The recent ban on carpooling in Bengaluru has sparked a heated debate among citizens, environmentalists, and policymakers. While the ban was implemented following complaints from taxi drivers, it has raised concerns about its impact on the city’s traffic congestion, air pollution, and public transportation system.
Alleviating traffic congestion
Bengaluru is infamous for its traffic congestion, with the number of vehicles exceeding 1.1 crore, including 73.6 lakh two-wheelers and 23.5 lakh four-wheelers. Carpooling has been seen as an effective solution for reducing this congestion. By allowing multiple people to share a single vehicle, carpooling reduces the number of vehicles on the road, thereby easing traffic flow.
The Karnataka transport department classifies the use of whiteboard vehicles for commercial commuting as ‘illegal’ and states that individuals found operating carpooling services may face fines ranging from ₹5,000 to ₹10,000. Several ride-hailing apps, including BlaBla Car, Quickride, Rideshare, Commute Easy, and Carpool Adda, offer carpool services where users can share rides for a fee.
Carpooling was once seen as a way to reduce the number of vehicles on Bengaluru’s roads during peak hours, particularly among IT employees commuting to work. However, taxi associations have claimed that these services impact their daily earnings and have urged the government to take action.
Recently, these associations and the autorickshaw drivers’ union organized a Bengaluru bandh and submitted a list of demands to Karnataka Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy. Additionally, the autorickshaw drivers are pushing for the ban on bike taxis, a request that the minister says will be evaluated based on legal considerations.
Reducing air pollution
Air pollution is a significant concern in Bengaluru, with PM2.5 levels exceeding World Health Organization guidelines by six to seven times in some areas. Vehicular emissions contribute significantly to this pollution. Carpooling can help mitigate this issue by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, leading to lower emissions and improved air quality.
While Bengaluru has a robust public transportation system, including BMTC buses and Namma Metro rail services, the demand often exceeds the capacity. Carpooling can complement these services by providing an additional mode of transport, especially for commuters who do not have convenient access to public transportation.
The Karnataka government’s decision responds to demands from cabs and auto associations to halt carpooling app operations, which they allege operate illegally. The associations asserted that carpooling services impact their daily earnings and presented their demands to the government. They organized a Bengaluru bandh and submitted these demands to the transport minister.
Bengaluru, with a population of 11 million, boasts the highest traffic density among major Indian cities. It accommodates nearly 12.5 million vehicles, essentially one vehicle for every resident.
The recent traffic jams have subjected countless commuters to hours of delays on Bengaluru’s Outer Ring Road (ORR), home to numerous IT parks and global investments. The Bengaluru traffic police have already initiated plans to alleviate the frequent congestion along the ORR route.
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