When will drivers learn?

A strong network of public transport is probably one of the solutions to the chronic traffic problems in Bangalore city. I am a resident of the city for over three decades and I have witnessed its down fall as years passed by and business grew.

The set of things that would pop up at the very thought of public transport in Bangalore decades back was, buses colored in red and silver in the ratio of 3:1, unclean, ruined due to neglect and bad driving. I remember one BMTC driver who grew to be an acquaintance saying “they are government buses and nobody cares if I abuse them”.

For a large part of August 2014, I used public transport to reach office. Most of the things have changed. The colour has changed, so have the seats and there is improved comfort. What’s remained is neglect and bad driving.

The drivers of almost all the buses (except Vayu Vajra) seem to have inherited the responsibility of abusing these buses from their predecessors. Every time there is bus stop, a road hump, a traffic signal or a pothole, the bus driver refuses to shift to lower gears. Of the three pedals, the unused one definitely is the clutch. The driver hardly uses this pedal to change gears, if he decides to do so.

So what? What’s the big deal if he doesn’t change gears or use the clutch?

Abuse obviously will have sharp impact on the maintenance cost of these buses, if someone is willing to maintain them. These are heavy vehicle that are designed to run at least a lakh kilometer, maintenance free. That’s a long term impact. So, what’s in the short term? What about fuel? Does good driving save fuel?

A study conducted by PCRA (Petroleum Conservation Research Association) reveals that on a 1000km trip, careless driving can consume 280 litres of diesel compared to careful driving that would consume only 250 litres. A saving of 30 litres.

There are roughly 12 bus stops and 8 road humps between the place where I on-board and off-board the bus. Every time the bus stops/slows down, to get back to speed without gear change if we assume the bus might consume an additional 30 ml of fuel, the incremental fuel consumption per day is 5 litres. The bus makes 4 trips a day. For only the stretch I travel, the incremental fuel cost per day for BMTC is Rs.300 which translates into Rs.92, 000/- per annum for the bus. BMTC owns a fleet of 6808 buses. Of this, if 20% are Volvo’s and AC Marcopolo and assuming the drivers of the remaining 50% are bad , the incremental fuel cost to BMTC is Rs.25 cr per annum, on a stretch of 10 kilometers. Imagine the number for Bangalore city.

The solution to the problem sounds simple but is a mammoth to implement, “training and monitoring”. But BMTC’s solution, “A Fare increase in April 2014”.

BMTC incurred loss for the second consecutive year and posted an Rs.140 cr loss for the financial year 2013-14. It was stated that only a fare increase could keep the corporation running.

“Ticketless travel is a social evil” says a banner on the BMTC website. Why, ticketless travel increases the cost of operations for BMTC. Bad driving and abuse don’t?