Beyond Metro feeder buses

Beyond Metro feeder buses

The two Metro lines cater only to a fraction of 1.3 crore Bengalureans. BMTC, the primary public transport option, has its task cut out: Go beyond fee

Beyond Metro feeder buses

After considerable delay, the Namma Metro Phase 1 has finally kicked off with much fanfare. But lost in the euphoric overdrive of the launch is a grim reminder: The Metro’s 42-km network caters only to a fraction of 1.3 crore Bengalureans, the vast majority of who still rely on BMTC buses for public transport.

The inevitable question, then, is this: Shouldn’t the focus be now on restructuring and rationalising BMTC bus routes, a network to address acute problems of last-mile connectivity in areas not touched by any Metro line?

Despite financial worries, the Transport Corporation has made a start by revitalising the feeder bus network around Metro stations.

200 feeders

Not less than 200 buses are now part of the feeder network, taking Namma Metro commuters to locations close to the stations. But it ought to go beyond feeders.

BMTC Managing Director Ekroop Kaur agrees. “We will have to realign the routes. There is no point running parallel to Metro routes. We are in the process of restructuring, with inputs from consultants, commuter feedback, physical surveys and social media,” she elaborates.

But the Corporation is now stuck in a tight corner. Short of funds and buses, its deployment of a big fleet for Metro feeder service has sparked demands that the cash-rich Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) should fund or subsidise the buses.

Break-even challenges

Kaur points out that in the last six years, the feeder services were unable to break even. However, the huge commuter turnout for the recently completed Phase 1 stretches should spark a proportionate rise in feeder bus users. Yet, the fiscal balance is unlikely to be restored in a hurry.

So why not run smaller buses as feeders? These could go to interior locations that big buses generally find inaccessible due to narrow roads. The BMTC MD informs that 30-seater midi-buses are now being introduced. Last-mile connectivity demands even smaller vehicles.

But Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike member Vinay K Srinivas contends that running smaller buses will aggravate BMTC’s revenue loss. “Whatever the size, any bus will require a driver and conductor. The carrying capacity should be high,” he says. Srinivas is not convinced about Metro as an alternative to BMTC routes. “For example, the phase 1 line till Baiyappanahalli. Metro can carry only about one lakh passengers, but commuter numbers on that route are many times more. The capacity difference between Metro and BMTC is huge.”

BMTC's growing burden

The BMTC’s network, he reminds, is far bigger than Metro. It has a much larger commuter base and its needs are much more than being a supplementary service to the Metro. “BMTC carries around 52 lakh people while the maximum daily commuter base of the Metro is 5 lakh. As many as 1,500 out of the 3,000 buses adding to the fleet will go for replacing older vehicles. Another third will have to go for Metro feeder buses,” he says.
But it is quite possible to integrate BMTC’s larger network seamlessly with the feeder system, as civic evangelist V Ravichander puts it. The way out is to restrict the feeder buses within circular arcs of two to three km around a Namma Metro station and link the bigger Big-10 route buses to these arcs.

Higher frequencies

The feeders could be small/mini-buses with a distinct colour, unique numbering and design. “These should have a higher frequency. A bus every five to seven minutes during peak hours and once in 20 minutes during non-peak hours should work well,” explains Ravichander.

For example, a feeder bus from Trinity station could cover Garuda Mall, Residency Road, Commercial Street and Kamaraj Road on a circular loop. It might overlap with a feeder from a station that is within 2 km, benefiting commuters.

Walkability, bus bays

But high frequency feeder buses can get problematic for one reason: Space crunch, lack of bus bays at most of the Phase 1 Metro stations. “Feeder bus stops should be within 200 metres of the stations. Besides, for 500 metres on every direction of the station, you need TenderSURE-type roads with walkable footpaths that are at least two metres wide.”

To ensure seamless last-mile connectivity, tie-ups with app-based taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber should complement the Metro-BMTC linkage. Ola and Uber mobile apps could feature a sub-App on pickup points along Metro corridors. If planned well, even a cycling circuit could be integrated into this scheme, provided the demand is mapped scientifically.