

Information about new systems or changes to systems must be communicated precisely to the public in order to have a good chance of success. Branding, marketing and communication are vital to draw public attention, expedite public understanding and recognition of the system, and create a strong connection with the public.

6. The financial sustainability of operating agencies is undermined by the inevitable purpose of providing transport as a public service. New financing trends can be effective in easing the pressure on agencies.

Public transport provision faces a challenge in ensuring commercial viability and simultaneously satisfying its social objectives as a public service. In comparison to typical revenue streams, public transport expenditures are often significantly higher. It is important that fares, as a key revenue factor for agencies, be determined through a scientific approach to facilitate this imbalance. Proper financing mechanisms can be adopted to bridge the gap between revenues and expenditures.

7. An integrated approach to providing city bus services can strengthen the system.

In addition to the role of operating agencies, the state assumes a significant role in providing public transport. Four areas of improvement fall outside the purview of a city bus agency: system safety, segregated infrastructure, financial subsidy and land planning for infrastructure.

These assessments are a way to facilitate a rethought process on how to approach these problems that are prevalent in the Indian bus industry.

Based on these examples and challenges, systematic frameworks are suggested as a practice, for bus agencies to adapt to their specific contextual demands. The publication concludes with a way forward, which elucidates the need for cohesive and practical planning.

The Bus Karo v2.0 Guidebook

In order to encourage innovation across the field, there is a need to create a platform for sharing these practices, experiences and challenges. The Bus Karo v2.0 Guidebook is part of EMBARQ India’s efforts towards facilitating this peer-to-peer learning. It provides an overview of the current state of affairs regarding the urban public transport system in India.

The last five years in the bus industry indicated phenomenal growth in numbers and the implementation of new advancements in technology, service financing methods and management techniques. Evidently, there is a paradigm shift towards public transport, with strengthened policies and investment, and formal systems of high quality and capacities.

The next decade requires focus on precise and system-wide improvements. The call of the hour is to maintain bus transport mode shares and introduce operational, infrastructural, technological, marketing and financing innovations to double this share. It is universally recognized that for cities to be livable, city bus and bus rapid transit systems (BRTS) must be an integral part of development.

As the mobility needs of the population change, it is important for the public transport system to respond effectively. The way forward now is to maintain this momentum and strengthen the approach.


Madhav Pai

Director EMBARQ India

Director (India) – The WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities

World Resources Institute 

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