Bane of Bengaluru: How Uber Worsened Traffic in a City of Ten Million

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Picture is of a peak hour in ring road of Bangalore.
Diptiprakashpalai [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Bengaluru (Bangalore), capital of Karnataka, is one of the largest contributors to India’s economy. It holds a population of more than ten million making it the country’s third most populous city. This also makes Bengaluru a very busy place where a large number of vehicles pass through. And as with most large cities in the world, Bengaluru also suffers from traffic congestion.

When Uber and Ola started operation in 2012/2013, people thought that this would help alleviate the traffic condition in the city. But what happened is that they made it worse. Uber and Ola only worsened the already problematic traffic in Bengaluru. On top of this, their operation also negatively affected public transit in the city.

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Uber only worsened traffic congestion in Bengaluru

According to a study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), Uber and Lyft were responsible for a 51% increase in hours of vehicle delay every day between 2010 and 2016. Furthermore, they caused a 55% decrease in average speed during the same period. This data is from traffic congestion in San Francisco; we could only imagine how much worse it is if they conducted the study in India.

The main reason that these ride-sharing apps contribute to traffic is because of their flawed system. These ride-sharing apps are supposed to lessen traffic by servicing multiple passengers in one vehicle and thus, reducing the number of vehicles on the road. However, most of their taxis usually carry only one passenger.

A lot of the passengers who usually took buses or auto rickshaws (baby taxis), or even walk to near destinations, now opt to book these cabs. This significantly increases the number of vehicles on the road which consequently worsens traffic. And this condition is further exacerbated by illegally parked cabs, especially in crowded roads.

Uber and Ola also affected public transit negatively

Aside from the increased volume of vehicles, the operation of these ride-sharing apps also affected public transit. Experts claim that both Uber and Ola caused harm to public transportation in the city. They stole passengers from buses and auto rickshaws which experts say helped cause a decline in ridership for BMTC – from 51.3 lakh in 2014/2015 to only 44.4 lakh in 2017/2018. These ride-sharing apps were supposed to complement public transportation. But instead, they became competition for public transit.

It is undeniable that these ride-sharing apps have their set of advantages. Because otherwise, passengers wouldn’t be using them. But the issue here is that they caused more problems than they supposedly resolve. Unfortunately, the city government of Bengaluru has no solution at the moment, mainly due to the lack of research.

Lowering taxi registration in Bengaluru

Because of these conditions, most would-be taxi drivers are discouraged from applying. This is evident in the decrease in the registration of taxis two years in a row. The number peaked at 32,479 in 2017/2018 but continuously dropped down to only 16,274 in 2018/2019. Officials say that the main causes are lack of bookings and increased traffic – problems which can be connected to Uber and Ola.

Are Uber and other similar ride-sharing apps beneficial?

The debate whether the existence of Uber and other ride-sharing apps is beneficial or not will probably continue for a few more years. Both sides have their arguments and both sides have their pros and cons. And even though people already exposed the negative effects and practices of Uber, the other side will always have their answers and justifications.

However, one thing is for certain: the city of ten million people reached their verdict – Uber and Ola are doing more harm than good.

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