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More bus depots will address the traffic problem significantly

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It was almost three months ago when I booked an intercity bus ticket from Hyderabad to Bengaluru. The booking experience was seamless and the bus operators provided several convenient pickup locations. I was impressed by the mobile booking experience — it was similar to booking an airplane ticket.

I reached the pick-up point at 9:15 pm, expecting the bus to show up in another fifteen minutes. But what I saw in that time was eye-opening. There were several buses lined across both sides of the main road at Kondapur. Not just on the sides of the road- buses even occupied more than half of the road. Of course, the road did not have any lane markings. On the sections of the road where the lanes were present, no one cared.

This led to clogged traffic on both sides of the road, which increased with time as more and more buses crowded the region. To give some perspective, a typical Volvo 9400 bus (one of the more common air-conditioned buses) can range between 12 m to 15 m in length. Imagine 5 of these standing one behind the other.

Despite the well-engineered maneuverability of the bus, the size leads to a large turning radius. Also, buses crawl on the road waiting for the last passenger to hop on leads to delayed starts for buses and ultimately passengers.

The result of this — constant honking leading to noise pollution, an increase in air pollution levels and an overall slowness in the traffic movement.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. A similar scenario can be seen in other metros in the country as well. It is also common that one lane of major highways is blocked as buses pick up passengers.

Speaking about numbers, more than 90% of buses in India are privately operated. The number of private buses in India in 2015 stood at 18,303,000.

To leave it to the bus operators to manage their pick-up and drop-off locations create ambiguity and chaos. The government needs to provide the necessary infrastructure or set guidelines in place to avoid chaos arising out of this.

To solve the problem caused to the traffic, there are a few solutions that the state governments could think of the following:

Adding a dedicated shoulder lane for picking up passengers along the pickup points. This way, a diversion could be created for these buses, bus stops could be added and passenger pick-ups would not affect the normal traffic. Buses could be allowed to stay in this lane for a certain amount of time, post which penalties can be imposed.

If there is no space to create a diversion, the bus halt time at a point could be noted and penalized if exceeded.

Allowing private buses to operate out of State Transport Bus Terminals and depots. Opening up a sector of the government bus stations for a fee would be a good way to generate additional revenue for the loss-making State Transport Corporations. This could be modeled in a similar manner to airports — companies pay for getting a gate for a certain time.

Building more Inter State Bus Terminals (ISBTs) and making sure that the transit network that feeds into them is robust.

With the number of private buses only rising every year and the state transport corporations making losses, opening up state-owned bus terminals and depots to private operators could bring in income for the government and reduce the burden on our roads.

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