A bus load of problems plagues MTC

The MTC has introduced several initiatives such as an app to track the location of the bus in real-time, CCTV cameras in buses, depots and termini, and also panic buttons in hundreds of buses. But experts claim such steps, including the State government’s announcement of free travel for women last year, may not be effective enough to increase patronage, unless the MTC adds a larger number of buses to its fleet to increase the frequency and avoid waiting time by commuters
A bus load of problems plagues MTC
Footboarding and overcrowding of buses common in Chennai

CHENNAI: The MTC has introduced several initiatives such as an app to track the location of the bus in real-time, CCTV cameras in buses, depots and termini, and also panic buttons in hundreds of buses. But experts claim such steps, including the State government’s announcement of free travel for women last year, may not be effective enough to increase patronage, unless the MTC adds a larger number of buses to its fleet to increase the frequency and avoid waiting time by commuters

After lagging behind in the usage of the IT-enabled Integrated Transport Management System, the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has launched the real-time tracking of its bus services that enables commuters to know exactly at the time a bus reaches its’ stop.

But transportation experts feel that the MTC should increase its fleet to increase frequency, to ensure its services are reliable and dependable.

As of now, the MTC has a fleet of 3,454 buses and out of which 3,233 scheduled services are operated on 604 routes. But over the years, the MTC has seen a sharp fall in its fleet strength, scheduled services, and several bus routes contrary to the expanding city limit and increasing population. In 2016, the MTC had a fleet strength of 3,987 buses and it operated 3,685 services on as many as 854 routes.

Prof KP Subramanian, visiting faculty, Division of Transportation Engineering, Anna University, said that introduction of mobile application to track the location of buses in real-time would not help increase patronage if the frequency was not improved.

“The bus tracking app can only be an additional supplement and cannot replace a faulty system which forces people to stand in line for hours. In cities especially, people don’t like to wait in line for more than 10 minutes. On certain routes in Chennai, the bus frequency is too less. The MTC must identify and rationalise such routes,” he said, citing the example of the Bengaluru, where BMTC has 6,000 buses, which are well advanced in every aspect. “Though Chennai has higher population than Bengaluru, we have only about 3,400 buses. So, doubling the fleet will increase frequency and reliability,” he said.

Prof Subramanian asked the MTC to take steps to address the issue of bus bunching. “In a particular bus route, 2-3buses will arrive at a stop together but there won’t be a bus for another 30 minutes or so. That’s bus bunching,” he said, citing the example of the bus route number 23C. “The three or four 23C buses will come at a time. Then we will have to wait for 30 to 45 mins for the next bus. It’s possible that bus tracking app might help correct the issue.” Sumana Narayanan, senior researcher at Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, said that based on the size of the city population, Chennai needs 100 buses per lakh population. “Chennai would require at least 6,000 buses to cover the city and its vast suburbs, and provide freqent services. You cannot look at public transportation like a balance sheet (profit and loss). If the bus frequency is improved, people using two-wheelers and cars would switch to public transportation,” she said. However, sources in MTC claim that in the past year or so, various steps were taken to increase patronage by extending the existing bus routes and resuming services on

the withdrawn routes. “We’ve extended 25 bus routes and resumed services on 53 withdrawn routes in the city,” sources said. “We’ll add new buses to the fleet in the coming year but the augmentation of the MTC fleet requires huge investments. Let’s not forget that despite huge losses we’ve been suffering from due to the diesel price hike, we’re operating buses without hiking the fare.”

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