Keep BMTC bus fares low, NGO urges CM

Keep BMTC bus fares low, NGO urges CM

Passengers in city Bus, in Bengaluru. Photo by S K Dinesh

Do not put lakhs of BMTC commuters in dire straits by hiking the fares by 18-20%.

Instead, look at revenue generation through unexplored opportunities in advertising, co-branding and corporate leasing, social initiative Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) has suggested to the chief minister.  Articulating this demand to spare the commuters, Srinivas Alavilli from the CfB elaborates on the alternative: “The government should form a team led by experts from the IIM and the IISc to analyse the business model and suggest actionable steps to maximise the revenue potential of the BMTC.” 

BMTC fares are already the highest in the country, he reminds. It has remained so as Karnataka “does not waive diesel taxes for public transport services and does not foot the bill of staff salaries.” 

Public transport fares must be cheaper than private modes of transport. But in Bengaluru today, a two-wheeler ride is cheaper than the bus. “In many cities across the world, the government policy keeps the public transport fares low, as the benefits are far greater than the loss of revenue,” Alavilli argues. 

The BMTC is the lifeline of Bengaluru. “With merely 6,500 buses, it carries 45 lakh people every day. There is no other mode of transport that is as widespread and powerful as the bus today,” he reminds. 

For lakhs of bus passengers who earn less than Rs 10,000 a month, any increase in the bus fare will have an adverse effect on their quality of life. Alavilli explains: “The bus pass at Rs 1,500 (15% of earnings) is unaffordable and they need to rethink their job and lifestyle if bus fares increase by 18-20%.” 

Low fares, he says, can actually translate to more revenue. “When the BMTC slashed AC (Vajra) bus fares by 37% during a pilot, revenues went up by 42%. As many as 3,000 new buses are supposed to be added to the BMTC fleet for several years but delayed. When more buses are available at affordable prices and reliable service, more people will take the bus which translates to fewer vehicles on the roads.” 

“When the BMTC staff went on a strike, more vehicles appeared on the streets, increasing traffic congestion and making air quality go worse. Cities worldwide are making public transport free, especially on days when pollution is high. If we don’t want Bengaluru to become Delhi, bus holds the key.”