100 more Volvo buses

BMTC plans to buy 100 more Volvo buses! And each bus costs Rs 63 lakhs. So we are talking about 63 crores (630 million rupees, or $ 14 million) here.

Come see the general condition of BMTC buses. Maintenance and upkeep definitely does not seem to be their forte. So what will happen to these shining new buses in a few years? I am thinking malfunctioning air conditioners, torn seats and dented metallic bodies. Don't believe me? Then go check on those "pushpak" buses that looked so shiny and bright first few years in service.

I may not have a very strong case though. Look at BMTC's performance over last few years, they claim to have made profits of Rs 115 crores for years 2004-2005. Rate of breakdowns per 10000 km (only maintenance related parameter they mention) has been going down since 2001. So if you play the numbers game, they are profitable, and they have been improving on maintenance.

But this is how I see it. 8 out of 10 commuters will tell you they are not happy with the service provided by BMTC. And if a public enterprise like BMTC can make profits on that quality of service, a professional venture could provide better services and still make money out of city transportation business.

BMTC does not keep schedules. It just can't run enough services to meet the demand. Its own buses compete with each other for passengers. It does not have space for running and stopping its buses. Maintenance and upkeep of vehicles is questionable. Many of BMTC's problems can only be solved by coordinating with other city authorities. But instead of coordinating with them, BMTC opts to pass the buck.

Similar sentiments have been expressed recently by The Hindu.
Why not hand off city transportation job to a more professional, PPP (public private partnership) like setup? All these complaints could go away. We can make a start by handing off operations of BMTC's Volvo fleet to one such setup. Or, we could think big and create a larger transportation PPP to operate not just the buses, but the upcoming monorails and metros as well.

Remember, poor city transportation service is the biggest reason for increased number of private vehicles on the road. Essentially, BMTC itself has helped create the traffic mess it complains about. It is time to think out of the box, and make a serious effort to encourage commuters to leave their vehicles back at home.

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