Positive connections: New Bangalore bus services reach suburbs

Positive connections: New Bangalore bus services reach suburbs

Saving time for more than five million commuters and improving their quality of life

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Akshay Sharma rises early to travel 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) into the heart of Bangalore, India, to Majestic Bus Station. Although officially named Kempegowda Bus Station in honor of the city’s founder, the station is known to locals like Akshay simply as “Majestic.”

Majestic is the central bus station of Bangalore, the third largest city in India and capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. It’s home to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), the sole public bus transport provider in Bangalore whose fleet carries over 5 million passengers daily. Akshay, a 26-year-old tutor of Hindi, math, and science who works near Majestic, is one of them.

Akshay moved to Bangalore from the State of Uttar Pradesh ten years ago. He lives with his family in Marsur, a suburb south-west of Bangalore. “I would prefer to live somewhere close to work,” he says, “but I cannot afford to live elsewhere, especially closer to the city center.” So Akshay used to transfer between a series of privately operated buses each morning, traveling more than two hours to Majestic and spending over four hours commuting every day.

Since the launch of a new feeder bus line to nearby Chandapura in February 2014, Akshay has found Marsur significantly better connected to the city center. The feeder routes are part of BMTC’s new Bangalore Intracity Grid (BIG) Bus Network, a system of high-frequency, integrated services that is transforming the quality and capacity of Bangalore’s public bus network. EMBARQ India helped conceptualize, plan, and implement the BIG Bus Network through the Mobility and Accessibility Program (MAP), including its innovative “Trunk and Feeder” design. Feeder routes connect towns and villages like Akshay’s to major trunk routes on arterial roads leading into Bangalore.

“I used to have to wait a long time for the direct bus from Marsur to get to work, so instead I would take a tempo or private bus, which was very crowded, to Chandapura. From there finding a seat on a bus going to Majestic was almost impossible. Now I take the Samparka Sarige BIG bus feeder line to Chandapura, which comes every ten minutes. I don’t have to worry about missing a particular bus. From Chandapura there is a [feeder] bus starting every 5-10 minutes. If one bus is crowded I wait for the next and take a seat.”

Tempo buses, privately rented or owned mid-sized buses that provide an unregulated public transport option, are common in Bangalore and throughout India. And while Lonely Planet will tell you that tempos run on fixed routes for fixed fares, in reality that’s not always the case. For Akshay, the implementation of a new bus service that is “easy to understand and reliable,” and which has eliminated his dependence on tempos, has measurably improved his daily commute and quality of life.

"The most important change has been time saving and increased comfort. I don’t have to haggle with the tempo bus operator every morning and if I’m late returning [home], I can be sure that I will get a bus."

"I generally feel more relaxed and less tired after my commute. This has affected my productivity and general well-being in a positive way."

Akshay has now shaved 30-40 minutes off his commute every day, primarily through drastically reduced wait times. He also explains how the BIG Bus Network’s new, simpler numbering system has made public bus service in Bangalore more easily accessible for his relatives, friends, and co-workers. The city’s bus routes were previously “very difficult to understand, especially for new people.” Now that each bus displays its origin and destination, residents can readily discern which bus to get on – an invaluable improvement in suburbs like Masur where economic livelihoods depend on access to downtown Bangalore.

“People around my home are very positive about the BIG Bus Network and my relatives often talk about it. When someone gets a service extended to where they live, they get a sense of pride and happiness. It really feels good to have an effective and reliable bus service.”

Akshay’s only recommendation? More feeder lines to remote areas surrounding Bangalore “so that people can take full benefit of the service.”