The BMTC has increased AC bus fares by an average of 16.89%, varying between 3.45% and 26% depending on the length of the journey.

Public transport should not be about profits Activists slam Bluru AC bus fare hikesNikhil K. via Wikimedia Commons
news Transport Sunday, July 01, 2018 - 15:32

The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC)’s decision to increase AC bus fares by an average of 16.89% has not gone down well with activists and citizens.

According to the government-run city transport corporation, the hike is to “reduce operational loss” coupled with the steady increase in fuel prices and dearness allowance for its employees.

“Since January 1, a constant rise in diesel price and Dearness Allowance has contributed to an increase in staff costs and operational expenditure. With this, it is difficult to provide Vajra services at present fares,” the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Committee said in a press statement.

With traffic snarls and private vehicle ownerships already on the rise, Sandeep Anirudhan, a civic activist, is of the opinion that the fundamentals of BMTC’s foundations are responsible for flawed decisions like this

“It is set up as a company with expectations to make profits. It is a wrong idea to make profits when you are using public infrastructure for free. Why should you make profits out of citizens when you are a government body? If we don’t question these fundamentals, we are not going to solve the problem. What can be done is to declare BMTC as a public service, like Indira canteens, then nobody will talk about profits,” he said.

He added that being a public service, it should serve public needs and should be made answerable to the public like every other government department and not work as a corporation.

Although there are no official numbers available in public domain, the BMTC’s AC buses are touted to carry close to 67,000 passengers daily, including its buses to and from the airport,

Sandeep pointed out that the BMTC, being the most expensive public service, still ferries more than 50 lakh passengers due to the sheer lack of options“If you lower the bus fares and improve the service, there is a probability that the other 50 lakh which is using private transport may switch to buses,” he said.

The fare hike is drawing more criticism since it comes after a period of discounted rates by the BMTC. An average discount of 29% in tickets resulted in the ridership shooting up - within just 15 days time, BMTC saw a 43% spike in ridership in its AC buses.

Srinivas Alavilli, a citizen activist and the co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru and part of Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, feels that the AC bus fare hike will make the situation much worse than it already is.

“This extremely regressive step of increasing the AC fares is going to make things worse. It’s like deliberately asking for more congestion and pollution. The corporation’s financial health is far less important than public health. Earning per kilometre should not determine this policy. The impact on traffic and pollution should drive the decision on bus fares. We respectfully urge the state government to bridge the gap and not allow this to happen in the larger interests of our city,” Srinivas said.

He went on to state that the investment in BMTC is an investment in public health and at a fraction of cost, it can make a huge difference.

Another activist, Vinay Srinivas said, "From Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike , we have always been advocating for very low bus fares. Public Transport enables people to access their rights to education, livelihood and mobility and therefore cannot be at a cost which acts as a barrier. Moreover, low fares pull in more people to the bus, thus benefeting the city socially and ecologically."

He added, "The way to attract car goers to buses is not by introducing costly AC buses but rather by increasing frequency and reliability of buses. This is demonstrated by BMTC's own experience in Hosur road. After the trunk and feeder service was put there, with the increased frequency on ordinary buses, the people using AC buses on that route fell."

He also said, "As for the AC service though, we see no reason to have a segregated service such as this. Everyone should have access to good quality, low floor buses and there should be able enough buses for all. It is better to scrap the Volvo buses and but more buses benefitting all."

TNM could not reach Transport Minister DC Thammanna for a comment while BMTC’s Deputy Commissioner Ramesh refused to comment.

Also read: With smarter routes, cheaper tickets, buses could be lifeline to fix Bengaluru’s traffic mess


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