PUBLIC TRANSPORT

It will take a lot more than cheaper tickets to make Delhi's public ride the bus

The lieutenant governor this month rejected the state government's proposal to slash bus fares to increase ridership, curb air pollution.

Public transport in Delhi was to have been cheaper in 2017 with the Aam Aadmi Party government in December proposing a massive reduction in bus fares for a trial period. Under this proposal, a non-air-conditioned bus user would pay Rs 5 per trip, irrespective of distance, as against Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 15 earlier. Similarly, air-conditioned bus users would pay a flat fare of Rs 10 against Rs 10, Rs 15, Rs 20 and Rs 25 earlier. The government also proposed reducing daily pass rates and giving free travel passes to students below the age of 21, widows and senior citizens. All this was an attempt to boost public transport ridership in the city with an aim to reduce the use of private vehicles and thereby, air pollution. However, on January 11, the new lieutenant governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal, returned the proposal to the state government, asking it to reconsider it.

While the government’s intention of making public transport affordable by reducing fares is a welcome step, it may not solve the problem of mobility or air pollution in the city because of three reasons:

Bus availability

The 210-odd kilometers of the Delhi Metro ferries around 25 lakh passengers per day, whereas the 5,500-odd buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation and cluster scheme carry 50 lakh per day. It is clear from this data that buses transport twice the number of commuters than the Metro. Yet, while Metro ridership in constantly rising, bus ridership is on the decline.

The Delhi Transport Corporation had about 44 lakh passengers in 2011-’12 with 6,000 buses. The number of commuters dropped to 35 lakh in 2015-’16 as the fleet size also went down to 4,300 buses. The main problem in Delhi is the paucity of buses. Studies have estimated that the city needs around 11,000 buses to cater to its burgeoning population. However, just about half this number is currently in operation. In the past five years, the corporation has made three failed attempts to buy buses and is also struggling to find depot space for its current and future fleet.

Destination versus direction

While each bus in Delhi carries an average of 900 passengers per day, there are also complaints about the fleet running empty. This is mostly because of bunching – a phenomenon in which many buses on the same route come to a bus stop at around the same time in a bunch. The problem with bunching is that users tend to board the first bus as they are not sure about the reliability of the service. Therefore, while the first few buses may run on crush load, the last few would run almost empty.

This problem can be managed by rationalising bus routes and by shifting from a destination-based network, where many buses go to many places, to a direction-based system with a high frequency trunk operation on arterial roads. This would be complemented by the feeder bus network. While many bus companies have been talking about route rationalisation, it was the Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation that demonstrated this system with the launch of the Big Bus Network in 2013. The success of this service shows that commuters don’t mind changing buses provided they get a reliable service.

Fare box revenue

Of the Delhi Transport Corporation’s total revenue in 2014-’15, rent accounted for 2.8% and advertisements contributed a paltry 0.4%. The corporation still relies mostly on the fare box, or the sale of tickets, for revenue generation, while sitting on a huge land bank. Many transit agencies in India, such as the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation and Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, have been using their land bank not only for revenue generation but also to improve connectivity and provide integrated services to users. In 2014-’15, the Delhi Transport Corporation suffered losses of Rs 1,020 crores. With such a large share of the total revenue coming from fare collection, reducing fares would only contribute to more losses.

Public transport is the backbone of any sustainable city and, therefore, it is heartening that the Delhi government is taking a keen interest in promoting its usage. However, while affordability is critical to its usage, reducing fares alone will not draw users to the system. This was clearly highlighted by the Bangalore corporation’s Atal Sarige buses that were introduced at a subsidised rate of 50% of the normal fare for passengers from economically weaker sections. Studies showed that this service could not fully provide mobility to the urban poor in the city because availability and reliability of service was more important to the users than affordability.

The need is to provide better service to commuters, without hitting the revenue mechanism of the transport department.

Gustavo Petro, an economist and former mayor of Bogota, once said that a developed city is not one where the poor use cars, but one where the rich use public transport. Therefore, in order to address the issue of mobility and air quality in the national capital, the Delhi government needs to completely overhaul the public transport system and not just look at reducing fares. This will not be easy but Delhi has no other option.

Amit Bhatt is Director-Integrated Transport at the World Resources Institute India.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

Play
Play
Play

2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.