Anyone visiting Bangalore today can see that there is more being done for public infrastructure in that city than in Chennai. It becomes evident from the time one arrives in the City station or the international airport. An accessible and comfortable air-conditioned service is available, unlike in Chennai, where successive governments have deprived travellers of good bus services.
Once you leave the City station, for example, and take the pedestrian subway to the Kempegowda Bus Station across the road, you can head to the BMTC area where clear markings on Platforms 1 to 4 indicate destinations for the ‘Vajra’ Volvo services. To a visitor from Chennai, this is quite a different experience from Central Railway station, where only buses bound for Broadway/High Court from various destinations pass through. The only exception is route A1, which covers only one very small segment of the city between Central and Thiruvanmiyur.
For many people, the buses offer a good alternative to the expensive autorickshaws and taxis. A ride on Route 365 to Hulimao Gate, en route Bannerghatta, for example, costs Rs. 30 and is achieved in cool comfort. If you are bound for Marathahalli or Kadugodi, there is a frequent route 335E service.
When you want to reach the City station (Majestic, or KBS) it is equally easy to identify these Vajra services on various routes. What I found most interesting is the facility of buying a daily ticket for Rs. 75, which enables one to ride on any bus in the city, except the BIAL airport services (Vayu Vajra). It is prominently advertised through a poster inside the bus.
There is no comparable day pass in Chennai, that includes Volvo service travel.
Bangalore is head and shoulders above Chennai with these services, although, naturally, there is scope to do more. Take the basic statistic. Although the DMK greats keep patting themselves in the back for incremental additions to Chennai’s bus system, they have never been able to scale up. Chennai has a declared fleet of 3280 buses as of March 31, 2010 (MTC website, www.mtcbus.org). Bangalore, which is generally sneered at by the Dravidian Kazhagam greats, has some 5,000 buses available.
The low scale of the DMK government’s ambitions can be seen from the fact that it proposes to operate just 100 mini-buses in Chennai, to tackle the serious supply-deficit and the inflation caused by the unregulated autorickshaw operation.
If you took the ‘not-run’ figures into account (buses on the fleet that are not run on a given day), Chennai’s MTC scores very low marks. The absenteeism officially acknowledged is 8 per cent, and if that is directly applied to services not operated, more than 300 buses on MTC’s fleet are simply not operated per day. Apply that same metric to the mini-buses, and the number of vehicles in service drops to 92.
These factors clearly point to the reluctance of the DMK Government to give up its monopolistic and opaque bus operations in Chennai, a city that clearly needs a new model of transit regulation. For the moment this self-serving system can learn from Bangalore.
Lastly, it should also be pointed out that the AIADMK government under Ms. Jayalalithaa fared much worse in handling Chennai transport.
It provoked the employees to go on strike, and then tried to break it by encouraging carpetbagging bus operators to enter the fray.