While falling Metro ridership in Delhi hogs the attention, massive slide happening in bus ridership as well - finds new CSE study

Daily bus ridership loss of 17 lakh passengers since 2012-13

If no new buses are added, Delhi may not have any buses left in 2025

  • New CSE assessment of bus transport in Delhi finds that while the overall share of public transport has declined over time, DTC in particular has lost daily passengers from 47 lakh per day in 2012-13 to 30 lakh per day in 2016 – about 17 lakh daily passenger loss 

  • The last addition to DTC’s fleet happened during 2011-12. There has been almost no addition to the fleet during last 5 years. 

  • If no new buses are added now, the entire fleet will get nearly phased out by 2025 due to ageing and phase out.

  • Less than 1 per cent of DTC routes have a frequency of one bus every five minutes during peak hours. Less than 25 per cent DTC routes have frequency of one bus every 15 minutes. Rest of the routes have much longer waiting time.    

  • Almost 700 buses on any given day are not used, largely due to breakdowns.  This is equivalent to halting entire fleet size of cities such as Jaipur 

  • Overall performance of cluster buses is comparatively better than DTC, but their numbers are lot less.

  • Assessment of the emerging aggregator bus system shows they have emerged as attractive option -- as much as 42 per cent of users have shifted from self driven cars and 15 per cent from car sharing to aggregator bus system as they are considered more reliable and comfortable.

  • If urgent action is not taken immediately mobility crisis can seriously compromise pollution control initiative in the city. 

New Delhi, December 12, 2017: The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has suffered a 35 per cent loss in its daily passenger ridership since 2012-13 -- from 47 lakh per day in 2012-13 to 30 lakh per day in 2016. This works out to be a daily loss of about 17 lakh passengers, says a new analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) of the performance of bus transport in Delhi. 

The report has investigated the current state of DTC and the cluster bus scheme of Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transport System (DIMTS) with 50:50 ratio of service distribution. It is clear from the report that buses that are expected to be the prime movers for majority of commuters, are at serious risk of being decimated. The system has depleted to such an extent that there is enormous deficit in bus service plagued by crippling operational inefficiencies. This is leading to rapid loss of daily ridership.

Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE: “This is unacceptable, especially at a time when travel demand and pollution problems are exploding in the city. If this is not acknowledged and resolved immediately to stem the tide, it will lead to gradual destruction of the system, increase dependence on personal vehicles and make the problem of pollution and congestion irreversible.” 

If Delhi has to meet the Master Plan target of 80 per cent share of public transport ridership by 2020, the bus system will have to be reinvented – says the CSE report. Buses are very important as they can be flexibly deployed across the city, even in areas with lower travel demand. They can connect origin and destination more directly and efficiently, reduce interchanges and cost of travel. It is affordable for most commuters. A bus occupies only twice the road space taken by a car but can carry 40 times more passengers. 

Highlights of the CSE report:

• Massive loss in daily ridership of DTC buses: While public transport share has been generally declining over time, DTC in particular has suffered 35 per cent loss in daily passenger ridership since 2012-13 -- from 47 lakh per day in 2012-13 to 30 lakh per day in 2016. This 35 per cent reduction virtually works out to be a daily loss of about 17 lakh passengers. 

• Even the existing ridership is overestimated: While the drop in bus passenger numbers in itself is worrying, there is an additional concern that even the current numbers are an over-estimation due to flawed calculations. As per the latest available DTC statistics (November 2016), about 30 lakh passengers are carried daily, of which only 14 lakhs (45 per cent) are ticketed, passengers. The rest of 16 lakh (55 per cent) passengers use passes. However, based on the total number of active passes currently issued, officially it is assumed that each pass holder makes an absurdly high -- 9 trips in buses daily. Thus, a pass holder is counted as traveling nine times during the course of a single day and that inflates the daily trip number. It is possible therefore that DTC’s daily ridership is expected to be much less than the currently stated 30-lakh figure.

• Massive shortage of buses: DTC is currently operating almost 3,800 buses (discounting fully depreciated buses). Around 1,600 buses are being operated under the Cluster Scheme. Accounting for buses under the Cluster Scheme, there is a shortage of 5,000-10,000 buses based on various estimates and judicial mandates. The city government has not added a new bus in five years. The last addition to DTC’s fleet was made during 2011-12 which was on account of purchase orders placed even earlier. 

• Delhi may not have any bus left in 2025: Based on the age profile of DTC fleet, if no new buses are added, the entire fleet will get phased out by 2025. In five years, DTC could face a situation of having no buses to run and no staff either.

• Very poor frequency and unreliable services: It is even more disturbing that, less than 1 per cent of DTC routes have a service of headway less than 5 minutes during morning peak hours -- which means frequency of one bus every five minutes. Less than 25 per cent DTC routes have a service of headway less than 15 minutes – one bus every 15 minutes. In majority of bus routes the waiting time is much longer that makes the system more unattractive.

• Very poor fleet utilisation: DTC’s fleet utilization has also been going down over the past few years, having come down to 83.63 per cent in 2015–16, from 85.51 per cent in 2013–14. It is significantly lower compared to other cities like Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC; 91 per cent) and Hyderabad (99 per cent). For a city with an already depleted fleet size, low fleet utilization makes matters worse in terms of service provision ability of the operator. Almost 700 buses on any given day are not used, almost 50 percent of which are due to breakdowns.  The buses not being used by DTC daily are more than the entire fleet size of cities such as Jaipur. 

• Cluster buses though smaller in number are performing better: Limited information available from DIMTS shows Cluster buses are performing better than DTC buses. For instance, cluster buses ply on an average 215 km per day as opposed to 191 km by DTC buses. In fact, in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, buses do as much as 214.5 km and 240 per bus per day respectively. Fleet utilisation of cluster buses is 92 per cent whereas for DTC it is 84 per cent. The number of breakdowns for DTC has increased from 3.95 incidents per 10,000 operated km in 2013–14 to 4.5 in 2015–16. Buses under the cluster scheme experience a much lower breakdown rate of 0.28 incidents per 10,000 operated km. Operating cost of DTC is Rs 80 per kilometer but for Cluster buses it is Rs 52 per kilometer. While cluster buses are using ITS and GPS for monitoring of operations DTC has stayed away from such system. However, despite being responsible for operating 50 percent of the fleet under the aegis of the Delhi Government, DIMTS is a fairly opaque organization in terms of public data sharing practices. 

• No buses procured even after earmarking spaces for bus parking:  While this city has allotted huge amount of space for car parking is struggling to find space for bus depots. But even after earmarking land for parking of at least 1600-2000 by EPCA, buses have not been procured.   

• Onerous cost burden: DTC pays almost Rs. 100 per km as interest on Government loans which makes its operational cost almost Rs. 180 per km, of which it recovers only almost Rs. 40 per km from all sources.

• Buses pay more taxes than cars: While cars pay one time and life time road tax buses pay a higher annual road tax. At the same time under the new GST rule buses are in the 28 per cent tax bracket. Moreover, buses have to additionally pay tax to cross borders in the NCR region. This is increases cost of operations.  If not addressed there will be massive shift from buses to two-wheelers that are lot cheaper to operate.

• Buses pay more taxes than the Metro:  Despite being public transport service buses are made wider set of states and central taxes than the metro rail.  If tax obligations are reduced and waived off it will help to improve overall economic efficiency of operations. 

CSE assessment of bus aggregator scheme shows stunning results – more have shifted from cars and metro to buses: CSE has also studied the impact of bus aggregator model on travel behaviour. The aggregators like Ola and Uber aggregate trip generated and assign them to buses with which a service level agreement is signed. CSE survey of the users of aggregator buses shows that as much as 42 per cent have shifted from the self driven cars and 15 per cent from car sharing; and as much as 30 per cent have shifted from metro. This shows that majority have shifted from cars and metros to customised and shared bus transport under the aggregator model. The users have confirm that reason for this shift include – convenience, confirmed seat availability, no hassle of driving, convenience of point to point service, less travel times, and safety. 

Need urgent action
Delhi cannot meet its Master Plan target of 80 per cent modal share of public transport if buses do not meet at least 70 per cent of the public transport demand. This is the most affordable, flexible, and efficient system for the majority commuters. Without buses Delhi cannot reinvent mobility to reduce pollution and congestion. Delhi needs to urgently implement its comprehensive action plan for air pollution control for time bound improvement of its bus service and reform DTC. 

• Speed up bus procurement to meet the target of 10,000-11,000 buses: The bus procurement needs to be undertaken on war footing immediately. The overall bus procurement process and policy needs to be set in place so as to avoid a recurrence of the current situation in the future. 

• Address the infrastructure bottleneck including parking depot spaces immediately: While there is provision for up to 2000 buses, a strategy needs to be devised and implemented for expanding parking spaces for buses to allow fleet augmentation. Master Plan has been amended to provide for multilevel parking for buses. This needs to be expedited. 

Immediately implement route rationalisation to improve geographical and population coverage 

• Use ITS system for passenger information and augmentation of reliable service; While Cluster Scheme is significantly advanced on this front, DTC needs to step up the integration of ITS in its services in terms of installing GPS units on its buses, tracking their location in real time and relaying real time ETA data to passengers, and moving to ETVMs (electronic ticket vending machines).

• A fiscal strategy needs to be developed for DTC that aims at reduction of costs, augmentation of fare and non-fare revenue and phasing of interest payments. 

• Implement benchmarking of service performance of DTC and Cluster Scheme against with clear linkages with target and incentive policy of the two systems. 

• Adopt innovative model of bus aggregator along with an appropriate regulatory framework for them. 

• Adopt different strategies to protect right of way of buses and integrate bus system with other modes of transport.