A travelling bus stop co-created with women from informal workforce highlights mobility gaps in IT hub
The feature-loaded bus stop has been installed behind Byappanahalli metro station at the ever-busy Old Madras Road in Bengaluru on October 5.
A beaming Rukmani, who while keeping an eye on the time so as to pick up her children from school, is reluctant to leave the bunch of merrymakers when the time comes. The women were celebrating the installation of a makeshift bus stop in Hosa Nagar. The feature-loaded bus stop, a far cry from the existing ones, has been installed behind Byappanahalli metro station at the ever-busy Old Madras Road in Bengaluru on October 5.
It is part of a ‘travelling bus stop’ project, an initiative by a collective of NGOs and think tanks called Alli Serona. It aims to highlight the huge gap that exists between the promise of the government's Shakti scheme, which wants to empower women with free bus rides, and the reality. Rukmani, who lives in the interiors of Hosa Nagar, for instance, will tell you that despite the free bus rides, everyday commute is a struggle for her.
“I have to walk at least five kilometres to get to the nearest bus stop from where I stay,” said Rukmani, who works as a domestic help. For Rukmani, the scheme will make sense only if the government introduces a feeder bus service, connecting the metro station with the interior areas of Hosa Nagar as well as functional bus stops along the route. Mallika Arya of Bengaluru Moving, an NGO that strives to influence people into using public transport to reduce traffic as well as climate-related repercussions, said this lack of connectivity in underserved areas makes it difficult to sell public transport as the viable alternative.
Her NGO has been working along with Alli Serona since 2021 to figure a way out. Inclusive mobility in far flung urban areas is often overlooked, said Arya. “One, there are not enough buses in these areas. Two, the bus stop infrastructure is almost non-existent, and if there is one, the bus stop is often just a roof and slab for seating, there is no information of the buses going from there or their timings,” said Arya.
Ironically, the makeshift bus stop at Hosa Nagar is installed right next to an existing one that is not in use anymore. Although only a few feet apart, they are poles apart. One a product of “development gone bad” and another a study in design thinking. In fact, the makeshift bus stop is the “redesigned” version of the existing one at Hosa Nagar, said Aishwarya of Studio Sorted, which is also part of Alli Serona collective. Architects and urban designers from Studio Sorted had put together the requirements proposed by the women from the informal sector after holding three workshops with them, she added. The dream bus stop has a ‘jholi’ (swing fashioned out of sarees) for infants as well as a radio to keep people entertained while they wait.
“I wanted CCTV cameras and bright lights in the bus stop so that it can be safer for women waiting for bus late at nights,” said Rukmani. Since the installation is also meant to create awareness, the design team has added interactive elements in the bus stop. “For instance, if someone sits in the seat installed in the bus stop, it will automatically register as a vote for a bus stop in that specific area,” said Aishwaraya. Pravar Chaudhary, co-founder of Bengawalk, an NGO that strives to make Bengaluru roads walkable, has come up with a route plan for feeder buses connecting metro stations at Old Madras Road and the interior areas, including Hosa Nagar.
“We initially began our engagement with Alli Serona by taking walks, exploring the neighbourhood with the women and having in-depth conversations about their mobility challenges. We were then able to figure out a route that could benefit not only the communities, but thousands of other businesses and residents living along the routes,” said Chaudhary. According to Chaudhary, the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is making some efforts towards introducing small routes, and adding extensions to existing routes. “Hopefully, with public participation, we will be able to sway them into investing considerably in this,” said Chaudhary.
The mobile bus stop will remain in Hosa Nagar till October 7. After that, it will be installed in Priyanka Nagar in Seegehalli on October 9 and 10; Thursday Sante Area on October 16-18 and at Byrasandra on October 20-21.