Bus route reorganization in Bangalore is game-changer for India
Bangalore is the third largest city in India, with a population of about 8.5 million people. As the sole provider of public bus transport, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) carries about 4.8 million passenger trips daily – and accounts for 42% of all motorized travel in the city. Facing pressures of rapid population growth and increasing private motorization, BMTC is implementing major reforms in order to improve the quality of its service. These reforms, which mark the first successful bus route reorganization in a major Indian city, are a necessary step to ensure that public buses remain a viable and competitive alternative to private transport.
The EMBARQ India team was a key player in the conception and implementation of Bangalore’s bus route reforms, providing research and technical support throughout every step of the process.
Pilot corridor lays foundation for “trunk and feeder” system in Bangalore
On September 16, 2013, BMTC launched a pilot corridor of “BigTrunk” routes as the first of two major reforms that will expand the Bangalore Intra-city Grid Bus Network, also known as the “Big Bus Network”. The second reform will be the creation of suburban “feeder” routes. Combined, these reforms will provide a high frequency connective grid of bus services across the entire Bangalore metropolitan region. This groundbreaking transition is expected to positively impact an estimated 2.5 million passengers by 2016.
The “trunk and feeder” design that will be implemented in Bangalore can be thought of like a tree – the “trunk” routes are the backbone of the bus network, running directly into the city center. The “feeder” routes are smaller branches that connect periphery areas to the trunks. Figure 1, at the end of this article, shows BMTC’s BigTrunk routes in yellow and feeder routes in blue.
Figure 2 depicts the expanded Big Bus Network, which will be completed by 2016. The network will include BigCircle routes (blue), BigCity routes (red), and BigConnect routes (orange), in addition to trunk and feeder routes.
The pilot corridor of BigTrunk routes is located along Hosur Road, one of the busiest transportation corridors in the city. Since the launch, service has already improved for 53,000 passengers daily. The most notable improvement is the decrease in wait time between buses by an average of 56%.
BMTC emerges as India’s leader in bus route reorganization
BMTC is one of the largest public transport operators in India. With nearly 6,500 buses in Bangalore alone, it is hoped that BMTC’s ability to provide higher quality service will encourage more Indians to use public transport. In order to do that, BMTC is using a strategy called route reorganization. This technique reviews existing routes and shifts service from ineffective routes to others where transport is most needed. It often entails a dramatic reduction in the total number of routes in order to produce a simpler system that’s easier and faster for passengers to use.
There are currently over 2,400 bus routes in Bangalore - a figure significantly higher than in other cities of similar size and bus ridership. London operates 700 routes and Seoul, only 500. This staggering figure is a direct result of a destination-oriented bus network, the model which most cities in India currently employ. In this model, any given destination, whether a neighborhood, market, or other locale, is directly connected to the city center and other major destinations. Although this system works well in smaller cities, it becomes increasingly inefficient and impractical as cities grow larger. BMTC now seeks to transition to a direction-oriented model – a system comprised of a connective grid of routes that will provide efficient coverage throughout the city. Figure 3 shows the difference between a destination-oriented and direction-oriented bus network.
The new and improved Big Bus Network will also be supplemented by several infrastructure upgrades, including new transfer facilities, a system of integrated fares, simplified route numberings, increased posting of passenger information, and unified branding. This overhaul of existing BMTC services is expected to result in a simpler, more efficient, and higher quality bus service for Bangalore residents.
A lasting partnership: EMBARQ India and BMTC
EMBARQ India played an integral role in catalyzing bus route reforms in Bangalore. Working closely with senior BMTC officials, and with the support of Karnataka’s Chief Minister, Siddaramiah, and Transport Minister, Ramalinga Reddy, the EMBARQ India team provided dedicated support during the planning and application of the BIG Bus Network reorganization. Key contributions included training BMTC staff in data collection and performance monitoring, overseeing travel demand assessments and commuter surveys along Hosur Road, providing technical support for route and service planning, and collaborating on branding and communications strategies.
The development of a successful framework for the transition of an urban bus network from a destination-oriented to direction-oriented model is a game-changer for public transport in India. With cities like Chennai and Mumbai already planning to follow Bangalore’s example, bus route reorganization has the exciting potential to improve the quality of life for millions of urban residents across India.