Passengers are abandoning the Delhi Transport Corporation’s service by the thousands, disappointed with the frequent delays, and falling number of routes.
DTC buses currently ply on just 560 routes, down by a third since 2006-07 and the lowest in 10 years. Not one of these routes is profitable.
Experts say the culprits are a steep fall in the number of buses – down by a fifth in the last three years – and an absence of periodical reviews of routes, which was last done five years ago.
All this has taken a toll on the image of the DTC, which is bleeding passengers who have mostly opted for private vehicles or the Metro.
“I used to board the DTC bus for my travel to Mayur Vihar-2 to Barakhamba as it was a door-to-door service. But the bus never followed the timetable and I had to wait for 30 minutes,” said Sharad Singh, a resident of Mayur Vihar Phase 2.
“Now I have shifted to car and once my area has Metro connectivity, I will travel by the Metro.”
A DTC official said routes that perform poorly in terms of performance indicators need to re-designed but the exercise can only happen when more buses are inducted into service.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General said with fewer buses, mounting losses and obligation to serve all parts of Delhi, a periodical review of routes for optimizing revenue is pivotal.
But no such exercise was carried out though the number of routes where costs couldn’t be recovered rose from 15.24% to 63.80% during 2010-15, indicating deficient route planning, the report said.
The CAG also suggested a rationalization of routes. A urban development ministry report says the bus system (DTC, cluster and feeder) in Delhi carries about 5.2 million commuters every day.
But the demand for buses on particular routes at certain times is much higher than what is being provided. At present, less than 4,300 buses are available in the city while it is recommended that in the next 2-3 years, it should be raised to 7,000 buses and to 11,000 buses in the long term.
An elaborate study on DTC bus routes and rationalization suggested high-frequency bus corridors, where buses are available at frequent intervals and are provided with priority signalling systems. “These buses must be linked with smaller size buses, mini buses as well as feeder bus system which can work on an aggregator model,” said the urban development ministry in its report.
The DTC says the delays are because of traffic congestion and has proposed exclusive corridors for buses and automatic vehicle tracking system to provide real time vehicle location information on the network.
“This could be integrated with the control centre and the information can be utilized to generate number of reports on the efficiency of route operations,” the report said.
The DTC says passenger waiting time can be reduced if the problem of congestion is addressed. “Due to restrictions in the operation of private cars during the odd-even scheme, the traffic became smooth. The number of trips during that fortnight went up by 41%. The daily earnings increased more than R6 lakhs every day,” said a DTC official.
The normal efficiency of DTC bus is around 83 to 88% during the months of November and December but the same went up to 95% during the odd-even phase. The immediate impact was also felt on the number of passengers as well as earnings. The number of daily passengers went up from 3.5 to 3.8 million.