If you are travelling in a Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) bus with a pass, chances of you getting an unpleasant welcome from the crew are higher. Passengers, particularly students, claim drivers are reluctant to halt at bus stops near educational institutions to avoid taking pass-holders on board. There are also complaints of bus conductors misbehaving with passholders and allegations that most of them don’t return the balance to travellers and hence prefer cash transactions.
Allegations of a BMTC driver deviating from the original route to avoid pass-holders and, in turn, causing an accident have brought the corporation’s seemingly irrational revenue policy to the fore. While the transport utility maintains its daily targets aren’t abysmally high, staffers feel burdened. They also put pass-holders in a vulnerable position. BMTC may have shelved the plan to adopt an automated passenger counting system, but it must accelerate implementation of the smart-card project to access travel information of pass-holders and streamline functioning. Smart cards will also spare people the trouble of standing in serpentine queues to buy daily/monthly passes, that too within a stipulated period. BMTC staff, however, say they are helpless as pass-holders aren’t counted while considering revenue targets. The state-run corporation could have monitored revenue collection if two of its proposals — conversion of existing passes into smart ones and Automated Passenger Counting (APC) system — had been implemented. While smart passes would have helped BMTC monitor travellers with passes, with APC — which is popular in other countries — it could have counted the number of passengers boarding and alighting from buses. So far, only student pass-holders have smart cards. BMTC is clueless about the travel pattern of pass-holders (since there’s no system to validate bus passes) and the number of people entering/exiting the bus at a particular stop. With BMTC continues to sit on these proposals, staff and passengers are bearing the brunt.
On March 27, a BMTC bus toppled near a flyover on West of Chord Road after its driver, who was desperate for regular ticket-buyers to meet targets, deviated from the the route reportedly to avoid taking on board student pass-holders. In February, a 33-year-old BMTC woman bus conductor attempted suicide at Sumanahalli depot after the depot manager allegedly harassed her for not bringing in revenue. Both buses, incidentally, belonged to Sumanahalli depot. “We have to give an explanation if there’s any shortfall in revenue.
The number of passengers has reduced after the entry of Namma Metro and app-based cabs. Most regular passengers have passes. How are we expected to meet the target,” asked a conductor. A senior BMTC official said: “We have set daily targets to improve operational efficiency. They were fixed after considering several factors, including the previous year’s revenue. The targets are not exceptionally high. In fact, we have not taken disciplinary action against any staff for not meeting them.” He said they are planning to convert all existing passes into smart ones in a phased manner.
“We have dropped the proposal to introduce APC system since it’s not financially viable,” he added. A recent BMTC survey which covered 5 lakh passengers revealed 48% of them had passes — monthly (23%), daily (12%) and student (11%). The corporation sells about 50,000 daily and 3.5 lakh monthly passes. About 3.5 lakh student passes are issued per year. Other than these, BMTC issues more than 25 categories of concessional passes.
P Shivakumar, a passenger, said: “It’s unfair to treat bus pass-holders who pay in advance as ticketless travellers.” Sarath D, a passenger tweeted to BMTC: “Conductors have some problem with passengers who board with a pass. They give us disgusting looks as if they are doing some free service. I raised complaints earlier, but there is no change in behaviour. Could you let us how you are going to resolve this (sic).”