Thanks to the Chief Minister, (the proposed 18%) bus fare hike has been put on hold, temporarily, we are told. This is good news but not good enough. Increasing bus fares is the absolutely last thing we need in our city. It is true that diesel prices have gone up and the transport company (BMTC) needs to deal with that, but I appeal to the CM to find the money to actually reduce the fares for the following reasons.
- BMTC is the lifeline of Bengaluru. We have 60 lakh two-wheelers, 15 lakh cars but just 6500 buses and they carry enormous load – 45 lakh people daily. There is no other mode of transport that is as powerful. Even metro can only do 4 lakh daily. If we can spend tens of thousands of crores on building out metro, we should be able to invest money in the bus too, which is at least ten times more useful.
- Bus is about livelihood for lakhs of people that earn less than Rs 10,000 per month. The bus pass (Rs 1500) is 15% of earning and unaffordable already. Our bus fares are highest in the country. Other states subsidize bus fares, it is high time Karnataka did it too.
- BMTC is unmatched in safety. Garment workers and daily wage labourers prefer the bus to private operators as they consider it safe and reliable mode of transport. Increased fares will force them to look elsewhere and may lead to incidents.
- Pollution – vehicle pollution is major cause of worry. When BMTC went on strike for three days, the pollution levels went up indicating presence of more cars and two-wheelers. Bus is a powerful weapon to fight pollution and by making it expensive, we will lose passengers who may decide to use personal vehicles.
- Public transport is subsidised through out the world today. In many cities, it is even being made free based on levels of pollution. Since BMTC is the ONLY public transport option in Bengaluru today at scale, the CM must do everything he can to find funds that can be used to offset the increase in fuel prices and go beyond and actually reduce the fares.
I would like to remind Hon’ble CM that 3000 new buses have been promised but still not added. When more buses are available, routes are rationalized and prices reduced, we will see increased adoption of bus When BMTC slashed AC (Vajra) bus fares by 37% during a pilot, revenues went up by 42%. Moral of the story : more buses + low fares = more revenue.
In the short term, I appeal to the CM that perhaps he can stop or reduce government spend on advertising and using those savings to fund the bus, not just BMTC but KSRTC as well. It will help lakhs of citizens and curb pollution.