It has everything an urban commuter might need. The choice of AC and non-AC buses; spacious, comfortable seats, some earmarked for women and senior citizens; reasonably low fares (starting from Rs 8 for AC buses and Rs 5 for non-AC buses); WiFi, CCTV, online ticketing facilities and an app. There is even a discount of 20 per cent for those who use the Odyssey card, specially launched for the service, and 10 per cent on digital wallet payments. What more, it services most areas of Bhubaneswar at regular intervals. For any other Indian city, it would have been a coveted infrastructure upgrade. Yet, the Mo Bus (‘my bus’ in Odia), launched with great jubilation on November 6 last year to coincide with the Hockey World Cup held in the city, does not have enough takers.
Even during the morning and evening peak hours, it is common to find half the seats empty. After the evening rush hour, the number of passengers drops to 5-7. At night, it is not rare to find just 2-3 people. Capital Region Urban Transport (CRUT), an organisation under the department of housing & urban development that runs the service, has pegged the number of daily passengers at 60,000—a modest figure in a city with a population of nearly a million. But an undeterred CRUT, which already has a fleet of over 300 buses, plans to add more by the end of the year. No wonder most people feel these would meet the same fate as their predecessors—the buses run by the erstwhile Bhubanewsar-Puri Transport Service Limited, over 100 of which are languishing at the Pokhariput depot.