Right bus, wrong number

When you generally have the same routine and wait patiently, and hopelessly for the same bus every day, you tend to know all the buses that pass through at that time. You tend to form patterns that, if nothing else, give you hope. There are also enough versions of BMTC red Volvos for you to look out for specific ones.

My usual routine is to wait one stop before the Sarjapura Road junction for the 500K at around 4 pm. Around this time, you are greeted by a steady procession of 500Ds and 500NAs headed towards Silk Board and 500Cs headed towards Banashankari. Very rarely, do you see disruptions in this sequence, in the form of 500KMs or 500Ks, both becoming rarer by the day. This is the pattern even when you wait at later stops like Sangam Circle, except for the Silk Board buses. BMTC did launch a lot of services towards more outlying areas, like 500KE to Kengeri, 500KG towards Global Village near RVCE, 500KR towards Rajarajeshwari Gate and the usual 500K towards Vijayanagar.

So it was that one evening found me waiting near the Kamakhya bus stop, for anything that would ferry me across Nayandahalli towards Nagarabhavi. From the distance I could spot a Volvo headed to the stop and it turned out to be, surprisingly, a 500KE onwards to Kengeri. I got in, planning to get down at PESIT. Considering the time I saw the bus, I figured that this bus would’ve come around my usual stop at around 4 pm.

I struck up a friendly conversation with the bus conductor.  “How come I don’t see you near Bellandur at 4.15 or so?” He smiled. I went after my long held suspicion right away – “Or do you come along as 500C there and change the sign later?”

“Yes,” he smiled; younger guy, not given to the rudeness of the more experienced gentlemen doing service in the red monsters.

“Where do you change the sign?”


“How do you expect those waiting for this before that stop to know this is 500KE.”

“You should stop and ask.”

“Should I stop every bus and ask them if this is 500KE?”

He only smiled. “You don’t go inside the Banashankari TTMC all the time either.” I pressed on.

“We get late.”

“Then how do you expect people to find this bus and get in?”

No answer. But then, commuters are probably the least of his problems.

Digital signage for buses has meant a newer problem, especially in the evenings. Some turn off the numbers and stop accepting more commuters if they are in a hurry. Some just hold on to halfway route numbers and change it later.  I wonder if they can use signage like ‘500C/KE’ etc. But the goal for this number hiding is different. This way they can also avoid having to worm into TTMCs and waste time.

When it comes to BMTC crew, the first priority seems to be the trip schedule. Next is collection. Commuters come last. So even if the sign is correct and the stars are aligned enough for you to spot the bus, if he’s running behind schedule, and no others inside the bus want to get down at the stop, there is almost zero chance the bus would stop for you.

You can introduce zillions of newer routes, but if they all operate with the sole goal of meeting targets at the cost of commuters, there isn’t much you can do to beef up service. In this case, the 500KE was launched with much fanfare, but with this kind of obfuscation, I can see the service not picking up. And with the lack of usage, there’ll come a time when they’ll phase it out. What are the chances you’ll use a service where you don’t know if and when you can get home?

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Vaidya is a tech professional who works on public data and making it more accessible.


  1. I am seeing everyday, that many buses do not carry proper name plates on all the three sides. Invariably, they are badly scribbled and in one language only. Only in some Bus Stops, we see the route buses mentioned without the destination.
    The bus system needs total rethinking to be done by BMTC to be user friendly. Even their web site is poorly designed.

  2. In future (i.e. its already happening), signboards will be based on who is waiting, e.g. if you want to victimize someone, his electronic id (mobile number – thanks, Google, NSA, ISA?) will be detected and the bus sign will automatically change leaving the victim believing its not the right bus. Another scenario, your Google Glass knockoff will not ‘see’ the route number and will project another number to you. “System wurk maddala”.

  3. Many a times, these buses wait for a very long time for passengers like private buses at some stops during lean period causing inconvenience to other commuters who are in hurry.

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