A book shop owner, a marketing executive and a clothes seller — these are the only commuters availing the destination bus service from Connaught Place to Patparganj every day since it was introduced on May 1. Comprising 40 low-floor buses, the special service was started a month ago by the as part of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) anti-pollution directives. The buses ply between residential colonies and office areas — they start around 8 am and make the return journey around 6 pm.
The NGT had said introduction of destination buses would facilitate an individual to opt for such a service, rather than driving on highly-congested roads. So far, it has very few takers. “The government should introduce a few stops on the route,” Umesh Jain, a book shop owner, wrote in the survey sheet handed over by the conductor. He takes the bus to Krishna Apartments in Patparganj from Shivaji stadium bus terminal in Connaught Place every evening. On Friday evening, the bus with the three passengers and three DTC staffers — the driver, conductor and marshal — headed towards ITO even as scores of passengers hailed the bus and asked to be let in.
“The government will bleed money this way. Three passengers means Rs 60 in ticket sales for a bus that makes a 13-km trip. How will they recover the cost of operations, including money paid to the three staffers, if the bus is going to run empty? It does not make sense to introduce a point-to-point service and denying so many people who want a ride mid-journey,” Jain added. Satnam Singh, a marketing executive at a wine shop in Connaught Place, said people might not be taking the bus as their work timings don’t match the departure time. “I wind up work around an hour early to catch this bus. But not everyone finishes work before 8 pm,” Singh said.
A Delhi government official, however, said the bus service was started in public interest and that the the DTC was already running heavy losses annually. “The DTC loses around Rs 50 lakh over a bus every year, so losing a small fraction of money (over the service) will not make much of a difference,” he said. He added, “The destination buses will take time attracting users like any new scheme does. We must give it time.” However, the NGT had pulled up the government last month for not advertising or publicising the service, and directed the traffic police and the Delhi government to distribute pamphlets in colonies to create awareness. Jain said he came to know about the service from large signboards at the Balco bus stand and the Shivaji stadium bus terminal. The government official also said the scheme was being advertised on radio.