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Ridership remains at 20-25% despite slash in AC bus fares

BMTC spending ₹50 lakh a month to maintain AC buses that remain idle at depots

At the start of the New Year, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) reduced the fares in air-conditioned buses in its fleet by 20% in what it termed as a “gift” to commuters.

The corporation’s attempts to woo the public and increase ridership, however, is not yielding required results. A majority of its AC bus fleet still remains off the road. With most people avoiding public transport on account of COVID-19, the AC buses have a ridership of 20 to 25%.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the BMTC has been struggling to find patronage, but people are still wary of travelling in these luxury buses. For the most part, people are still working from home, which has directly impacted ridership. Only a few buses are running on once popular routes such as Outer Ring Road, Kadugodi, and Electronics City.

An official with the BMTC said, “After slashing bus fares, people started turning up, but not at the expected level. Running buses with less than 25% occupancy is not financially viable as we cannot even meet fuel expenses.”

Corporation officials said they would need another fortnight or so to assess the response from the public. “The work from home culture has also affected taxis and the restaurant industry. Once restrictions ease, we may see more people commuting to work in AC buses,” the official added.

At present, the BMTC is operating around 150 of its 860-strong fleet of AC buses. Those operating on routes to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) are seeing a “moderate demand” by air passengers. Around 60 buses are operated to the KIA every day, but the fares for these services were not reduced.

A majority of the AC bus fleet has been idle for over nine months at the depots. To keep these luxury buses in good condition, the BMTC is spending ₹50 lakh a month on periodical maintenance.

On the positive side, ridership of regular non-AC buses has gradually increased over the months. At present, the BMTC is operating around 5,100 buses. This is cumulatively generating operational revenue of ₹2.5 crore a day. But the road to recovery will be long and bumpy, as the revenue it is currently earning is only half of what it generated before COVID-19 outbreak.

Feeder service

The BMTC is currently operating 16 feeder bus services from the metro stations which were opened on Kanakapura Road between Yelachenahalli and Silk Institute. The official said based on the requirement, the number of services would be increased in the coming days. “We have deployed 25 staff to study the requirement of feeder services after metro services started on the extended metro line,” he said.

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