Coastal region paved the way for advanced bus transport network in Karnataka

10:41 AM Jun 17, 2023 | PTI |

The state government’s new initiative to provide free bus tickets for women passengers traveling on KSRTC buses has not only captured the attention of the nation but has also inspired other states to consider implementing a similar program.


It is notable that the foundation for this integrated bus transport system in Karnataka (then Mysore), was laid by the private entrepreneurs from the coast, i.e. the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. Over time, the state government extended its support, gradually expanding the reach of the bus transport system. However, it’s worth noting that the private sector still dominates the bus transport system in the undivided Dakshina Kannada district, holding the majority share of internal travel.

Today, government buses operate from various centers across the state and beyond from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, enabling women to avail the convenience of free travel.

First bus service in the state:

Interestingly, the first bus service in the state was introduced in Mangaluru. Establishing this service was not an easy task due to geographical challenges such as rivers, tributaries, rugged terrain, scattered settlements, and other obstacles.


However, individuals committed to prioritizing the welfare of the people and society as a whole stepped forward to provide bus service. In those days, the primary means of transportation were bullock carts, a limited number of horse carts, boats, and travel on foot.

Bus pioneers:

In 1914, that is 109 years ago, the Canara Public Conveyance (CPC) introduced the very first bus journey from Mangaluru to Bantwal. At that time, there were no bridges, making river crossings a strenuous and adventurous task. However, with the advent of ferries, buses were able to reach the other side.

Over time, the CPC expanded its fleet to include 200 buses in the district and adjoining areas. When World War II created fuel supply bottlenecks, the company ingeniously converted petrol vehicles to run on gas.

Following the CPC, several other organizations such as Hanuman Transport Company, Shankar Vittal Motor Service, Manjunath Motor Service, Ballal Motor Service, and more provided bus services in the district. CPC even pioneered night bus services from Mangaluru to Bengaluru.

Passenger friendly travel:

Until 1980s, the buses operated on limited routes with a smaller fleet size. Later, regular bus routes were established.

It was a time when daily commuters had a lasting relationship with driver-operators. Operators patiently waited for regular passengers if they were running late. In some instances, drivers would even notify regular passengers in advance if they were not going to make the trip.

Certain routes became known by the names of their drivers or buses, such as the Neerebailur’s Sanjeeva Shetty’s and Hebri’s Nandu Bus, etc…

The coastal bus service, which was once characterized by convenience and friendly competition, has undergone significant changes over the years. The number of private bus operators, city buses, and travelers has increased manifold. Meanwhile, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) commenced operations on selected routes, enhancing connectivity between district centers and neighbouring states.

5 Hour-long journey between Mangaluru-Udupi:

In the early days of bus travel, it took five hours to reach Udupi from Mangaluru. In the absence of bridge at Kuloor, passengers had to take a lengthy route via the Gurupura Bridge to Karkala before reaching Udupi.  Private bus companies competed on this circuitous road.

Despite the competition, some private bus operators in the district joined forces and established the Combined Booking Service.

Subbaiah Shetty’s ‘Jatkagadi’ service:

Even before the bus service began, the transport system in Dakshina Kannada was entirely privately owned. The common folk relied on foot travel, with the occasional use of bullock carts. However, it was Belle Subbaiah Shetty’s remarkable Jatakagadi service that revolutionized transportation along the Mangaluru-Udupi road.

In an era where streams like Kuloor, Pavanje, Mulki, and Udyavara necessitated boat crossings, Belle Subbaiah Shetty embarked on a courageous journey, systematically transporting passengers from Mangaluru to Udupi.

Subbaiah Shetty’s Jatakagadi service became so popular that it entered the realm of proverbs. Departing from Mangaluru, their Jataka wagon would be filled with passengers who were dropped off at the side of the Kuloor River. From there, the passengers would cross the stream by boat, while another Jataka cart patiently waited on the other side. Once the passengers were safely across, they would once again embark on Subbaiah Shetty’s cart, continuing their journey towards Udupi.

Fast forward to the present, the bus service between Mangaluru and Udupi operates with remarkable efficiency, with buses departing every minute. This route has evolved into a vital industry within the government-private transport system, offering numerous employment opportunities. However, it is crucial to remember the adventurous history that laid the foundation for this growth and development.


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