Stage 2 Describing the Starting Point

Evaluate and Diagnose Key Problems

The issues and problems of the existing bus system will typically include aspects such as unreliable services, lack of buses, over-crowding, pollution, congestion, safety, fare levels etc. A variety of methods can be employed to evaluate and diagnose key problems, including the compilation of opinions and analysis of parameters.

Opinions from Stakeholders: Opinions may be received from transport authorities, city officials, bus operators and passengers. In particular, the assessment should include a consumer perspective on transport services, which can help to ascertain the weaknesses of the system and also to set goals for the improvement plan. The commuter’s perception could be obtained either by structured interviews or through a well designed return questionnaire (see Annex 6). This would reveal various aspects about public transport which cannot be captured through various performance indices.

The type of problems and issues that may be highlighted are listed below, though this should be supplemented by other city-specific problems:

  • Inadequate bus fleet
  • Poor quality of vehicles
  • Poor safety performance
  • Unreliable services
  • Irregular frequency
  • Unpunctuality
  • Poor route coverage
  • Lack of access to bus network
  • Congestion due to public transport
  • Pollution due to public transport
  • Mistreatment of passengers
  • Conflicts between operators
  • Excessive transfers
  • Excessive fares
  • Low profitability of operators
  • Excessive subsidy requirement
  • Crew behaviour and driver performance

Citizens groups can play an important role in persuading the authorities to improve the quality of transport. They could also be helpful in bringing to light various violations which an operator/driver may indulge in. They could also be of help to the fleet operators by helping in curbing pilferage by the crew. Such groups, though common in bigger cities, do not exist in smaller cities and towns. In order to involve the citizens in planning and monitoring public transport, it is necessary to encourage such groups. Therefore, details about such groups, formal mechanisms to encourage them and the activities they undertake should be monitored so that they can evolve into effective instruments of citizen participation.

Cycling and pedestrian movements, though important, do not always receive appropriate attention. It needs to be appreciated that each bus trip is associated with a walking trip. Similarly, the extremely low cost of travel by bicycle, makes it very popular amongst the poor. The percentage of bicycle and pedestrian trips, the average and the maximum length of such trips are all important parameters. Most importantly, the perception of pedestrians and cyclists about difficulties experienced while traveling will throw light on the inadequacy of the infrastructure.

Benchmarks and Performance Indicators: In addition to opinions from stakeholders, benchmarks and quantifiable performance indicators should be included to evaluate the existing bus service. Typical indicators are listed below.

  • Number of buses (per 1,000 people) and total capacity
  • Number of passengers carried per day
  • Proportion of bus trips in total trips
  • Average distance covered by a bus each day
  • Fare structure
  • Average commercial speed
  • Safety record: accident rate, breakdown rate
  • Adherence to emission norms
  • Average load factors
  • Average age of buses
  • Technical parameters of buses: low floor, wide door, power steering, rear engine, pneumatic suspensions etc.
  • Concessional services
  • Efficiency parameters:
    • Earning per km.
    • Cost per km.
    • Profitability.
    • Bus-staff ratio.
    • Cost recovery ratio.
    • Average vehicle availability
    • Average vehicle utilization – kms traveled by a bus per day.
    • Cancellation rate – (actual gross kms traveled/scheduled kms
    • km per breakdown
    • km per accident
    • Average staff salary

However, it is recognized that such data are difficult to obtain from an environment of numerous, small and fragmented operators.

The bus system accounts for only a proportion of passenger trips. Other modes complement and supplement bus services, including chartered buses, minibuses, vans, taxies, auto-rickshaws, bicycles and walking. The performance parameters described above for buses could be used to analyze the performance of chartered buses, minibuses and vans.

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