The News Minute brings you The Last Stop, a series of stories on the state of public buses across south Indian cities.
Pranav, a techie who works in Hyderabad’s IT sector, spends nearly two hours each day in commuting to office — for a distance of less than 6 km. To commute from Masjid Banda to his office in Cyber Towers, he needs to change two autos and walk over a kilometre.
“My home isn’t too far from my office, but there is no public transportation I can rely on. I can’t take the bus because either the frequency is not good or they are too crowded or there is no last mile connectivity,” he says.
A lot of Hyderabad’s development is happening in the region where Pranav lives – Cyberabad. Multiple high-rises have sprung up in the area in a short time, but the buses – managed by the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) – is having a tough time keeping up.
The growth of Cyberabad
Hyderabad witnessed a massive infrastructure growth in the 1990s, when former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu set up Hitec City for the growth of the IT sector, which is when the region was given the moniker, Cyberabad. Since then, several large multinational companies have set up shop in the city and adjoining areas like Gachibowli and Kondapur became dense residential areas.
In the 2000s, the state government set up the ‘Financial District’, which led to a huge uptick in construction activity in the area. Today, several under-construction high-rises mark the skyline in the area, as it has become home to the massive techie population that works in multiple MNCs. However, the residents of these areas rely heavily on private vehicles, as public transport is sparse.
According to a transport researcher, three main arterial roads in the area lack bus connectivity – Masjid Banda to Botanical Gardens, Hitec City phase-2 (the road behind Cyber Gateway), and the road that goes from the Centre for Organisation Development (COD) to Inorbit Mall.
The researcher adds that there are no buses in places where a large number of people have moved to, such as 100 feet road in Madhapur and Road No 45 in Jubilee Hills.
He says that the frequency in Cyberabad isn’t ideal either, and a lot of people will still be at least 750 m from a bus stop, as opposed to the standard of 250 m for a bus stop with good frequency. The researcher adds that if one takes frequency into account, a lot of places aren’t well-served.
This includes areas around Q City IT Park, Gowlidoddy, Nanakramguda and Khajaguda in Financial District, where new residences are coming up.
TSRTC data shows that as of May 31, 2019 it had a total of 10,460 buses out of which 8,320 belonged to the RTC, while 2,140 had been hired by the corporation to help with its operations.
Of this, Hyderabad district has the highest number of buses – 1,686, followed by the districts of Rangareddy at 1,370 and Medchal-Malkajgiri at 1,054, which cover parts of Cyberabad and Secunderabad. This, many feel, is grossly deficient to serve the growing population of the city.
While the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR) has flagged off services that cover Hitec City and extend up to Raidurg, many of the newer areas where the MNCs have been set up, including Financial District, are still several kilometres away, making it difficult for techies working in the area to rely on the Metro.
The researcher further adds that if Cyberabad were to be well-served, it requires the TSRTC to increase its fleet. But according to reports, the opposite may have happened, with buses taken off the road. Due to this, not only will adding new routes become harder, existing routes are overcrowded too.
While the state government has introduced newer bus routes in the area, like 216K/W and 195HW, many techies still opt for private vehicles, mainly because of poor last mile connectivity.
This is what leads people like Pranav to look for other modes of transportation. In Pranav’s case, the road between Masjid Banda and Botanical Gardens has no connectivity, forcing many like him to opt for crowded share autos instead.
“While returning from work, I end up taking a share auto to Kothaguda junction, walking 500 m to the Botanical Gardens signal and taking another share auto to Masjid Banda and walking the last stretch home,” he adds.
Even if he did decide to take the bus on a certain day, the odds do not look too good.
“My alternative would be to take a bus from Cyber Towers, go to Biodiversity junction or IIIT signal, and then take another bus and get down near the University of Hyderabad entrance, and walk a kilometre to get home. This is not only much longer in terms of distance, but is also very time consuming as well,” Pranav says.
Prof C Ramachandraiah from the Centre for Economic and Social Studies says that the government has never taken any interest in improving public transport and connectivity, especially in Cyberabad, so the ‘headache’ falls instead on the already-burdened TSRTC.
“The state government is too busy allocating lands to companies and in doing the related publicity, but has not developed any infrastructure that is required for public transport. There is no provision for pedestrians either,” he says.
This is especially the case in many areas along the Outer Ring Road (ORR) as well.
For example, if one had to travel from Nanakramguda circle on the ORR to Narsingi via public transport, they would have to catch a bus to Nanal Nagar, go through Khajaguda, Raidurg and Tolichowki, before catching another bus bound to Narsingi, which adds up to a distance of over 18 km. The alternative is a straight walk along the ORR’s service road or drive in a private vehicle, a distance of just 4.5 km.
Ramachandraiah suggests ‘mini-terminals’ spread over a smaller area which he argues could go a long way in promoting public transport.
“For example, if there was a mini-terminal at Cyber Towers or Shilparamam, buses can begin their journey there. They can then head in four different directions – towards Jubilee Hills, Kukatpally, Mehdipatnam and Gachibowli or Lingampally, which would greatly improve connectivity,” he says.
“A similar thing could be set up at Ameerpet because a bus like 10H (Secunderabad to Kondapur) gets crowded within the first two or three stops. After that, it is only a fight for space. If one bus to Madhapur starts from Ameerpet, since a lot of techies live in the area, they can board this. The metro has been helpful, but a lot of people still depend on buses,” he adds.
Pointing out that public transport is rarely a priority of the government, he says, “A lack of accommodative infrastructure makes it difficult to even deploy more buses or plan more bus routes. If it continues growing this way, Cyberabad will only see more cars being added to the roads, which in turn would lead to traffic jams and pollution.”
A 2018 study by the Centre for Science and Economy indicated this. The study showed that Hyderabad had the highest distance travelled by cars and two-wheelers, coupled with the lowest public transportation ridership.
“...given the growth trajectory and economic position of the city, it [Hyderabad] could become a highly polluted city in time. While the city has had a good bus system traditionally, it hasn’t kept pace with the city’s growth pattern in terms of fleet size and, therefore, the volumes of passengers it carries,” the analysis stated.