In Delhi, a Safer Bus Line?

Delhi’s Blueline buses are notoriously deadly, perhaps due to a perverse incentive system that rewarded drivers for speedy progress and discouraged investments in the vehicles. Dave Prager, who investigated the buses last year,?has an update: Delhi has recently reformed its bus system, phasing out the Blueline buses and replacing them with shiny new buses. More importantly, the payment model has changed: “The Delhi government will provide the companies Rs.27-42 as earning per kilometre even when the service runs into losses, but it will take the ticketing amount.” “[F]rom the broader perspective of making the city safer and the commute more reliable, this framework is a huge improvement,” writes Prager. “Especially when one learns that the drivers themselves will be city employees, and the buses will be monitored by GPS.” [%comments]


how per km fee does not incentivizes fast driving?

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

I think we can learn from Mass Transit in India. If the bus is packed like sardines, and I want to only ride two stops and it is 90 degrees and 95% humidity, and the sidewalks are teeming, why not become Indiana Jones and grab on to the outside bus rail, hang out of a window, or even ride the roof? Wind blowing through your hair. Not confined to the indoor pushing and shoving and fighting for seats. Riding a bus is a lot more fun sitting on the roof or hanging on the rear bumper. Just mind the turns and stop texting and hang on. Quick mount and dismount like a fireman.

Busses could have sturdy hand railing and a little foot perch on their outside. And ladders to the roof. Many people already carry carbiners and heavy nylon straps...hook youself up. Our society has too many lawyers.


Honestly, I can make no sense of the information. Will they compensated per km that they have already run? Or the km they couldnt run because they drove slower (and safer)?

Amitesh Jha

KM scheme has been in operation since at least 1998, and it is not without its share of issues. In KM scheme buses, the ticketing is lax and many a times people take a free ride on them. Fast driving is an issue (though overtaking is not - reason for a lot of accidents) as also is their skipping stops in order to run a trip in the least amount of time.

The GPS system should be solving a lot of these issues as average speed, stoppages, etc. can be calculated from the data. But then, it is a system that would work because regulation and strict monitoring and not due to "new" KM scheme

another delhiite

@delhite - All blueline/state buses have fixed chartered routes and stops. So do what you will, but the mileage covered during an average end-to-end run doesn't change. Where do you see the incentive to driving faster?

Garvit Sah

Since the drivers and conductors would be government employees and the private bus-owners would be paid a certain sum per kilometer, the new system is akin to the government renting out buses and operating them. Thus, in a way, privatization of transportation service has been done away with. The government would be the operator. No incentive for rash driving / flouting of traffic norms here as the drivers would be government employees drawing fixed salaries.

Two issues can affect the new system. One is the regular systemic inefficiencies of a government run transportation system in which the drivers/conductors, who draw fixed salaries, have no incentive to try and maximize the revenues. The result is underutilized capacity, poor frequency of buses, inconvenience to commuters, low ticket receipts and losses to the government agency.

The second is that since the private bus owners would be paid on a per kilometer basis, the payments made to the by the government agency might not be sufficient so as to provide a decent return on investment thereby discouraging future private players to invest in purchase of buses leading to capacity constraints.

The present system did not have incentives for following traffic rules but it did have incentives for providing better transportation services in terms of increased frequency of buses. The new system, instead of creating incentives for following traffic norms has moved to an even archaic system which has no incentives for either.



they have no incentive for fast driving as number of trips per route is fixed. But how they will ensure proper service(timelines, proper frequency, stopping at each stop for picking passengers), what is the incetive for that?


where is the road space left in delhi to run busses. Number of private vechile is increasing exponentaily but length of roads on a tortoise pace ????

Eric M. Jones

I don't understand why the drivers aren't paid per hour or on a salary. Do they all park in alleys and snooze without incentives to work? Or block up their wheels and run the odometers up?

I would think a bus driving job is a good and normal way to earn a living....

Alex in Chicago

How does making the employees government employees make the buses safer?


@alex in chicago

So let me get this straight: you decide that the best way to contribute to this discourse is to a) not read the article, and then b) submit a comment that asks a question that is directly answered by the article you didn't read?

As you'll read in the article, decoupling the driver's salary from the bus's revenue means the driver won't drive like a maniac. As you'll also read, this is a problem because Delhi's bus drivers kill over 100 people a year.

Alex in Chicago

Or it will result in a less selective choice of bus operators making everyone worse off.


Classic example of a government doing what it should not do, because it is not competent enough to do what it should do... Instead of enforcing traffic rules (and penalizing drivers / bus owners who break them), they will hire thousands of overpaid government drivers to drive buses (as rashly in many cases, just for the thrill of it) at tax payers expense


One thing I remember from my days riding buses - it's been a few years since I did so regularly - is that the skill of the driver makes a hell of a difference to the speed he gets round, all other things being equal. The better drivers look further ahead, have less variation in speed, are smoother, and also get round the route quicker. That's not because they reach a higher top speed - if anything, they tend to be slower than the maniacs on the bits where the maniacs drive fast - but because they avoid much of the stopping and starting that slows the maniacs average speed right down.

I think the best incentive for drivers would be an all-round increase in wages, coupled with making them buy their own fuel. Smooth, sensible driving is extremely fuel efficient compared to ragging it.

Rahul Choudhry

Awesome discussion so far. I read one of the comments by Garvit Sah and had a question about drivers and conductors being government employees. Was that an assumption ? From what I understood is there will be a 60-40 (govt-corp) split in this sector. If the corporate has its own drivers/conductors, wouldn't they be incentivized to make longer routes to increase km's. ( I know GPS will track it to some extent).