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Summary: Bangalore Political Action Committee’s report on Sustainable Mobility for Bengaluru

The Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC) had recommended in March that the Karnataka government relax regulations around shared cabs and shared autos, lift restrictions on dynamic pricing and create an open data infrastructure, and regulatory sandbox. It also recommended that state government allow mobility pilots in its report on sustainable mobility in Bengaluru, that was prepared in collaboration with Uber.

The report, released in March, aimed to to bring together “mobility service providers, civic groups, citizens, think tanks and government officials among others” to discuss the regulatory ecosystem governing mobility in Bengaluru. It examined the challenges faced by new mobility providers, such as on-demand cabs, ride-sharing, shared cabs and autos, bike and car pooling. Stakeholders who participated in the workshops were: 

  • Policy & Research organisations: WRI (World Resources Institute), CSTEP (Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy), Takshashila Institution, UITP (International Association of Public Transport), Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute)
  • Corporates: Bosch 
  • Tech startups: Uber, Vogo, Ola, Bounce
  • Government: BMTC (Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation), BTP (Bengaluru Traffic Police), BMRCL (Bengaluru Metro), BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) 
  • Others: Citizens for Bengaluru, Micelio, Bhagirathi Rydes, Grinntech, Freshworld, Lithium Urban Technologies. QuickRide, PiBeam, Praja Raag, Whitefield Rising

The report also acknowledged the following people, for their inputs and suggestions in writing this report:

  1. RK Mishra, BPAC member
  2. V Ravichandar, urban expert
  3. Pawan Mulukutla, head of urban mobility, Bosch
  4. Alok Prasanna, senior resident fellow, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
  5. Ravi Gadapalli, research manager, UITP
  6. Sudeept Maiti, senior manager of integrated transport, Sustainable Cities, WRI India
  7. Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, project associate, Sustainable Cities & Transport Program, WRI India
  8. Prateek Diwan, senior project associate, urban innovation & integrated transport, Sustainable Cities, WRI India

What is BPAC? 

Bangalore Political Action Committee is a citizens’ advocacy group. Its current president is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, head of biotech company Biocon. Further, TV Mohandas Pai, the former Infosys executive and current head of Manipal University, serves as vice-president and Revathy Ashok, a former IT executive and angel investor, serves as BPAC’s managing trustee and CEO. 

The report was released on March 11 by Shaw, Ashok, Kanika Malhotra (Uber’s head for India and Sri Lanka), and Chand Tulal Mazumdar (Public Policy, India & South Asia, Uber). There was also a panel discussion between Ashok, NA Harris, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Shantinagar, Bengaluru, Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, RK Misra (BPAC member), Alok Prasanna Kumar, Chand Tulal Mazumdar, and Anand GCP Ganapathy Chennira (Micelio, a seed fund focused solely on clean mobility). 

How mobility can be improved in Bengaluru: open data, change state regulations around aggregators

The report states that there is a mismatch between the regulatory ecosystem of mobility solutions — reports, policies, and laws of the central government and state governments — and the demand for new transport modes. These challenges, specific to Karnataka, need to be “urgently addressed” through a revision of certain provisions in the existing laws. 

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Since the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019, provides for state governments to create schemes and issue permits to mobility providers under certain conditions, the Karnataka government “should reconsider its decision on restricting or banning the new age mobility solutions” and create a conducive environment for them to operate within the legal framework, the report said.

Legislative changes: Amend the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules

According to BPAC, the major regulatory bottlenecks in Bengaluru are restrictions on shared cabs and shared autos. These include fare caps, ban on dynamic and surge pricing, and that the regulations do not address carpooling or bike taxis “which are the need of the hour”. Allowing vehicles with contract carriage permits to operate these services “will greatly help solve the issue”. In addition, restrictions on private stage carriage permits is a “serious regulatory barrier”, which has contributed to use of private vehicles in the city, the report said. 

The report recommends that the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules, 1988, be amended to:

1. Allow shared services — cabs, autos, buses — under contract carriage permits: The government should allow shared cabs and shared autos (as well as private shuttle services and feeder buses) holding contract carriage permits to operate in Bengaluru. This “extension of permit” will increase first and last mile connectivity. “Allowing carriage licenses to non-transport vehicles will encourage mobility services such as bike pool and carpool,” the report says. The government should allow vehicles with contract carriage permits to pick-up and drop-off passengers from different points in the “interest of efficiency”. It also recommends creating a separate regulatory regime for share cabs and autos, private shuttle services, and car and bike pool “keeping in mind their business models”.

How permits work: Under Indian regulations, two permits are granted for commercial vehicles, stage carriage and contract carriage. The former is for vehicles carrying six or more passengers on a fixed route with multiple drop-off and pick-up points (say buses). The latter is for vehicles plying passengers from one fixed point to another.

Cabs and autos currently operate on contract carriage permits, but they legally need stage carriage permits to provide shared services. Even the Motor Vehicles Act, 2019, does not allow shared cabs and autos under contract carriage permits. The report said that Karnataka does not permit shared mobility operators stage carriage permits, compared to other states such as Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which have provisions for private stage carriage permits for shared mobility.

2. Allow dynamic pricing by aggregators: Amend the Karnataka On-demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016, to allow for dynamic pricing by aggregators that is based on time, distance and fuel cost. It’s worth noting that Uber would benefit from such a relaxation. 

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According to the report, the hurdle faced by on-demand app-based taxi services is that state government has imposed a lower and upper cap on prices, restricting the operator’s ability to cater to high-demand areas, the report says. These caps act as disincentives for drivers since it does not account for time of day, time taken for travel, fuel consumption, and distance, leading to a drop in services during peak hours, per the report. Other cities have recognised this and have provisions for time-based pricing, the report said. 

3. Introduce definitions of ridesharing, carpooling, and van pooling: There is a lack of clear definitions in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and even the 2019 amendment has not clarified this. There are also challenges around safety, liability and pricing. Without a specific policy for each of these at the state level, their legality would be questioned even though they provide additional transport capacity.

4. Reform the Rent A Motorcycle Scheme 1997: Make it more comprehensive and cater to the current market growth and rental vehicles operator’s requirement.

Karnataka govt should explore creating an open data digital infrastructure

Create an open digital infrastructure: The Karnataka government, under Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA), “must consider” creating an “open digital infrastructure” that brings public and private operators together “to enable voluntary participation”. Every mobility service today generates data, the report said.

“Datasets like license, vehicle registration and permits data held with Transport department; road network, parking, land-use and plot level data held with BBMP and BDA; traffic violations and accidents data with BTP need to be brought under the open data agenda,” BPAC said. [emphasis ours] 

Bruhat (?) Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) are government bodies responsible for civic amenities, and development and planning, respectively. The BMLTA was set up in 2007 as a unified urban transport authority. BTP stands for Bengaluru Traffic Police.

The government could consider setting up a “Mobility Data Council/ Task Force” with private and public stakeholders being involved. This body should be one that can be entrusted with developing a more detailed framework, “with a bias for action” i.e. building and testing such a system, with limited scope to begin with and at the earliest. The report cited the Beckn protocol, developed by the Open Shared Mobility Foundation as “an example of such as solution”. The foundation is a non-for-profit organisation co-founded by Nandan Nilekani, Pramod Varma and Sujith Nair. The Karnataka government, via BMLTA, “could explore such solutions and designs” to enable its data sharing agenda, “backed with intent and the necessary institutional support”, BPAC stated. 

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Nilekani, credited with being the architect behind Aadhaar and also serving as the UIDAI chief, has also been involved with several large projects, including Open Credit Enablement Network, Account Aggregator framework, and UPI among other things. Varma was the Chief Architect of the Aadhaar and India Stack, an iSPIRT volunteer, and is the co-founder of Beckn. 

BPAC’s ideas for an open data infrastructure

  • It is imperative thatthe journey data held in silos by operators is opened up and worked on tangentially” since no one operator can solve Bengaluru’s mobility problems. Open and shared data among operators “can unlock more value for operators than the datasets they exclusively own”. 
  • Data sharing efforts have failed in the past, which is why it’s important to note that an operator’s incentive is to generate more rides. So the open digital infrastructure must allow those participating in it to “find more rides” than what they could have on their own. For instance, a public bus or metro needs last and first mile connectivity to increase passengers. The emerging demand for them “will be valuable for private shared mobility operators in terms of scale and predictability”. 
  • Open data must be a natural derivative of mobility journey transactions. “Data must be emitted not extracted” and an open digital infrastructure should become “an open transaction platform or protocol” allowing each operator to connect “to receive journey requests and respond with journey confirmations and fulfillment”. 
  • “This would be enabled by the journey data independently generated on the open digital infrastructure and not just on the operators’ individual platforms. This obviates the need for data collection efforts at an individual agency level. The notion of a voluntary data provider is replaced by that of a seeker of ride request/demand, and such an engagement thus generating the required data as a natural by-product.”
  • The design should factor in privacy and confidentiality of the travelers and operators. The datasets generated must be anonymised and made available at aggregate level for public access.

Operate Regulatory Sandboxes via Karnataka Innovation Authority

Once the Karnataka Innovation Authority Bill, 2019, is passed, the state government “should encourage mobility provides to operate through a regulatory sandbox” by allowing them to pilot their solutions at specific locations and use cases. The learning’s can be appropriately scaled to the entire city with further legislation and amendments, the report said. 

The Karnataka Innovation Authority Bill, 2020, was introduced in the state assembly in February 2020. However, it was introduced merely to replace an ordinance that had already been passed in November 2019. In February, Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka announced that the Karnataka Innovation Authority has been setup and would be chaired by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. In June, the government notified draft rules governing the operation of the regulatory sandboxes under KIA. 

As per the ordinance, the KIA can permit setting up of sandboxes based on applications, in consultation with the sandbox operator. It can also set up sandboxes and assign an operator on a suo moto basis, in consultation with the public. It also has the power to exempt any participant of a regulatory sandbox from certain laws “for the purpose of innovation” and recommend any amendments to laws and regulations to promote innovation.

According to a tweet by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka, Alok Prasanna Kumar and Divij Joshi (who was employed with Vidhi Centre for two years until September 2019) “were instrumental in drafting the law”.

Source: Twitter account of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Karnataka. See archived tweet here: archive.is/tk33k

Policy changes

The Karnataka government should promote share mobility services by providing infrastructural support, such as priority parking, and geofencing certain locations, the BPAC report says. BBMP should form a parking policy with a hierarchy that encourages parking zones for shared mobility services and encouraging a heavy fee for private vehicles.

It added that there needs to be a comprehensive policy to oversee the legality of shared cabs, autos (“new mobility solutions”) and a focus on dispute resolution and safety. The central government needs to have a legislation “applicable across states” for carpooling which will help reduce confusion around inter-state travel. 

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