Bus Karo 2.0 - Case Studies from India

EMBARQ India's report Bus Karo 2.0 – Case Studies from India, seeks to understand and document the implementation of significant advancements in bus transport in India. The report takes a close look at key areas like planning and operations, support infrastructure, fuel efficiency training and management, technology applications, branding and marketing, and financing models. The purpose of this publication is to complement the Government of India’s current initiatives and to strengthen bus-based public transport in Indian cities.

View an online, interactive version of this report


Executive Summary

In the last few years, Indian cities dramaticallytransformed their mobility through theimplementation of many bus transit solutions. UrbanIndia experienced several major accomplishmentson multiple fronts:

  1. Innovative policy-based initiatives in public transport
  2. Various pilot reforms to enhance operationalefficiency
  3. The growing potential of technologyapplications
  4. Wide-reaching and successful strategies inbranding and marketing approaches
  5. A significant increase in Bus Rapid TransitSystems and the optimisation of city bus services

Pilot initiatives and trends indicate that the citybus will continue to be the backbone of urbanmobility in India. In the Bus Karo Guidebookv2.0, the objective is to analyse and documentthe implementation of these practices in theurban Indian context. Multiple case studies areinvestigated in great detail and the learnings arehighlighted. These learnings are assessed as perthe needs of bus operators, and contextualized ina way to inform planning, design and operationaldecisions. The purpose of this guide is to parallelthe many initiatives of the Indian Government, andto strenghten bus-based public transport towardsestablishing larger mode shares.

Defining the Problem

While the various initiatives have created success, the industry requires additional efforts and further impetus towards strengthening systems. The public transport industry faces challenges in employing innovative approaches to provide improved services to the public. There are three broad areas of issues:

  • The shortage of trained and skilled workers to manage adequate standards of maintenance and operations gravely affects operating agencies.
  • The paradoxical nature of providing public transport as a commercial function, yet with a strong social objective, places financial pressure on the sustainability of operating agencies.
  • The lack of coordination among the multiple players to allocate land for transit infrastructure needs, results in the industry falling short of its potential.

On a parallel path, similar to their global counterparts, Indian cities are undergoing global trend paths such as urbanization, motorization and congestion. Coupled with declining public transport use, the problem is further exacerbated and Indian cities are quickly losing out on the standard of living they offer.


Recognising several areas requiring focus, this Guidebook gives an in-depth assessment and documents practices and the existing challenges in six areas in the bus industry.

1. The dynamic nature of cities requires a redesign of the transport system to effectively respond to the population’s changing needs.

In light of changing urban trends and the resultant impacts on mobility patterns, cities assess the mobility needs of their population, ensuring that the transport system responds effectively. Data collection is an effective tool to assess these changes and design the system as per travel patterns, system performance, public perceptions and growth in demand.

2. Safety and accessibility are two significant design components in planning for transport infrastructure.

Planning for a transport system requires a comprehensive approach. The planning and designing of safe and accessible infrastructure is critical for system operations, maintenance and expansion.

3. A structured framework to optimize fuel efficiency is important and four areas of focus can be effective: driver training, management systems, vehicle maintenance, and incentive schemes.

Many agencies have begun focusing on ways to optimize expenditure. As fuel costs make up between 35 and 50 percent of total expenditure, training for fuel efficiency has been adopted by multiple agencies across India as an optimizing strategy. A systematic framework, in this case, is effective to promote fuel-efficient driving through consistent monitoring as well as indicate the seriousness of the initiative.

4. Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are useful to obtain data and use data analytics as a way to enhance operations.

The application of ITS in Indian cities has witnessed significant traction over the last few years. This brings further opportunity to collect and analyse this data for input into operations including driver monitoring, passenger information, and service planning.

5. Branding, marketing and communicating are three critical components to augment public transport outreach.

Information about new systems or changes to systems must be communicated precisely to the public in order to have a good chance of success. Branding, marketing and communication are vital to draw public attention, expedite public understanding and recognition of the system, and create a strong connection with the public.

6. The financial sustainability of operating agencies is undermined by the inevitable purpose of providing transport as a public service. New financing trends can be effective in easing the pressure on agencies.

Public transport provision faces a challenge in ensuring commercial viability and simultaneously satisfying its social objectives as a public service. In comparison to typical revenue streams, public transport expenditures are often significantly higher. It is important that fares, as a key revenue factor for agencies, be determined through a scientific approach to facilitate this imbalance. Proper financing mechanisms can be adopted to bridge the gap between revenues and expenditures.

7. An integrated approach to providing city bus services can strengthen the system. In addition to the role of operating agencies, the state assumes a significant role in providing public transport. Four areas of improvement fall outside the purview of a city bus agency: system safety, segregated infrastructure, financial subsidy and land planning for infrastructure.

These assessments are a way to facilitate a rethought process on how to approach these problems that are prevalent in the Indian bus industry. 

Based on these examples and challenges, systematic frameworks are suggested as a practice, for bus agencies to adapt to their specific contextual demands. The publication concludes with a way forward, which elucidates the need for cohesive and practical planning.

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