Bengaluru has seen a large number of citizen led & citizen driven campaigns around #sustainablemobility, the notable one being the Bus Day Campaign spearheaded by members of Praja RAAG.
Subsequently, several initiatives and volunteer groups have been campaigning for effective, efficient and reliable public transport. The BMTC has also launched several initiatives to promote the use of public transport – Pink Buses, Vayu Vajra Volvo, G8 Buses to name a few. On July 9th 2020, Radio Active in association with Citizen Matters hosted a Tweet Chat on #BengaluruMoving.
The tweet chat was divided into three segments and looked at the following:
- Past: What can we learn from past campaigns?
- Present: What should we be doing now, during the pandemic in order to promote the use of buses?
- Future: Reimagining Public Transport
The participants included:
- Srinivas Alavilli, Co-founder of Citizens for Bangalore: @srinualavilli
- Sudeept Maiti, Senior Manager – Urban Transport, WRI India: @sudeept_maiti
- Shaheen Shasa, Co-founder and member of Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike: @BBPVedike
- Sonal Kulkarni, Senior Transport Planner at DULT: @soshku
- Muralidhar Rao, Praja RAAG: @murali772
- Nimisha Agarwal, Senior Campaigner at Jhatkaa.org: @Jhatkaadotorg
The tweet chat was moderated by Pinky Chandran and Meera K
Here’s a round up of the Tweet Chat.
Segment 1: Revisiting Past Campaigns
Radio Active: Q1 Bengaluru’s #BusDay was one of first campaigns designed to change people’s perception towards #publictransport.What did it achieve? How did it help in terms of traffic, ridership, pollution levels? What can be learned?
Meera: Do you want to start a bus day campaign again?
Srinivas Alavilli: Those in positions of powers simply do not appreciate the role our humble @BMTC_BENGALURU bus plays in our city. We need intensive bus immersion for all of them – that’s the kind of bus day that will make a difference. Also a similar bus day for CEOs &MD types they need to get it. It certainly made bus a topic of conversation. The well designed posters of #BusDay attracted lot of attention and made the humble bus appear in print media.
BusPrayanikaraVedike@BBPVedike #BusDay was probably the first time BMTC made an effort to promote bus as a desirable mode of transport. It served as an opportunity to rally around various interest groups around mobility and bus. Additional buses were deployed on bus day, BMTC encouraged people to use the bus! However, that was also it’s limitation in imagination that while the bus day aimed to promote the bus, it didn’t go beyond promotional activities and embrace the systemic reforms needed to make BMTC more accessible and usable for a wider population. As an aside, BBPV also used bus day as symbolic action during our early campaigns for fare reduction and safety for women in buses.
Muralidhar Rao@murali772 : Bus day was initiated by #Praja_RAAG , but after promising to act on feedback given, #BMTC ignored our suggestions, and eventually out of frustration, we piller out. #BMTC carrier on like a ritual
Nagesh@nagesh_blr: Anyway, we don’t need a #BusDay to promote the buses. Now the buses are overcrowded. In the Post-COVID period, the bus capacity cannot match the demand. So we can dispense with the promotion for now.
Sudeept_maiti: The idea was to promote #masstransport, help reduce #airollution and help #decongest #Bengaluru. It created a great platform elected representatives, government officials and citizens to come together to push for a more #sustainable and #accessible city.
Vinay Sreenivasa: the forum @BBPVedike started in response to a bus fare hike in 2013. The campaign with action on the street forced discourse to turn to problems of the working class bus commuters, till then largely ignored. Bus Day turns Black Day as commuters protest fare hike https://www.deccanherald.com/content/342795/bus-day-turns-black-day.html
Meera: #BengaluruMoving In 2013, Bus Prayanikara Vedike held the #BlackDay protest against bus fare increases. 2014 saw the 50 paisa campaign. Key ask- transportation cost < 5% of the min wages. @BBPVedike has been demanding people-centric fares — what has been the impact?
BBPVedike: This is a tough question to answer. The greatest impact, we believe, has been a widespread recognition of affordability as a concern. Many more groups, media, BMTC itself and the political class now accept this as a concern. However, the political will to reduce fares is lacking!
Vinay Sreenivasa: One thing is – after 2014 fares have not increased at all. Two – the discourse altered – ppl started speaking of affordability for ordinary commuters, started seeing the bus as an investment in city’s and peoples health, that public transport needs investment by state.
Genesia R. : We need a #busday or #busweek again. For a mass appeal, the foremost requirement of this initiative should be that all politicans and bureaucrats and government officials use bus on that day. Leading by example for more empathy towards bus passengers
Bengaluru Moving: Interesting! who was the target audience for #busday ? to truly get #BengauluruMoving we need to include everyone in the conversation. even more important now to rebuild trust in #publictransport post covid. Jhatkaa: I think the question we should be asking is what does @BMTC_BENGALURU imagine for the “new normal” wrt to public transport in the city. BengaluruMoving@BengaluruMoving· excellent question! safety, inclusion, accessibility need to be prioritised to get
sonal s kulkarni@soshkuGeneral public of namma Bengaluru
Nandan Sharalaya : Should the last Friday of every month be a only pedestrian and bus day? No cars should be allowed on that day! Srinivas: Make it public transport day! We now have metro and some suburban BengaluruMoving: We have to espouse this mindset- “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.” — paraphrased from Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia Sudeept_maiti: How about a #carfreeday? That should open up the streets for more #cycling #walking and buses Muralidhar Rao: Without efficient bus services, asking people to give up car, not workable Nandan Sharalaya: A public transport day is a fantastic idea. Think we should start once a month and then slowly have it once a week. @deepolice12 please make this happen!
Radio Active: #BengaluruMoving Q 2 From 2013-2015 campaigns also focussed addressing sexual harassment, & more inclusive bus services. How do those from low income or marginalised communities experience #publictransport?
BusPrayanikaraVedike @BBPVedike: For low income and marginalized communities, the challenges are manifold. 1. It’s often the primary mode of transport for most of them. But affordability remains a concern. With average salaries in these communities range anywhere from 3 to 7k, BMTC is expensive. 2. Due to affordability issues, many end up not using the bus and thus get excluded from public transport. 3. Connectivity to their neighborhoods is also a problem these communities face. Often inner areas or remote areas and slum settlements are not well connected by bus. Despite these challenges, these communities remain a significant proportion of the regular bus commuters @vinaysreeni
Vinay Sreenivas: In response to @BBPVedike continuously observing bus day as black day to focus on sexual harassment, @BMTC_BENGALURU finally set up a womens safety committee – some work happened then but committee now defunct. BMTC to form committee for safety of women commuters October 12, 2013,Deccan Herald: https://www.deccanherald.com/content/368205/bmtc-form-committee-safety-women.html
An important point @BMTC_BENGALURU and policy makers miss is, many of the urban poor experience the bus through its absence. Many folks walk upto 10 kms since bus fare is costly. People in the outskirts use two wheelers as the bus service is not covering all areas/has too few schedules
Sudeep: There are studies that show that public transport has become an essential mode of transport for caregivers/women. The need to make it safe for them is essential for their access to education, health and employment and impacts the family as a whole. It is widely acknowledged that women’s travel patterns are different from men’s. They tend to trip the chain a lot more considering the added responsibilities as a caregiver. Public transport becomes a key mode of access for them. Ensuring safety and security is paramount.
Bharath M Palavalli @bharathmp 1) There is substantial research available examining the links between #mobility, #shelter and #livelihood. 2) Affordability, Accessibility and Availability are key to any public transport system.3) In urban India, affordable public transport is key for #inclusive cities.
Bharath M Palavalli @bharathmp: 1) As an example, if someone earns ₹3000-₹10000, please do calculate spending upwards of ₹200 everyday for 20-30 days in a month. That can account for upto 60% of your income! 2) If you have to travel everyday for 4 hours to work, you are spending 1 day in a week on the road!There needs to be a concentrated effort to bring together all stakeholders to make “public” transport truly public. Please do take a look at some of the research we’ve (@fovlabs) put out over the years at :
How we can capture consequences of policies that reflect in the long-term and understand their impact on individuals’ lives? It is this question we pursue in our research on urban poverty. http://fieldsofview.in/projects/urban-poverty/
A project that uses gaming and computerized simulations to study planning for mobility infrastructure and policy. http://fieldsofview.in/projects/joint-road-forward/
All Aboard: http://fieldsofview.in/publications/allaboard/
#BengaluruMoving Q 3 From 2015- 2017, the campaigns were focussed on governance and public hearing -Makkala Adalat, Sarige Adalat and Janaspandana How can one ensure continuity and accountability? @BBPVedike
Pinky Chandran: Your group came out with the Bangalore’s Bus Commuters Manifesto. Can you share the details?
Vinay Sreenivasa: This is the manifesto , right here, made after wide consultations and a survey – https://blorebusvedike.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/manifesto-for-an-affordable-safe-accessible-and-comfortable-bus-system/
Segment 2: Reprioritising Present Needs
Radio Active: Segment 2 Safety on everyone’s mind – How do we reprioritise #publictransport during the pandemic?
BBVP: Safe public transport is an urgent need of the hour. Large sections of society don’t have access to personal transport and BMTC is the only option for most of them. We need a large influx of buses right now to provide safe, frequent and reliable mobility @vinaysreeni
Key issues commuters are facing 1) overcrowding in buses 2) unable to board bus due to crowd control 3) high waiting time ranging from 30 mins to upto 2 hours 4) lack of sanitizers5) fear of falling sick (not sure how frequently bus is sanitized)
Adding a large number of buses is the only way to address all these concerns and get #BengaluruMoving. @BMTC_BENGALURU and Govt of Karnataka should not treat this as business as usual and advance the regular arguments of no funds to stall this urgent need for buses. @vinaysreeni
Meera: #BengaluruMoving GIZ India report talks about 1/3rd occupancy in buses to reduce risk of Covid spread. How can BMTC handle the financial implications without govt subsidies?
Nandan Sharalaya: have two great suggestions! https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=BT2JOVi_DTY&feature=emb_title
Radio Active 90.4MHz: #BengaluruMoving Yes, what do you suggest? The Hindu 26th June & The Indian Express 27th June 2020 reported that 22@BMTC_BENGALURU employees tested positive & passengers untraced. What does this mean for general public at large?
Jhatkaa.org: Also, need to have a sanitisation facility at every bus stops. And increased usage of masks for employees is a must.
Radio Active 90.4MHz: #BengaluruMoving With that comes the responsibility of safe disposal of used masks and gloves and separate collection system. @BBMPSWMSplComm @BeautifulBluru @SwmrtBengaluru @Hasiru_Dala
Meera Matters: Totally. It is also worrying to see bus drivers contracting the infection!
vinaysreenivasa :If the Govt of KArnataka accepted our demand to make transport free or just have a monthly pass of 250Rs and day pass of 10rs (both of which can be safely bought at bus-stand) the interactions would have greatly reduced, improving safety!
Radio Active: Can technology based solutions help in any way? Is it inclusive? QRcode for cashless travel@BMTChttps://twitter.com/BMTC_BENGALURU/status/1279036415905431552
Srinivas: The biggest tech solutions are those that don’t force users to use tech but use it for efficient operations. When is my next bus coming? Is it full or standing room or empty? Which route will get me home sooner tonight ? When do I walk out of my office to get to bus stop?
vinaysreenivasa : Tech is not inclusive. It can be one part of a solution . To get #bengalurumoving we need tech plus plain common sensical solutions which work offline for ppl with no smart phones, bulk of @BMTC_BENGALURU commuters
Meera: For e.g @BBPVedike suggested SMS-based payments – fare money can be deducted from the talk-time balance https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/bbpv-press-release-bmtc-operations-lockdown-4-precautions-social-distancing-fares-workers-45477
Jhatka: This is based on assumption that every person boarding the bus is having a mobile at the least and a constant balance is being maintained.
Srinivas: The world is complex and Diverse. As long as we don’t impose “digital payment only” “Sms only” @BMTC_BENGALURU should be able to accept any and every mode of payments. Not rocket science in 2020 and they just rolled out UPI with QR code which is great!
Meera: Token system? Passes? Earlier experts had proposed a completely free public transport system, like some global cities https://freepublictransport.info/city/ Is this still a valid ask? Will it help the economy?
Vinay Sreenivsa: Yes it will ! Will allow commuters to spend on food, education, rent and other basics. will get more ppl onto a bus and reduce our other health issues occuring due to pollution. It should be free for a large portion or extremely low fare #bengalurumoving
Segment 3: Reimagining the future of public transport in Bengaluru
BBVP: @BMTC_BENGALURU should recognise itself as the prime mover of people in Bangalore. BMTC is still not looking to significantly alter the status quo. They are happy with a 40% ridership. This should change and BMTC should aim for 70 to 80% ridership! @vinaysreeni #BengaluruMoving
BBPV has recently submitted a set of action points to @BMTC_BENGALURU really transform BMTC as a mobility option for ALL. This can serve as an actionable framework to make BMTC a game changer for Bangalore mobility. #bengalurumoving @vinaysreeni
Snapshot of the actions points recommended by BBPV
Muralidhar Rao: First and foremost dismantle the monopoly. Re-structure #BMTC along the lines of the most successful & equitable Delhi power supply #PPP model – check @ http://praja.in/en/blog/murali772/2019/07/16/outline-most-equitable-public-bus-transport-model
If this is done, all of the 50K buses plying on city roads today, can be deployed efficiently, safely, and cost effectively, including for school services and as feeders for #Metro and all of the city’s traffic and many other attendant problems will get solved
Jhatkaa.org: 1. Safe and robust public transport – including prioritisation for more buses. 2. Promote alternatives to private transport – cycling-friendly cities
sonal s kulkarni: It would be important to plan bmtc in this new decade as not just a stand alone service but in conjunction with other public transport like suburban and metro.
Himanshu Raj: I doubt the concept of inter/multi-modal transport is well understood in our cities.
Meera: In the immediate term — how can our bus routes be planned now? And how can it be based on data and real need on the ground?
@soshku : MaAS is probably an answer to this question. As you said data and data led decision making helps us plan routes better and integrating the different modes through common mobility cards, a booking platform etc will help the city make better decisions.
Meera: How can public transport be made aspirational? Namma Metro managed it to some extent. What can BMTC do?
Srinivas Alavilli: This is perhaps the most important thing to discuss and come up with a solid answer(s) the reality is that Bengaluru doesn’t have a culture of public transport. It wasn’t needed until the 90s when it suddenly went boom and exploded into the mega metro that it is today. The growth of the city continued. The growth of city did not translate to growth of PT infrastructure ; same time auto industry had killer moves to finance cars and two wheelers at very attractive rates so the “aspirations” created by emotional TV ads were realised leaving out city with 86 lakh vehicles! Now everyone has a vehicle but nobody enjoys that drive because we are all stuck. So what do we do? I think We need to make Benglureans believe that this problem can only be solved by us, as people. We need to inspire People to reduce their trips on personal vehicles. This can be done if most people understand that reducing at least some of their trips by personal vehicle will help reduce pollution and unclog our streets. We have to make them feel they are helping Bengaluru by taking simple doable actions every week. The numbers will add up
BusPrayanikaraVedike: At the same time, BMTC needs to address some low hanging fruits from their side to attract more riders – for e.g, during this lockdown there’s no timetable of buses available to refer to. How can one even start to use buses w/o that info?
Radio Active: While there is so much more to discuss, it’s time to wrapup.Stay tuned to @RadioActive90_4 & @citizenmatters for capture of all the past campaigns on #BengaluruMoving Thankyou @srinualavilli@soshku@murali772@Jhatkaadotorg@sudeept_maiti@BBPVedike@meerak@pinkychandran