Is carpooling banned in Bengaluru? The answer is both yes and no.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Karnataka’s Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy explained: “There is no government order prohibiting carpooling in Bengaluru. We are taking action against aggregators who operate carpooling apps as a commercial venture. That is illegal.”
However, if you wish to carpool with colleagues to commute to work and avoid Bengaluru’s road congestion, you are free to do so. “If you are carpooling with friends to alleviate Bengaluru’s traffic, what more can we ask for? We wholeheartedly encourage it. It demonstrates people’s commitment to being responsible citizens and assisting the government in easing the pressure on our city’s roads,” added Reddy.
‘ILLEGAL USE OF PVT VEHICLES BY APP COMPANIES & TAXIS IS BANNED’
Reddy clarified that the transport department has received complaints about carpooling apps and companies operating as commercial ventures using whiteboard registration plates, which are reserved only for privately owned vehicles. These activities are illegal and so are banned.
“A vehicle is given a whiteboard registration for private use. If it is misused as a commercial taxi or part of a commercial venture such as a carpooling app, isn’t it illegal? Shouldn’t it incur fines to deter such actions? We have taken that step,” said Reddy.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Tejaswi Surya has opposed “the ban”, asking the government to “reconsider the decision”. He even wrote a letter to Karnataka CM, informing him about the benefits of carpooling.
Carpooling can get private vehicles off the road & bring ease during peak hour commute.Vehicular population has increased by 6,000% since 1990, making Bengaluru, a city with highest vehicle density that commutes at 15kmph.
A ban on car-pooling only encourages congestion, the… pic.twitter.com/R2e3ja76zS
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) October 1, 2023
Reddy, however, maintained that the carpooling issue has been turned into a political campaign by some opposition party leaders to gain attention on social media. He raised questions on the campaign alleging a ban on carpooling when there are no orders to support such a claim.
“Show me the government order that says carpooling is banned in Bengaluru. Can anyone making this claim produce the order? No, they cannot because it doesn’t exist.”
Reddy emphasised that the crackdown will involve legal action against carpooling apps based on complaints from the public and other operators. Violators could potentially face a six-month suspension of their registration certificate (RC) and fines ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, if caught operating illegally.
BENGALURU & ITS TRAFFIC SNARLS
With a population of over 11 million, Bengaluru is known for one of the highest traffic densities in the world, with approximately 12.5 million vehicles. On Wednesday, India’s Silicon City came to a standstill due to traffic congestion, and left thousands of commuters stuck for hours.
There are nearly 68,000 companies operating in Bengaluru, with around 65,000 employees commuting to work in companies located in the Outer Ring Road (ORR). Nearly 3,38,000 vehicles are on the roads each day. The ORR, stretching from Silk Board to Marathahalli to KR Puram, is a major traffic hotspot, with a nearly 60-km-long ring road witnessing a nearly 50% increase in vehicle movement due to the lifting of the Work From Home (WFH) policy. According to traffic police officials, the vehicle-to-population ratio stands at 1:1.
DEMAND PICKED UP POST PANDEMIC
Post-pandemic, carpooling gained popularity, especially among IT professionals looking to reduce travel expenses and ease traffic congestion. Experts consistently advocate carpooling as a practical solution to address traffic congestion. Several carpooling apps, such as BlaBla Car, Quickride, Rideshare, Commute Easy, and Carpool Adda, operate in Bengaluru, offering affordable ride-sharing services.
Karnataka’s transport department officials stated that the companies fined were found to be in direct violation of traffic department rules.
On September 11, under the umbrella of the Federation of the Karnataka State Private Transport Association, a Bengaluru bandh (strike) was called, making 30 demands, including opposing the Siddaramaiah government’s implementation of the Shakti free bus service for women, which they claimed affected their profits, and pushed for a ban on carpooling in Bengaluru.
The federation alleged that many carpooling apps engaged in unlawful commercial operations by using white registration boards to evade various fees, including licensing fees and commercial vehicle taxes. They also insisted that drivers using these ride-hailing platform apps should acquire the necessary permits and comply with tax regulations to operate within the law.