No bus stops here

No bus stops here

Dilapidated, ill-maintained and badly placed, bus shelters on city roads galore are in deep decay.

Triggering traffic chaos, BMTC bus drivers stop where they want and not where they should.

But when one agency operates the bus services and another refuse to let go of its control of the shelters, can coordination work? Can public transport get its much-needed hyper-boost?

For the harried bus commuter, the waiting is tough, the commute tougher.

Cornered by a steep fare hike, the least they expect is a semblance of comfort. But BMTC officials assert they are helpless.

Reason: The upkeep of the bus shelters is clearly the job of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).  

Four years ago, the state government had decided that BMTC should take over control.

But as the transport corporation recalls, the Palike refused.

The reason was obvious: Sporting well-lit advertisements, the shelters were big revenue earners.

Fair enough. But the bus stops had to be placed at locations where commuters alight and board.

Not where the billboards had their best display. Obviously, BMTC had no say in where the shelters should be. They only knew where to stop the buses!

Letter to BBMP

The result: Utter chaos on the roads, daily nightmares for the traffic police, hell for the commuters! 

The scenario had turned so bad that the city’s Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), B Dayananda was forced to write a letter to the BBMP commissioner, seeking relocation of 127 bus stops located in close proximity to traffic junctions, intersections and flyovers.

But the letter, sent in September 2013, is yet to translate into action. “We had informed both BBMP and BMTC about this problem. Work on shifting the bus stops is going on in consultation with both the agencies,” says Dayananda. If there is progress at all, it definitely is excruciatingly slow.

For, a majority of such bus stops remain where they are.

And, BMTC drivers continue to stop buses either before or after the shelters, many a times right in the middle of the road parallel to a bus already at the spot.

This invariably halts the vehicular flow. “BMTC has been told to stop this practice. We book cases against such drivers for traffic violations,” insists the top traffic police official.

Revenue without maintenance

BBMP is estimated to earn in excess of Rs. 12 crore through advertisements displayed at bus stops / shelters under its control.

But it is obvious that nothing much is given back to spruce up the shelters and enhance the commuter experience.

A top BMTC official reveals on conditions of anonymity that the Palike had even turned down a request for space to put up bus route maps and timings at the stops.

Forget interactive display boards, there are no boards of any value in most bus stops. Updating bus schedules require a semblance of coordination between the two agencies. That, clearly, is nowhere in evidence!

The apparent lack of any quality guidelines on bus shelters in the city had spurred the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Centre for infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) to conduct a study on the bus stops and bus bays in the City.

The results were on predicted lines. Substandard bus shelters were all around.

Consider for instance the Kempegowda Bus Station (Majestic) to Vidyaranyapura route that was put under the microscope. In 2012, this route had a total of 54 bus stops (25 from KBS to Vidyaranyapura and 29 on the reverse direction).

Thirteen of these 54 had no footpaths, but 40 had seating arrangements.

However, 22 had no name boards. Route maps were available only in three stops, while the much-needed schedules were displayed only in seven stops.

Nine litter bins, 11 bus stop flagposts and two empty map holdings were all that on show as proof of modernity!

Upgrade of the existing bus stop ecosystem, as transport experts and researchers emphasise, should be multi-pronged.

Bus drivers and conductors should be trained on how to approach and leave a bus stop.

As the CiSTUP study highlights, “Showing appropriate hand and blinking signals while approaching a bus stop and also at the time of leaving, would ensure the safe mobility of buses at bus stops. Besides, a bus needs to have low flooring entrance to accommodate the elderly, disabled, children, people with luggage, etc.”

Haphazard halts

No bus stop can have other vehicles either parked or moved between the bus and bus stops. The current, widespread practice of BMTC buses halting right at the centre of the road gives enough scope for other motorists to occupy the exclusive space.

Safety is another issue.

While well-lit bus stops are a must, engaging security personnel to man such facilities in remote localities could be a safety booster.

Lack of proper shelter is an oft-heard complaint among commuters.

An all-season shelter, protecting commuters from seasonal rains and hot summers is essential. Equally important are waste bins, passenger information systems, decent seating, and display boards with emergency numbers.

Senior citizens, children and the disabled are apparently outside the radar of the bus shelter designers.

Studies have established that the current bus stop designs ignore the difficulties of these vulnerable passengers while boarding and alighting the bus.

For instance, the height difference between the pavement and bus waiting area (boarding and alighting area) currently ranges from 0 to 60cm.

The standard height difference should be 12.5 to 16.0 cm.

Dangerous placement

It is strange but true that these guidelines ought to have been in place decades ago. The bus stop at KR Puram, a key entry point to the city, is symptomatic of everything that has gone wrong with the system.

Located right at the point where the cable-stay wire bridge begins, the stop is a chaotic mix of BMTC and private buses, autorickshaws and vans in tearing hurry, maxicabs heading to Hoskote and beyond, and commuters caught between speeding vehicles of all hues.

Forced to negotiate this dangerous junction every day, Abdul Samad, a resident of Rameshnagar, recounts his daily horror, “Vehicles approaching the bridge at top speed often fail to notice bus passengers about to cross the road. The buses are haphazardly parked, and you have hundreds of two-wheelers trying to bypass the bridge to get to the KR Puram railway station underneath. The badly placed bus stop has caused all these problems.”

There can’t be a greater irony than the air-conditioned bus stop at Hudson Circle, a structure once presumed to be a model for commuter convenience.

The place is mostly isolated, hardly any bus stops there, and the damage caused to it over the years stands testimony to a system gone horribly wrong.

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