Catching Up

ITS solutions gaining traction in urban bus segment

The deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) can play an important role in transforming the country’s urban bus sector that has been witnessing stagnant ridership over the years. Inadequate and poor quality bus services have led to a shift towards private vehicles, exacerbating congestion and air pollution problems in Indian cities. The adoption of ITS solutions can help in improving the attractiveness of bus transportation and increasing ridership.

In the past few years, a number of cities have adopted ITS solutions such as automated fare collection (AFC) systems, automatic vehicle location systems (AVLS), and passenger information systems (PIS) to improve commuter experience and increase operational efficiency. AFC methods such as smart cards allow passengers to undertake cashless transactions. Besides, they also discourage corrupt practices by staff and ticketless travel by passengers. AVLS helps operators in monitoring drivers for unscheduled stoppages, deviations from routes, overspeeding, etc. Besides, the installation of PIS boards help in disseminating information about bus arrival and departure times.

Government initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) have also been instrumental in driving the deployment of ITS by city bus services. Besides, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has mandated the use of vehicle location tracking devices and emergency buttons for all new public service vehicles registered on or after January 1, 2019. Moreover, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the central government has asked states to adopt digital payment systems in public transportation systems including buses to prevent infections.

Indian Infrastructure looks at the adoption of ITS solutions in the country’s urban bus sector…

Key interventions

Many cities in the country are gradually moving towards the deployment of ITS solutions in the bus transport segment. Ahmedabad, for instance, has implemented an ITS project under the SCM to improve the efficiency of the bus rapid transit (BRT) system and city bus services. The solutions deployed include internet of things-driven fare collection, GPS-enabled vehicle location, PIS to provide passengers real-time bus information, a vehicle planning schedule and despatch (VPSD) system and a depot management system (DMS). The data collected from these systems is analysed in the command and control centre. This enables operators to detect irregularities in fare collections, track incidents such as equipment failure and bus accidents and swiftly take countermeasures.

Further, Indore has also deployed ITS on its BRT corridors to enhance safety, improve response time in case of accidents and increase user convenience. Some of the key features of Indore’s ITS are the use of an AFC system and electronic ticketing machines, AVLS for tracking vehicles, and PIS display and customer service centre to provide information to passengers. Besides, in January 2018, the Pune Metropolitan Transportation Corporation awarded the contract for implementation of an ITS project to NEC Technologies. The project involved enhancement of the transit service through the use of solutions such as AVLS, PIS and a public announcement system. VPSD facilities have also been deployed to optimise bus service schedules and allocation of crew based on real-time information obtained from the AVLS. The DMS has also been adopted to automate operations related to vehicle management and stock management for a variety of spare parts at bus depots.

The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is also working towards overhauling the ITS in the city. BMTC had earlier implemented the initiative in 2015 but the project collapsed three years later as the service provider – Trimax IT Infrastructure and Services Limited – ran into a financial crisis. The utility is now looking for a new vendor to modernise the existing system. The major components of the project will include deployment of PIS, AVLS, a surveillance system as well as touchscreen kiosks and digital display boards at major bus stations. With the new system in place, passengers will also be able to provide instant feedback on crew behaviour and bus cleanliness.

Chandigarh too is adopting ITS solutions such as AVLS and panic buttons to ensure passenger safety. The AVLS is already functional in 40 local buses. The Chandigarh Transport Undertaking is working towards installing the system in the remaining 173 buses. The department is also planning to install ultrasonic fuel sensor devices in all 213 buses to record fuel consumption, prevent fuel theft and improve management efficiency. Besides, six new PIS boards will also be installed in the city. Further, cities such as Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Kochi are also implementing several ITS solutions to improve commuter experience and leverage data to take better decisions for operations and management.

Conclusion

While the implementation of ITS in the urban bus sector has increased in the past few years, penetration is still at a nascent stage. Most cities continue to rely on manual processes for tasks such as attendance recording, fare collection, route planning, and bus and crew scheduling. In the coming years, with the growing population and rapid urbanisation, the use of ITS solutions will become imperative for the country’s bus sector to create an efficient and reliable public transportation system. Therefore, it is important to urgently resolve the financial and technical challenges faced by public bus agencies to speed up the process of ITS deployment.

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