Will lower fares, especially for short distances, encourage people to use public transport? While people are currently steering clear of buses and other modes of public transport during the pandemic, this will not be the case in the long run.
A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) on sustainable urban transport policies to improve the public transportation system with a focus on city bus services has recommended that the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) reduce fares for short distance travel. It also advocated the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit (dedicated lanes) to decongest the citys roads.
The study observes that the existing fare structure of the Corporation starts with a low fare, but the rates increase rapidly for short distances, followed by a very small and steady growth for medium and long distance travel.
At present, the BMTC charges 5 for the first stage (2 km), but for 4 km, the fare doubles to 10. A 6-km commute is priced around 15.
Such a fare structure seems to be promoting the usage of buses for longer distances than short ones. Today, with Bengaluru having a mass rapid transit system, i.e. metro service, in place, the BMTC buses should be used more for short trips, cheaper mode or as a last-mile connecting feeder system instead of a long trip provider, said the researchers in the study.
Associate Professor of Transportation System Engineering (IISc.) Ashish Verma, who is one of the authors of the study, said that higher fares for shorter trips is a disadvantage.
The proposed fare structure based on the finding will help BMTC to restructure its fares to attract more ridership and revenue. At present, due to the high fares for shorter distances, people are using private modes of transport, such as two-wheelers. On the other hand, implementing BRT on major roads will help efficiency of public transport.
The study recommends a reduction in the rate of increment of bus fares for small and small-medium distances: 7 for the first 2 km, then 8 till 4 km, followed by 10 for 6 km, 12 till 8 km and 15 for 10 km. Thereafter, the rate can increase by 2 per stage.
Prioritise bus lanes
In another major recommendation, the study proposes Bus Rapid Transit be given prominence. At present, a priority lane has been provided on Outer Ring Road. There is a proposal to introduce such lanes on other major roads in the city.
The study found that BRT will increase the ridership of BMTC by more than 4% and will also improve the revenue by almost 23% along with drastically reducing vehicular emission.