No takers for DTC’s new AC non-stop destination buses in Delhi
Twenty destination buses with a capacity of 14,840 are running in Delhi but only 1,943 people have used the service in the first 14 days because of lack of publicity and awareness; DTC hopes ridership will pick updelhi Updated: May 28, 2017 14:38 IST
An air-conditioned, non-stop DTC bus between Shivaji Stadium and Patparganj running almost empty during office hours. Unbelievable (for a daily DTC commuter) but true.
The Destination Bus project launched by the Delhi government on May 1 hasn’t evoked much enthusiasm.
Despite offering a comfortable ride in the sweltering heat, these buses that let you travel between your home and office without any stops enroute, are getting a ridership of less than 6%.
The service, provided by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), is an attempt to decongest Delhi by giving office goers a cheaper and an easy alternative to using their private cars.
But, ridership reports of the first two weeks of the ‘DS’ buses accessed by Hindustan Times show that the target is far from being achieved. Only 1,943 people used the service in the first 14 days, while the passenger capacity of the 20 buses that are operating under the scheme is 14,840. Each low-floor cherry coloured AC bus, which is being used for the service, can carry 53 passengers.
Nearly 50% (264 trips) of the total 560 trips made from May 1 to May 14 had 1-5 passengers. Besides, 160 trips (29%) had zero passengers. Even as the response to the destination bus service has been lukewarm, the DTC on May 22 launched 20 more buses taking the count of routes covered under the scheme to 40.
Observing that the buses have no takers, the NGT criticised the DTC last week saying it wasn’t doing enough to inform people about the service. The green panel then asked the Delhi government and the traffic police to extensively advertise about the service. The joint commissioner of police (traffic) was directed to distribute pamphlets in colonies informing people about the pick-up points in their area.
Each bus makes two trips a day. The morning buses begin from residential areas such as Janakpuri, Dwarka, Badarpur border, Rohini and Patparganj and end at office hubs like Nehru Place, CGO Complex, Connaught Place, and Shastri Bhawan; and vice-versa in the evening.
With 41.5% occupancy during the survey period, the Dwarka 6/7 crossing – Nehru Place route is the busiest of all 20 routes. However, ridership in other routes is way lower which is why with just 23.18% ridership, the Rohini Sector 22 – Nehru place route is the second busiest. The route least travelled is Janakpuri C-2 - Connaught Place (Shivaji Stadium) which has seen only 3% ridership.
Passengers who used the service told HT that information about Destination Buses at bus stop was lacking and that they had to ask drivers and conductors to find the bus. Others suggested that landmarks must be provided to indentify bus stops as many car users wouldn’t know about them.
The corporation is hopeful of seeing a turnaround in ridership in the coming weeks as the number of users of the service has seen a marginal increase. “If we compare the first week of the bus service with the second, there is an increase of over 2%,” a DTC official told HT on condition of anonymity.
As a result, DTCs earnings through this service have also improved although it continues to suffer major losses in running the project. “From May 1-7 we earned Rs 20,541 and during May 8-14, the earnings increased to Rs 32,895,” the official said.
Each destination bus is earning only about Rs 200 per day for the two trips it makes while the estimated earning per bus was Rs 1,060. A normal DTC bus that stops at multiples points earns Rs 6,000 on an average.
In its official response, the DTC said that most passengers are those who tried it once and returned again for their daily commute as the air-conditioned ride is “tension-free”, cheap, safe and has no crowd at all.
“It takes time for the news to spread. Over three weeks since the launch of the service, people are gradually getting to know about it. The ridership will certainly improve in the following months as we are publicizing it more now,” said DTC spokesperson, Subhash Chandra.
HT TRAVELLED ON THREE ROUTES
Janakpuri - Connaught Place
Used to driving to his Janpath office during morning peak hours, Janakpuri resident BS Sharma was overjoyed on reading about the destination bus service. He shared the news with colleagues who asked him to take the first ride as an “experiment”.
The beginning was disappointing. He spent over 30 minutes searching for the Janakpuri C-2 bus stop to get the bus that promised a non-stop 20-km ride to Shivaji Stadium.
Sharma resumed the search on Wednesday and found the bus that neither had signage nor was parked beside a queue shelter.
“In the advertisements, the DTC must mention some landmarks near the bus stops,” said Sharma.
He hopped on to the bus, just a minute before it departed at 8.40 am sharp, after a five-minute halt. He shared the entire bus with only five other passengers, including the reporter. Four of us were first-timers on a destination bus.
“The news reports sounded like a fancy proposal that would never take off,” said Vinay Gaur.
For the first few days, there were only a few passengers but the number is slowly increasing. “It feels better to serve a group of passengers instead of just one or two individuals. Still, there is one passenger who regularly takes this bus,” said Sanjay Kumar, the driver.
The passengers were enthusiastic but highlighted a few problems. “If the bus does not pick any passengers on the way, why does it not opt for a less congested route?” suggested Sudhakar Tripathi, another government employee with his office in Janpath.
The bus number DS-16 we boarded was stuck in a traffic jam near
Dhaula Kuan, extending the 50-minute journey by 20 minutes. The bus then drove through the relatively narrow and busy Ashoka Road instead of the clear Akbar Road. “We have been given a fixed route, so we have no option,” said Karmvir.
The driver admitted to sometimes stopping the bus midway to drop passengers who had their offices on the way.
After getting off the vehicle near Shivaji Stadium at 10 am, Sharma says at least half-a-dozen colleagues will join him when he boards the bus again on Thursday. But the joy will be limited to only morning rides.
“The return bus from Shivaji Stadium leaves at 5.55 pm. But office gets over by 6 pm,” said Sharma as he began his 10-minute walk to office.
- Janakpuri C-2 - Connaught Place (Shivaji Stadium)
- Patparganj (Balco Apartments) – Connaught Place (Shivaji Stadium)
- Dwarka Sector 14 (LIG Flat) – Connaught Place (Shivaji Stadium)
- Badarpur Border – CGO Complex (JL Stadium)
Rs 53,436 Total earning of all 20 buses in first 14 days
2 From Janakpuri C-2 to Connaught Place (Shivaji stadium): Lal Sai Mandir Marg and passes through Virender Nagar, Jail Road, Cariappa Marg, Dhaula Kuan, Sardar Patel Marg, Mother Teresa Crescent, Baba Kharak Singh marg, Gol Dak Khana, Shivaji Stadium
3 From Dwarka Sector 4/5 Crossing (Ashirwad Chowk) to CGO Complex (JLN Stadium): Dwarka sector 4/5 crossing, Moti Bagh main road, Bhikaji Cama Place, Safdarjung hospital, JLN stadium
- From May 1, Delhi government introduced non-stop air conditioned buses that run between residential areas and offices
- These buses can be identified by the shortform DS followed by a number that is displayed on their front and back display panels
- 40 air-conditioned buses are operating across Delhi out of which 20 were introduced on May 22
- The buses are plying from residential areas such as Janakpuri, Dwarka, Badarpur border, Rohini and Patparganj to office hubs such as Nehru Place, CGO Complex, Connaught Place, and Shastri Bhawan.
- Each bus does two trips a day – one in the morning (7:55, 8:00, 8:15, 8:20, 8:25, 8:30, 8:35, 8:40, 8:50) and another in the evening (5:55 pm)
Patparganj - Connaught Place
As the driver turned on the engine to begin his duty from the Shivaji Stadium bus stop, Mohammad Danish looked around to find only two passengers in bus. He took out his phone and began playing an old Bollywood song.
Seated behind the driver, Danish, dressed in khakis, is the marshal of the destination bus DS-20A that would drop the two male passengers at Patparganj (Balco Apartments).
Cracking jokes with the conductor and driver, and listening to music is what he has been doing on all his trips since May 1. “I haven’t seen a single woman board this bus and the number of passengers is around 1-5,” he said.
The driver and the conductor, both named Sunil Kumar, said the earning comes down further if the passengers use bus passes that offer discounts.
One of the two passengers, Naeem, said the bus should be allowed to pick up people from at least two more points. “It should stop in areas such as Laxmi Nagar,” he said.
Dwarka - JLN Stadium
A small bus stop on the roadside separates two neighbourhoods in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka. Until a month ago, the empty bus stop was home to beggars and street dogs.
For the last couple of weeks, many office goers have begun waiting here. This is where the just-introduced non-stop bus from Dwarka to JLN Stadium originates.
At 8.12am, the HT reporter boarded the bus — route number DS-2 — that starts from the Dwarka sector 4 and 5 crossing at Aashirwad Chowk. At least five men and a couple of women, all in their 40s or 50s, also boarded it.
A male passenger told the driver to wait for his colleague who was on his way. The driver obliged. A few more passengers boarded.
The bus started at 8.20am and stopped at some points to pick up people. In the next 10 minutes, there were over 20 passengers, all on their way to office.
Adesh Gill, 52, a Central Public Works Department employee, is a regular passenger. She has been using public transport since 2005. Earlier, she used chartered buses but never got a seat. She also had to walk a few miles from home to reach the bus stop, which meant starting half an hour early every morning.
“I read about destination buses in a newspaper and found that the nearest bus route from my home was only a 5-minute walk. I was very happy. This is my fourth week in this bus. It’s cleaner, faster, air-conditioned and the money they charge is only ₹25,” said Gill.
She reaches office between 9.05am and 9.15am. On an average, she says, at least 15 passengers travel daily in the bus and by now, everyone has become familiar with the rest.
At Bhikaji Cama Place, Gill got down from the bus and a couple of more passengers boarded. The conductor said this was temporary to encourage commuters to use the bus. Later, the bus would be non-stop to JLN Stadium.
Every passenger got a feedback form. Most passengers rated the service between ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’. A 53-year-old man, who had been using his car to commute till last month, said the service was ‘appreciable’.
Towards the end of the journey, the crowd thinned out. They said reaching office has become faster and cheaper. It takes nearly one hour and 15 minutes to reach JLN Stadium from Dwarka when traffic is thin.