Far from being a behemoth that it is today, the city’s public transport system was meant to cater to a sleepy town. Old red and silver buses roamed the city’s streets at not-so-frequent intervals.
Unending waits at bus stops were an accepted norm as were truant buses. If a family from Basavangudi sets out for a weekly visit to Malleswaram to catch up with the cousins, there’s no guarantee that their mission is accomplished. After bidding the old lady of the house goodbye, the family walks up to the old “11 bus stop” in Gandhi Bazaar.
After a couple of hours, the scene shifts back to the house in Basavangudi as the old lady asks in amazement how they managed to return from Malleswaram so soon. The answer explains the mystery. They never made it to Malleswaram. They went only as far as the “11 bus stop”. The old route 11 didn’t turn up.
Today, there is no route 11 bus stop in Gandhi Bazaar. The route 11 was changed to route 41. This was the outcome of a “rationalising” exercise in the 1970s, when the old suffixes to the route numbers “73A” or “12D” were done away with and replaced with mere numerals.
Hence, the old 12 D became route 4 and 16 D became 6. In doing so, the erstwhile BTS came up with 360 route numbers minus the “A” and “B” suffixes. The 360 routes covered the directions along the 360 degrees around the city. While Jayanagar in the south was allotted routes from 1 to 26, the south-west region of Basavangudi-Hanumanthnagar had buses routes covering the 30s and 40s.
The 50s and 60s covered the west including Chamarajpet and Vijayanagar till the “city routes” swept Viveknagar and Austin Town in the south east with route numbers in the 140s.
Similarly, the suburban routes, later popularly called “red boards” began with the 210 series heading south on Kanakapura Road and moved in the westerly direction with the 220 series for Mysore Road, 240s on Magadi Road and right up to Bannergatta Road in the south-east ending the
360 series. BTS was to realise that its “rationalisation” exercise was doomed to failure as the boom city had other ideas. Lakes and hillocks turned to new localities within the city and villages in the outskirts gave in the expanding city. BTS tried to resist this valiantly by refusing to add the alphabetical suffixes.
As a result, it had to run two route 12s. One to Banashankari and one to a new locality next to it called Banashankari II Stage.
With too many such problems springing up all over the city, the BTS gave up. Suffixes, which were exiled in the 70s, were back in less than a decade.