Bangalore: India's Only Metro City with 'Profit Making' Bus System
Bangalore (officially known as Bengaluru) also known as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ is the 3rd most populous city and 5th most populous urban agglomeration of the country and 18th most populous city in the world.
The city is also largely famous for its pleasant climate throughout the year and amongst top 10 preferred entrepreneurial locations in the world.
It’s also known as the "Garden City of India" because of its gentle climate, broad streets, greenery and the presence of many public parks.
Bangalore was the fastest-growing Indian metropolis after New Delhi between 1991 and 2001, with a growth rate of 38% during the decade.
Bangalore is home to many well-recognized educational and research institutions in India, such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore) and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).
Numerous public sector heavy industries, technology companies, aerospace, telecommunications and defense organizations are headquartered in the city, such as Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Infosys, and Wipro.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$83 billion, Bangalore is listed fourth among the top 15 cities contributing to India's overall GDP. With an urban spread of 741 sq.kms. and population of 8.5 million, Bangalore’s 523 billion (US$8.7 billion) economy makes it one of the major economic centers in India.
I has an economic growth of 10.3%, making Bangalore the second fastest-growing major metropolis in India, and the country's fourth largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market. Forbes magazine considers the city as one of "The Next Decade's Fastest-Growing Cities".
The city is the third largest hub for high-net-worth individuals and is home to over 10,000 dollar millionaires and about 60,000 super-rich people who have an investable surplus of 45 million (US$751,500) and 5 million (US$83,500) respectively.
Bangalore is called as the Silicon Valley of India because of the large number of information technology companies located there, which contribute over 33% of India's IT exports. The city is also a hub for the biotech-related industry in India, and in 2005 around 47% of the 265 biotech companies in India were located here; including Biocon, India's largest such company.
Bangalore suffers from the same major urbanization problems seen in many fast growing cities in developing countries: rapidly escalating social inequality, mass displacement and dispossession, proliferation of slum settlements and epidemic public health crises due to severe water shortage and sewage problems in poor and working-class neighborhoods.
The growth of IT has presented the city with unique challenges. Ideological clashes sometimes occur between the city's IT moguls, who demand an improvement in the city's infrastructure, and the state government, whose electoral base is primarily the people in rural Karnataka.
The encouragement of high-tech industry in Bangalore, for example, has not favored local employment development, but has, instead, increased land values and forced out small enterprise.
The state has also resisted the massive investments required to reverse the rapid decline in intra-city transport which has already begun to drive new and expanding businesses to other centers across India.
A demographically diverse city, Bangalore is a major economic and cultural hub and the second fastest-growing major metropolis in India. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Bangalore confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.
Bangalore has 4.9 million registered vehicles as of today (1 vehicle for every 2nd person) of which 70% consists of two wheelers, 4% auto rickshaws and 15% cars. The average speed observed on city streets is 15kph (9.32mph).
History of BMTC
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation is the sole public transport provider for Bangalore, serving urban, sub-urban and rural areas. BMTC was originally BTC (Bangalore Transport Company Ltd.), founded in 1940, catering for the entire city with a fleet of 98 buses.
The government of Mysore State took over city transport from this private company in 1956 and named it Bangalore Transport Service (BTS).
In 1997, KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) split and BMTC was incorporated as its division. BMTC is the first STU of India to operate air-conditioned city buses for urban commuting. Buses operated by BMTC are an important and reliable means of public transport available in the city.
Variety of Bus Services: BMTC has been offering a variety of buses and services along with air-conditioned buses, special airport services, free service from the central bus station to the railway station, concessions in fares, daily and monthly bus passes for regular commuters, etc.
Red buses: introduced in 2011, the buses belong to a new batch of ordinaries that have arrived in the city with Euro IV emission norms, the majority of them having red and some with a light blue colour.
Suvarna: silver colored with a red lining. Many Suvarna buses are now being re-painted into the white and blue color or converted into Big Circle/Small Circle buses/Metro Feeder services.
BIG 10: BIG10 services deploy (a Suvarna class of) buses branded in green and bottle green on 12 major corridors coming in from surrounding sub-urbs in the city.
These buses are run on a direction-based concept where the commuter takes the next (high frequency, every 15 minutes) bus in his/her direction of travel, and if need be, makes a changeover to another bus to reach the destination. The service terminates on different points on the radius of the city core, to avoid congesting the city centre. These buses are numbered with prefix ‘G’. (below left: Suvarna Bus (right) Red Bus and bottom: Big10 bus)
BIG Circle: These buses are white colored with BIG Circle written on the sides and it also has arrows painted in green, red, orange and black. These buses ply on ring roads connecting various parts of the city. Some of these buses are numbered with prefix ‘C’ and with prefix ‘K’ (small circle on Inner Ring road).
Pushpak: Launched in the late '90s. Single door bus with/without conductors. Driver acts as conductor when there is no conductor (Janapriya Vahini). These are coffee coloured buses with fares similar to Suvarna, generally provided on contract to IT companies and schools. (below left: Big Circle, Orange Line Bus and different types of Pushpak buses)
Vajra: Hi-tech buses with LED destination boards running on routes serving the IT companies' locations and various residential routes as well. Higher fares - about 1.5 to 3 times that of ordinary ones depending on the route.
Vayu Vajra: luxurious buses to the airport operated on 12 routes. Free Wi-Fi access is provided to commuters in these buses.
Atal Sarige: Low-cost buses with single seats along the windows and an LED display. Have a tri-colour outside. On 1 June 2009, to celebrate their first anniversary, the government of Karnataka and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation sold off a pro-poor bus service called the Atal Sarige. The service aims at providing low-cost connectivity for the economically backward sections of the society to the nearest major bus station. (Below left: Vajra and right: Vayu Vajra buses. Bottom left: Atal Sarige and (right) ordinary buses)
Other Air Conditioned and Regular Buses: Operate on routes where luxury buses aren’t popular and their fare is 1.5 times higher than ordinary buses. Besides, regular buses are a part of BMTC fleet.
Metro Feeder: Introduced in 2011 after the launch of the 1st line of metro train, these buses have exterior paint similar to the colour of the Metro train and run on 10 routes as feeder to the Metro stations. (Below left: Metro Feeder and (right) Big Circle bus. Bottom: other modern buses of BMTC)
BMTC is expected to be introducing buses powered by solar energy in near future. BMTC has introduced fully electric and hybrid electric buses in public transport to reduce ticket prices against increasing diesel prices and keep environment clean.
Fares of BMTC are considered the highest in the country but, along with that, BMTC offers a variety of concessions and subsidized daily travel passes. Besides these, BMTC has been exploring initiatives to maximize use of IT systems in public transport by providing Electronic Ticketing Machines, integration of common fare payment mechanism by smart card which can be used in BMTC, as well as metro rail system, LED destination boards, vehicle tracking system and real time passenger information system. (Below: Articulated bus of BMTC and fare tickets)
Infrastructure Creation: Bangalore has also achieved milestones in Infrastructure upgradation for public transport in recent years. The below picture is the famous 'Majestic' Bus Terminus of Bangalore. Traffic Transit Management Centrer (TTMC's) have been created in several areas as an exmaple of innovation in modern transport terminal which are a mix of transit hub as well as commercial activity.
Other Transport Systems – Metro Rail and Auto Rickshaws
Rapid Rail project named ‘Namma Metro’ is under construction. 7 kms. stretch was opened to public on 20 October 2011, while another 10 kms. stretch was opened on 1 March 2014. Once completed, this will encompass a 42.3 km elevated and underground rail network comprising 41 stations.
This much-delayed project is the city's primary response to the worsening intra-city transport infrastructure which has become a major deterrent to continued business growth. Bangalore is a divisional headquarters in the South Western Railway zone of the Indian Railways.
Bangalore is well connected by rail to most cities. The sprawling Rail Wheel Factory is Asia's second largest manufacturer of Wheel & Axle for Railways and is headquartered here. (Below (left) Namma Metro Smart Card and (right) Metro Train. Bottom: India's first zero emission electric bus introduced by BMTC).
Three-wheeled, green and black auto-rickshaws, referred to as autos, are a popular form of transport. They are metered and can accommodate up to three passengers. Taxis, commonly called City Taxis, are usually available only on call. Taxis are metered and are generally more expensive than auto-rickshaws.
- 14.5 m long multiaxle luxury bus introduced for the 1st time in India for local commute. It can house 55% more passengers compared to ordinary buses;
- Profit making STU for more than a decade;
- Youngest fleet compared to other transit agencies and so fuel efficiency achieved is great;
- Introduced 1st zero emission electric buses in India;
- Has one of the longest circular routes of the country which is 117 kms. for a complete round trip;
- Every 4th of the month celebrated as ‘Bus Day’ initiating citizens to use public transport more.
DECADAL PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT
BMTC at a Glance (as on April 2014)
Average Fleet Age (in years)
Daily Service kms. (in lakhs)
No. of Bus trips
Every Day Traffic Revenue (in Crores)
Passenger Trips Per Day
50 (6 of which are major)
Bus Staff Ratio
3.82 kms per litre of HSD
Fatal Accidents (average of decade)
81 (16% of total accidents)
Revenue Surplus (decadal average)
The decadal graph of fleet held vs. actual operated shows that the gap was minimal during 2002 to 2004 (i.e. maximum fleet under operations with 97% fleet utilization achieved in 2003-04). Thereafter it differed a bit, but not beyond a certain limit (92% fleet utilization is the minimum observed in the decade) as seen from the graph below. Yet, the decreasing pattern in the graph of fleet utilization performance remains a fact and a matter of concern for BMTC.
Maintaining the level of fleet age up to a certain limit is an appreciable best practice of BMTC (maximum average vehicle age in the decade was 5.1 years which no other STU of India is able to achieve).
As well, the decreasing pattern in percentage of over-aged vehicles in the total fleet is also worth noting, as seen from the graph below. This clearly represents BMTC’s policy of operating over-aged vehicles as little as possible, thereby increasing overall fuel efficiency and a reduction in carbon and NOx emissions.
BMTC's management definitely deserves applause for achieving remarkable progress in ridership increase along with fleet operations as can be seen from the graph below.
The increase in fleet as well as staff strength has been following a continuous pattern, as can be seen from the graph (top left). But the graph of fleet held vs. bus-staff ratio gives us a sense of the degree of intervention by BMTC in human resource management.
As we can see, the staff-to-bus ratio was reduced from 2002 to 2006, then increased again until 2009 and again decreased thereafter. It seems BMTC has been trying out with managing human resources to achieve optimum efficiency. From the above graphs, one more thing becomes clear: that although BMTC has been experiencing changes in staff-bus ratio, it hasn’t affected bus operations, passenger kms. performed and ridership trends.
But it has definitely affected the fuel efficiency as can be seen from the graph below.
Although BMTC has been able to achieve and maintain highest fuel efficiency compared to other STUs of India, yet the decreasing graph is a matter of concern.
The peak 4.8 kms./litre of HSD reached in 2003-04 hasn’t been achieved again; instead, efficiency has been dropping down, recording a minimum of the decade in recent years.
Control over accident occurrence adds to the credibility of BMTC. The number of fatal accidents hasn’t crossed certain limits and the decreasing trend of accident occurance since 2009 is noteworthy.
BMTC is the only public transport agency in India which, inspite being a large establishment, is profit making. This unique feature of the organization can be credited to its management.
The proximity of the lines and increasing curve of total cost and income as well as the curve of total profit earned in the decade are seen in the graph below. The graph of profit saw continuous rise from 2002 to 2007 and reached the highest profit of the decade in the year 2006-07.
But thereafter the profit graph started decreasing, back to the minimum level recorded in 2002-03. The decrease may not be a serious worry, but from a future investment requirements point of view, is a matter of concern.
Now, if we look at the division of average annual expenses of BMTC under various heads, the costs towards fuel/lubricants and staff share almost equal, whereas other maintenance costs include tyre/tubes and spares together account for 5% of total expenses, 5% of the total goes into various taxes.
BMTC can accumulate considerable capital for future use if these 5% taxes are waived off in some manner by State Government.
With the increase in fleet size and operations, income and expenses have increased too but with some consistency and control which is a good sign. Henceforth, no doubt BMTC is performing very well from a finance viewpoint.
Is the Financial Well-Being of BMTC due to High Fares?
Certainly not, as can be seen from the table below. In fact, the increase in fares becomes minimal as trip length increase and fares become cheaper for long distance travel.
Base Fare’s of Different Public Transit Agencies of India (distance =2 kms) in Rupees
Air Conditioned Buses
Navi Mumbai (NMMT)
3 (ordinary), 5 (express), 7 (deluxe)
So what can be accounted as the reason for good performance?
Definitely it’s the institutional structure and management of the organization.
It’s not that other STUs of India do not have a proper organizational structure. Rather, there is something to be learnt from BMTC because its performance card speaks for its achievement.
Indian transit agencies have to learn from experiences and best practices and in coming years make themselves able to promote public transport usage. For public transit operations, achieving financial sustainability is the only future for survival and BMTC is the best example for Indian transit agencies to study.
BMTC may not be a fully perfect model to adopt, but it is definitely the one and only ‘light of hope’ at the moment for the promotion and survival of bus-based public transport in India.
I am honored to write an article on this system as it is the only benchmark of ‘quality’ and ‘service satisfaction’ in world’s 2nd most populous country.
Mr. Dave, based at Ahmedabad-India, works as an Independent Consultant in Sustainable Urban Transport Programs/Projects. He is a passionate researcher and doing research on urban transport is his favourite time pass. He was actively involved in planning and ground implementation of BRT in Ahmedabad which is India's 1st successful Bus Rapid Transit System. The project has won many national ...