This picture of a digital information board at the P.Orr and Sons stop on Chennai’s Anna Salai indicates that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation is preparing to try out its GPS-equipped buses.
To us, this is a false display of modernisation by MTC, a notorious laggard in terms of provision of good quality bus service in Tamil Nadu’s capital. For one, there has been no significant augmentation of buses. This is the primary requisite for the city, and not such meaningless boards. It is futile to put up these boards at some isolated bus stops, because what the people need is frequency of service. This is a city of 6 million people, and if a modal shift from car to bus/rail has to be achieved, the place to start is the actual expansion of services.
Another long-pending need is off-bus fare collection. We have said several times, and the DMK government has pretended not to notice, that the collection of fares on board is difficult for a number of reasons.
The answer is to make available travel cards/passes off-bus widely. People are willing to buy it, but the MTC has been unable to convince its trade unions that this is the way to go. Even if they add five rupees to a travel card to compensate for loss of the “bag incentive” (a percentage of on-bus collection given to the crew as an incentive to stop at the bus stops and not speed away), the public would not grudge it.
But the MTC management has been wooden, obdurate, and some would say indifferent.
So we say to the MTC : Don’t put the cart before the horse. Put in the buses first, at least 5,000 of them on Chennai roads before resorting to gimmicks like the GPS systems and pointless information boards at isolated bus stops. Provide employment by augmenting the services and also achieve a modal shift from car and two-wheeler to bus. Make the buses less-crowded and comfortable. Act sensibly.
As travellers, we need to compel Mr. Karunanidhi’s government and the MTC to do this. On pain of losing votes and thus being rendered irrelevant.