Will Uber’s Premium Bus Service Help Boost Public Transportation in Delhi?

The premium bus service will have WiFi, panic button, GPS, CCTV, and reclining seats.
Will Uber’s Premium Bus Service Help 
Boost Public Transportation in Delhi?

Yesterday, Uber received approval from the Delhi transport department to operate bus services in the capital. The premium bus service will have WiFi, panic button, GPS, CCTV, and reclining seats.

 Under an MoU with the West Bengal government, Uber shuttle runs in Kolkata. It's also been running in Delhi since the last one year through a pilot programme. 

Uber received this approval under the Delhi government’s premium bus service scheme, which was introduced in 2023. The main aim of the scheme is to encourage people to use public transportation instead of private transportation. 

Read: Uber Ceases Operations Across Pakistan Amidst Local Competition

Overloaded private vehicles 

Pollution in Delhi has been an extensively talked about topic. The World Air Quality Report 2023 by  IQAir, Swiss organisation identifited that was  as the capital city with the poorest air quality. The Commission for Air Quality Management on Wednesday said that the national capital’s air quality dipped to the 'poor' category. Stubble burning, vehicular emission due to rise in the number of private vehicles are some of the reasons behind the increasing pollution.  

In 2023, a collaboration between IIT Kanpur and the Delhi government highlighted that vehicular emissions were one of the biggest contributorss behind the capital’s air pollution. In 2016, with the intent to reduce pollution, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal introduced the odd-even scheme. Every time there is an increase in pollution, the scheme is re-introduced through which, cars with odd registration numbers can be driven on odd days, and cars with even numbers can drive on alternating days. However, the Supreme Court in November 2023 said that the Delhi government's odd-even plan to combat air pollution, is "mere optics" with no substantial impact. 

The Premium Bus Scheme 

In October 2023, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal approved the 'Premium Bus Aggregator Policy 2023'. The policy, Kejriwal said would hopefully encourage the upper middle class section to focus on public transportation.  

 Kejriwal highlighted how the scheme would help reduce pollution and strengthen the transportation system of Delhi. The scheme was eventually introduced in the same year in November. 

To qualify for a bus license under the scheme, applicants must have at least three years of experience in operating and managing public or shared transportation vehicles.  The scheme also mentions that only pre-booked digital ticketing will be allowed, with no physical tickets issued. All passenger charges must be collected only through electronic or digital payment methods. 

Read: Ola And Uber Introduces Subscription Based Plans For Auto Drivers

Similarly, license holders can set bus routes if fares are dynamic and not lower than the peak fare of Delhi Transport Corporation AC buses. Under the scheme, onboarded buses shouldn't be more than three years old for CNG vehicles. Further, buses joining the scheme after January 1, 2025, should be electric. 

In January this year, The Times of India had reported that three ride players where in touch with the Delhi government to offer services through the scheme. This includes- Uber, Aaveg and Gati. 

Along with Uber, Aaveg, an app-based shuttle service in Delhi, Gurugram & Noida also got approval from the Delhi government to operate premium bus services.  
Uber has been focusing on its shuttle service both in India and internationally. On Wednesday, the rideshare company announced the launch of Uber Shuttle in the USA which allows users to book up to five seats in a shuttle from a central location to events or airports at a lower cost than a regular Uber ride. This feature will first be rolled out in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and Atlanta, with plans to expand to other areas later. 

The shuttle system raises a lot of expectations- be it backing the transportation system or helping curb pollution or reduce traffic. It remains to be seen if the shuttle under the premium bus service scheme, will be a game changer, or just an added feature in the app.  

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