BENGALURU: Across the world, several cities in countries like the US, Australia and Brazil allow commuters to travel for free in select buses, largely as a measure to dissuade use of private vehicles.
Bengaluru, which is one among the most traffic-choked cities in India, ironically has one of the highest bus fares in the country. In a study by NGO Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, it was discovered that diesel fares witnessed a 31 per cent jump between 2011 and 2017 in sharp contrast to BMTC fares which rose between 25 per cent and 77 per cent in the same period.
In comparison, a commuter in Chennai can buy a daily pass for `50 compared to BMTC’s `65. This has prompted several NGOs to conduct the #BusBhagyaBeku - double the fleet, halve the fare - campaign in the city.
Vinay Sreenivasa of Bus Prayanikara Vedike said there has been a drastic increase in the bus fare since 2011. “Bengaluru has one of the highest bus fares in the country. In terms of daily pass, Bengaluru is highest. Mumbai has higher fares than Bengaluru for some stages but diesel fare in Mumbai is also higher.”
He says that the high bus fare is the top reason for decline in BMTC ridership by 8 per cent after the fare hike in 2014. “Travelling in a BMTC bus is costlier than riding a two-wheeler.
Even a car or auto shared by two or three people is a cheaper option than a bus ride. For instance, a daily wage worker earns an average of `4,000-`6,000 a month. BMTC’s monthly bus pass costs `1,050 so there are so many people who choose to walk at least 4-6km to save `30 per day.”
“Many foreign countries provide free public transport to reduce congestion and pollution. We are asking the government only to reduce the bus fare by half to make it affordable for poor people,” said Srinivas Alavilli of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB).
“Last year, our state budget was `1 lakh 60 thousand crore. This year it is likely to be around `2 lakh crore. It makes sense to invest a few thousands of crores to strengthen BMTC that carries 50 lakh people daily,” he adds.
A senior BMTC official admitted that bus fares in the city are high compared to other cities. “We are not receiving adequate financial support from the government like other states. The government is yet to exempt BMTC from paying taxes, including excise duty, Motor Vehicle Tax, VAT, and property tax.”
“We operate buses on several loss-making routes because of social obligation. It’s not possible to reduce the fare or increase fleet without financial assistance from government,” the official said.
Another BMTC official said they also face severe competition from private bus operators and taxi companies because of the high bus fare.