Promoting Buses for a Day in Bangalore

Sudhir Gota

Many would be surprised to know that ‘Bangalore’ was one of the first in India to initiate a BRTS study.  In 1999, SIDA funded a feasibility project with a network of 20 corridors for bus routes comprising twin central rings intersected by 8 radial routes. However, authorities did not take any action on that report as the rolling stock / ‘buses’ were not being manufactured in the country and had to be imported from Volvo in Sweden thus increasing the cost of the project. After a decade of inaction, the next report advocating BRTS in Bangalore was the CTTP (2007) report (Transport Master Plan) which suggested nearly 300 km of BRTS along 14 corridors. The solution was supposed to cost only 2.7 Million USD/Km.  A team of Indian consultants prepared the detailed project report and submitted it back to the government in 2009. Latest reports suggest that authorities are still struggling to get the funding in place and the project may be delayed yet again.
In the midst of all this delay, it is interesting as a government backed report in 2003 recommended – ‘60% modal targets’. Setting modal targets and devising a strategy is the trend being followed with cities like Singapore – setting 70% public transport mode share by 2020, HCMC – 50% by 2020, Beijing – 45% trips to downtown areas by 2015.
The committee report recommended -
“It must be emphasised that the BMTC should use an external benchmark to gauge its progress on the providing improved connectivity. We recommend that the BMTC set a target of capturing 60% of all journeys by 2006 up from 50% currently. This would require increasing ridership and capacity by approximately 15% every year (compared to 10% currently).”
To increase the ridership, within a decade the BMTC (bus operator in Bangalore) innovated from destination based bus system to Grid system by rapidly expanding the fleet. BMTC was also first to initiate information systems such as SMS based alert system on the exact location of the buses. However, the system was disbanded within a short period of time without any reasons being specified.

 BMTC was also the first one to use JNNURM to fund its terminals.  BMTC is planning to construct 45 and Transit Management Centers (TTMCs) around Bangalore.
In 2010, to popularize the concept of bus travel, BMTC with several stakeholders unleashed the concept of “Bus Day”. It's a full day event where people are requested to travel on buses.  Bus day is conducted on 4th of every month. Travelling in buses is celebrated for a day.  Transport Minister and the Mayor make use of buses in their daily commute. The views of media and people are mixed. Some reports claimed that additional 10,000 people used buses with decrease in 10-15% private vehicles on roads but some reports claimed empty buses making the trips. Succeeding months have showed decrease in promotional intensity. The data from mobile vans of pollution control board at different locations indicates very slight reduction in air pollution which is suffocating and killing people in Bangalore. Please note the concentration of RSPM – which according to Indian laws is tolerable only uptil 60 µg/m3 crosses 250 at some places.

Are the proposed measures effective?

The statistics show constant reduction in bus trip mode share: 60.19% in 1994 (ILFS); 48.91% in 2002 (RITES); and 35% in 2008 (MOUD). Meanwhile, the 2-wheeler ownership motorization levels (2-wheelers per 1000 people) increased from 124 in 1995 to 247 in 2005.

To combat decrease in share, Bangalore doubled the number of buses in 7 years (2001-2007) but at the same time, owing to the growth in city size, the average trip length increased by 2.5km and per capita energy consumption increased from 3.59 Megajoules/Day (MJ/day) to 9.67 MJ/day. Thus it has been estimated that even if the trip mode share of Bangalore does not change, by 2025 the per capita energy consumption would increase to 15 MJ/day!

Clearly, increasing the buses and providing intermediate solutions will not provide results.  What makes BMTC a very interesting case study is that it has a fleet of nearly 6082 buses, which makes nearly 79150 trips carrying around 4 million passengers daily within a radius of 25 km from the city center, with 1.3 million service kilometers. The high pressure on the existing BMTC network is quite evident from the fact that the loading per trip is nearly 51 passengers. Each bus makes nearly 13 daily trips with an average trip length of 16km indicating high stress on drivers as they drive to congested traffic (210 km/day). The journey speed by buses for the major part of the day is only 15-18 kmph. Only 22% of bus stops are sheltered and often the complaint is that the buses do not stop at shelters thereby making them useful only for advertisement. Institutional issues reflect here as the bus stops are sheltered by a different agency and not the bus operating agency thereby creating conflicts. Over 60% of people actually walk to bus stations to access buses. Sometimes, bus commuters spend over 60% of time outside the bus rather than inside and this is an important factor. Without improving the access one cannot guarantee ridership. Accesses to bus stops are again under different institutions and this again creates a bottleneck.

It’s clear that just increasing the number of buses without improving the overall public transport system and integrating other modes is not enough. Public transport ridership will continue to decline unless city planners adopt innovative approach to retain the bus ridership.  Trips would always switch modes depending on quality of service. Celebrating bus travel and providing incentives with faster travel and better access throughout the year is a way to go. One day concepts would not make much of a difference!!


Sudhir Gota
  1. Can only rich countries afford to clean fuels?

Stringent emission standards do not depend on economic growth. Countries like India are switching over to EURO-4 at a low GDP/Capita of 1000$. This is significant as it debunks any theory that suggests that only rich countries can afford to consume clean fuels. Investigations suggest that the incremental costs of meeting the recommended level of fuel sulfur in Asia average 0.2–0.8 US cents per liter for gasoline and 0.5–0.8 US cents per liter for diesel. Latest reports from India suggest an increase of only 1 US cents per liter of gasoline and 0.6 US cents for diesel to shift from Euro-3 to Euro-4 fuels.

Notes – NP- Nepal, PRC-China, EU- European Union (average values), HK- Hong Kong, VN – VietNam, PH- Philippines, PK-Pakistan, IN – India, ID – Indonesia, SK – South Korea, TH- Thailand, MY- Malaysia, BD – Bangaldesh, SG – Singapore. 1,2,3,4 – indicates Euro standards 1,2,3,4 etc.

2. Can we leapfrog intermediate emission standards like EURO-III?

Many Asian countries have learnt the lesson of making faster evolution. Countries like India and China have made quick strides in getting more efficient vehicles on the roads and making the fuel cleaner. Within a decade they have progressed from standards 1 to 2 then3 and finally 4. Other Asian countries which have been slow can chart a different course and in fact can leapfrog as Philippines and VietNam intend to do. The solution lies in getting all the stakeholders to agree on a roadmap. The faster one sets the target and provides legal backing, better the chances of implementation as vehicles last for 15 years on an average.

3. Why it is important to clean up the fleet early?

Asian countries have a greater chance of cleaning the fleet as the motorization index is still low. The following table indicates that the Asian countries have initiated steps at an early stage thus ensuring introduction of better vehicles. Indonesia, Srilanka and Pakistan needs to make concrete plans for EURO-4 before the fleet starts accumulating on roads. Slow implementation would increase the fleet before effective measures are put in place for example – Thailand and Malaysia.

4. Can improving only LDV’s guarantee success?

Improving LDV’s is not the silver bullet. It’s only a part of solution. Majority of the Asian fleet is dominated by Non-LDV vehicles and the trend would remain the same even with high LDV growth rates. Vehicles like two wheelers and trucks need similar attention. Approximately only 30% of the fleet is composed of LDV’s.

% of LDV’s in the total fleet

In spite of rapid evolution in standards in some of the countries, majority of Asian cities have not yet ensured clean air. One of the main reasons for this is the inefficient management of in-use vehicles. Inspection and Maintenance is as important as cleaning future vehicles. This aspect has been neglected by the authorities thus allowing proliferation of old polluting vehicles.

5. Why Demand management measures are equally important?

The tail pipe policies need to be complemented by Non-tail pipe measures such as demand management measures. Singapore is an ideal example which does not have very stringent emission standards for new vehicles, but has effective vehicle ownership, usage control and good inspection and maintenance for pollution control of in use vehicles. This ensures better air quality.

6. How are countries accessing roadblocks in implementation?

Countries are trying to clean diesel faster than gasoline (example – Singapore), big cities faster than small cities (example – India and China). This is a very interesting development as it offers incentives and allows stakeholders to assess roadblocks in progression. The industry also has time to adjust to the changing fleet specifications. Contrary to the trend, Bangladesh and Pakistan are trying to clean gasoline faster than diesel.

7. Why target Fuel subsidies?

Translating quicker progression lies in removing fuel subsidies. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia shell out 2.6-2.7% of GDP to provide artificial low cost fuels. This acts as a disincentive for refineries to pledge more support for cleaner fuels. It is to be noted that subsidized fuels cannot be considered as the service policy of the country but a product which is optimally priced.

8. Why Link Fuel Economy with Vehicle Emission Standards?

Fuel Economy- Vehicle Emission Standards – linking these two measures requires a new approach and it has the potential to provide huge benefits to the society. Currently countries are charting out different strategies rather than thinking of a modality to benefit from both by uniform application. Most often the institutions working out both the policies are nearly the same and thus two issues can be combined to maximize benefits by early implementation. For example, concept of Eco Cars in Thailand -– An Eco car meets minimum pollution standards of EURO4 or higher, emitting no more than 120 g CO2/km. To promote the sales of fuel efficient cars, the Ministry of Finance put in place a tax incen¬tive scheme which reduces the excise tax rate on standard passenger cars that meet fuel-efficiency criteria, and qualify as so-called “eco cars.” . Similar integrated system exists in Japan.

The other reason for linking these two standards is the impact of vehicle emission standards in reducing “Black Carbon”. Experts believe that reducing black carbon (BC) offers biggest impact on immediate climate mitigation. Black carbon is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass and switching to stringent emission standards can reduce the BC emissions.

Some Solutions to Reduce Emissions from Transport Lie outside Our Cities – Case Study of India

Sudhir Gota

Developing countries are at a crossroads as current decisions and investments in the transport sector are set to lock-in GHG (CO2) and air pollutant emissions for the next decades. There is reason for concern as sustainable transport policies that incorporate air quality and climate change are being developed and implemented at a slow pace, risking irreversible damage to the environment and people’s welfare. This is further aggravated by the global economic recession, which has lead to economic stimulus packages in developed countries for roads, the automotive industry, and related transport infrastructure. If developing countries follow this lead by prioritizing vehicles instead of people, it is certain that CO2 emissions, air pollution, congestion, and other transport related problems will worsen.

It has been analyzed that, based on a business-as-usual scenario for motorization in India, the main trends from 2005 to 2025 are:

· The number of total vehicles would grow at 8.70% per year, an increase from 49 million to 246 million between 2005 and 2025.

· CO2 emissions from road transport would increase at 7.75% per year, which is higher than many other Asian countries, from 203 million tons in 2005 to 905 million tons by 2025. Passenger transport represents 45% and freight transport represents 55% of total CO2 emissions from road transport in 2005; this ratio would remain approximately the same in 2025.

· PM emissions from road transport would decline until 2025 by 1.88% per year due to the adoption of stricter fuel and vehicle emission standards, while NOx emissions would increase at a rate of 2.37% per year. However, PM emissions would subsequently rise again due to the continued rapid vehicle growth, especially if emissions standards are not further tightened (Euro IV and above).

· Only about 22% of total CO2 emissions from land passenger transport in India are attributed to intracity movement in these 29 cities. It is probable that the remaining 78% of CO2 emissions come from other 498 cities (India has a total of 527 cities with over 100,000 people but limited data are available) and movement of passengers and freight from one city to another (intercity transport).

  • If the current city trip mode share is retained, CO2 emissions would increase 2- or 3-fold between 2008 and 2025, due to a rapid growth in urban population and in the number of trips.
  • If the cities are able to increase the current non-motorized transport (NMT) and public transport trip shares by 5% each with a reduction in motorized transport share, the CO2 emissions in 2008 would reduce by 9.16% and 6.21%.

A simple sketch analysis of intercity transport contribution to India’s total CO2 emissions from road transport indicates that a 442 km stretch of 4-lane national highway may approximately correspond to the total passenger transport emissions from intracity movement in Bangalore. Similarly, CO2 emissions from intracity passenger transport in Delhi are comparable to a 772 km stretch of highway.

The high emission from traffic in National Highways needs to be tackled by the government to reduce the environmental impact. The reason for relatively high emissions from national highways is that freight transport dominates the highways (52% of the vehicle mode share) whereas 2- and 3-wheelers are more present on typical urban roads (about 40% of vehicle mode share). Because 2- and 3-wheelers are more fuel efficient and emit less CO2 than larger vehicles, emissions from urban road transport are relatively lower compared to highways. A second reason could be high empty truck movements due to inefficiencies in freight logistics. Nearly 88% of the truck fleet is under unorganized operators.

Key recommendations for government and stakeholders are as follows:

  1. Policies and projects should have a stronger focus on making cities livable and accessible for people, rather than on just improving the flow of vehicles in cities, by integrating transport demand management (i.e. reducing the number of trips made and distances traveled), public transport, and non-motorized transport into urban development and transport policies.
  2. Policies and projects should aim to reduce CO2 and air pollutant emissions from the outset, thus creating a low carbon and emission transport system, rather than adding emission mitigating measures to transport policies and projects after they have been designed. Land use and urban planning is critical in influencing transport demand and behavior thereby reducing the emissions thus improving the health.
  3. Indian cities are not maximizing the density influence to reduce the emissions. Many cities which are dense are showing high emissions because of insufficient public transport and high influx of private vehicles. Many Transit oriented development initiatives are being taken by city governments, but much remains to be done on land use-transport-environment integration.
  4. The National Highways carry a huge amount of traffic. Considering high emissions from road based mode of transportation, the government needs to revise feasibility and environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines to include emission quantification and mitigation measures in the selection of projects.
  5. Urgent attention is needed for freight transport, which currently contributes to 55% of road transport CO2 emissions. Most freight vehicles use diesel fuel which contributes to relatively high PM emissions and black carbon (“soot”), which in addition to being an air pollutant is considered a major contributor to global warming. Both urban transport and freight transport should receive equal attention.