Can we create a bus service that both—an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old— can use without assistance? The Bus4us campaign, launched by the UrbanWorks Institute, engages citizens to have more buses, better buses, and faster buses. Here’s the idea.
What is Bus4us?
When you think of buses, what is the first image that flashes? Chances are that it isn’t rosy. You might be nostalgic about them but do not desire them even if you use them daily. Uncomfortable and unreliable are the words many use to describe the service we have today. But can’t we change this?
Bus4us is a citizen-led campaign for more buses, better buses, and faster buses. Our first step was to seed the idea of a cool and attractive service that people fall in love with and demand that this dream become a
reality. Can we create a bus service that an eight-year-old and an eighty-year-old can use without assistance?
Why are buses so important?
Buses have some inherent characteristics that make them the superheroes of mobility. Why?
- Buses are efficient. They use less road space (and fuel) to carry more people. But they are stuck in traffic. So, priority lanes for fast buses.
- Buses are flexible. They can provide direct connectivity (without changing routes) to all parts of a city. Services can be quickly modified with changing needs. But people must wait forever to get a bus, and there aren’t enough buses to reach every place. So, more buses.
- Buses are scalable are quick (and inexpensive) to expand to cater to growing demand. But they aren’t accessible and affordable. So, better buses and more affordable buses.
What ails buses?
Buses in most Indian cities are grossly inadequate, infrequent, uncool and slow. People cannot be blamed for choosing two-wheelers or cars because they don’t have a better option. Bus operators cannot be blamed because the fleet size and the budgets are small. The state and the national governments must take the onus and fix it. We need more buses, better buses and faster buses.
What is the connection between cars, congestion and unreliable buses?
Each car passenger occupies ten times more space than a bus passenger. We are stuck in traffic because of cars. Bus priority lanes could solve this congestion only if the cars are fewer. Cars could be fewer if there is a price to drive a car (congestion pricing), and cities provide a smart alternative to those stuck in congestion. Buses could come in here. With the bus speeds improved, passengers travelled faster, and the same bus could be more efficiently used because they were not in stop-and-start traffic.
What is an important but often missed out aspect about buses?
People are going to shift if buses are predictable and comfortable. But before that, one very important point. It is not enough to bring in swanky buses. We also need a safe and fun walking environment to reach those buses. The last mile is a critical issue that stops people from accessing buses, and unless we make that walk, that short walk, the five-minute walk to the bus stop, is safe but also comfortable and attractive.
Does Bus4us have an action plan to transform the bus system in Indian cities?
We are now garnering support for bus mission plans in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. But there is a simple, 5-point agenda that can become a standard for good bus systems:
- The first one is to double the fleet and double the comfort.
- The second is being able to reach a bus stop easily; we need to have bus stops which are within a five-minute walking distance for everyone.
- The third is we must have priority lanes for reliable service.
- The fourth one is to make the ride affordable.
- And the last is information at everyone’s disposal. Everybody needs to know where these services are and how easy they are.
Bus4us demands involvement from citizens, planners, and decision-makers. It needs a belief in the imagination of mobility for all. If you’d like to join hands with us, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.