KOCHI: Despite an increasing migrant population and inflow of techies from other states, public transport buses in the city continue to sport name boards in Malayalam. This has created inconvenience to persons who are unable to read the local language. With cities such as Chennai, Bengaluru and Delhi setting up the Unique Numbering System for Bus Routes (UNSBR), which has helped in the integration of public transport on a larger platform such as Google Maps, one can’t help but wonder why Kochi has not jumped on the bandwagon yet.
“I find travelling by bus much convenient than the Metro because they have better connectivity across the city. But I have a hard time figuring out which bus I should board as I cannot read the language and not always can you seek a bystander’s help,” said Pranava K, a techie from Hyderabad. Arun Kumar, a freelance writer in the city, faces the same predicament. “I have been travelling in private buses ever since I was a kid. Though I cannot read the Malayalam script, I have learnt to recognise some of the place names over the years. However, it would be of great help if each route is denoted by a number, especially for migrants coming to the city,” he said.
The government introduced the numbering system in Kannur last year. The move, despite turning out to be successful to a small extent, failed to gather momentum in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode with the lack of cooperation from bus drivers and residents. “Several years ago, one of the RTOs had decided to replace name boards with route numbers in Kochi. But, lack of clarity on how to go about it made the project lose steam. Currently, very few buses have destination boards in other languages. If the MVD (Motor Vehicles Department) decides to execute such a system, they have our entire support,” said M B Sathyan, president of the Kerala Private Bus Operators Federation.
Route rationalisation first
Enabling such a project is by no means an easy task, according to D Dhanuraj, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research. “The numbering system can be introduced only after route rationalisation. The latter includes identifying existing routes, new roads and the public transport traversing through new routes. It was carried out 20 years ago and another one is due. The District Road Transport Office is in charge of undertaking the exercise,” he said.
“The current public transport system only reaches about 30 per cent of the district. After route-rationalisation, route numbering can be implemented and different modes can be brought together on an integrated platform. In the future, we require such integration on apps such as Chalo and Google Maps,” he added. Sources in the MVD echoed the same. “Earlier, the system wasn’t scientifically implemented. The numbering system will be efficient only after route rationalisation and fare integration. After the arrival of the UMTA Bill which comprises the above, the horizon looks brighter for public transport,” said an official.
According to Joint Transport Commissioner Rajeev Puthalath, enforcing the numbering system is complicated as the state has a large number of smaller routes. “Nevertheless, the matter has been taken up. Currently, the MVD is involved in a route-digitisation process,” he said
According to D Dhanuraj, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research, the numbering system can be introduced only after route rationalisation. The latter includes identifying existing routes, new roads and the public transport traversing through new routes.
The government introduced the numbering system in Kannur last year. The move, despite turning out to be successful to a small extent, failed to gather momentum in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.