The Extra Tax on AC Buses needs to go

Recently, the Government of India decided, in order to expand its Tax Base, to implement an additional Sales Tax on Air Conditioned Stage Coaches. According to notification, a service tax of 15% is applicable on 40% of all revenues collected from AC bus services. This works out to roughly a 6% increase in ticket fares.

While BEST has reduced its fares, leading us to believe that the new fare structure incorporates this 6% increase, others have hiked fares. TSRTC Hyderabad and BMTC have increased the cost of a Daily Pass from ₹150 and ₹140 to ₹160 and ₹150 respectively, BEST has reduced it from ₹200 to ₹150. MSRTC charges a rupee extra for its Shivneri/Ashwamedh services, though this has been there from somewhere in April, thus making it probably unrelated.

While I am for government measures to increase the tax base, this is most certainly not the right way. Let the government start taxing rich farmers instead. The reasons I’m opposed to this tax are:

BEST – We all know the story behind BEST and its Purple Faeries. Barring a few buses from the Oshiwara Depot, these buses are pathetically underpowered, have terribly low-powered airconditioning. They struggle to climb simple slopes. Their Volvo fleet is in good shape however. However, in light of the recent fare reduction, I guess we can give BEST a breather in this section.

BMTC – The first to implement the new Tax, the BMTC had a very interesting thing to do. They used to issue the regular ticket with the ETMS, but charge the Tax with the old Punched tickets. Thus, I used to get a ₹20 printed ticket and a ₹1 punched ticket. BMTC finally managed to incorporate this tax on the ETMs, but now I have pay ₹22 because the Tax amount is rounded off to the next rupee irrespective of how much it is. However, this move is unwarranted because BMTC buses are bad. The older FA series of Volvo buses are rickety, pollute a lot and water leaks in thru the emergency exits. The Corona fleet have buses where the airconditioning just does not work. The newer 57F series Volvos rarely come to the Public because they spend most of their time on Corporate trips for the ORRCA or Manyata Embassy Tech Park.

MTC – Possibly among the worst Volvo fleet, MTC has 100 odd buses which are in horrendous conditions. Buses creak, and reapairs carried out are not what one you’d expect in a Volvo. Damages sections of the exterior and interior are usually patched up with Substandard Aluminium that is used in the regular buses instead of Volvo’s standard Steel or Glass. If this is the condition of the exterior, you can imagine how the Engine or AC might be. However, knowing TN, they might have not implemented this tax as it goes against the populist nature of the state.

DTC – The worst AC bus fleet that I have seen, DTCs Ashok Leyland buses and Tata Marcopolo buses at times do what no other Transco’s buses do. The BEST Cerita AC struggles while climbing a slope. The BMTC Corona AC struggles when the bus is in heavy traffic. The DTC AshLey and Marco AC struggles when the bus is on regular traffic, and even on minor downward slopes! With the maximum fare on an AC bus set to ₹25, this tax is most certainly a welcome move. Delhi is used to subsidies and cheap stuff and it is high time that AC bus fares were increased in the capital.

TSRTC – TSRTC has also increased its fares, but I am confused on which side to take. TSRTC has among the best Volvo fleets in the country, atleast in Hyderabad. The buses are maintained well, operate on good routes and frequencies, and are in general above expectations. However, the fares are already on the higher side, and thus the extra bit is a little unwarranted.

On the whole, I think this Additional Tax needs to be rolled back. It’s a bad idea to tax the Middle Class more. The upper class doesn’t take the bus, the lower class doesn’t take an AC bus. As always, increasing the Tax Base comes and burns the Middle Class pocket.

Dear @ArunJaitley, the extra tax on AC Stage Carriages needs to go ASAP! Click To Tweet

What is your take on this?

 

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Decentralising Transit

Decentralisation: Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people or things away from a central location or authority.

English: Graphical comparison of centralized (A) and decentralized (B) system.
English: Graphical comparison of centralized (A) and decentralized (B) system. Image copyright Kes47, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Now, transport, especially public transport is a very crucial matter in the lives of most people. People need to travel from home to work, or home to school/college, or to meet someone, or whatever. Transit thus becomes a core component of daily life, and in most cases in Urban India, it single-handedly manages to become the most time consuming part of the day.

It is important to look at how transit is handled by the government and how Who Controls What makes a big difference.

Transport in India is usually under the purview of all three levels of government: Centre, State, and City. In many cases, the first may not apply, and in most cases, the third does not apply. Among these, it is almost impossible for the State Government to not be part of local transport since all State Transport Undertakings [STUs] are under the respective State governments.

Let us take a few examples here:

Mumbai, is possibly the only city in India right now where all three levels of government handle transit. The Suburban Rail, operated by Western and Central Railway comes under the Government of India. Metro Rail, Monorail, and MSRTC [ST] come under the Government of Maharashtra, while BEST comes under the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM. Other transcos, such as TMT, NMMT, VVMT, MBMT, KDMT, all come under their respective Municipal Corporations.

Chennai and Hyderabad, both come under the category of zero local government in public transport. The Chennai Suburban Rail and Hyderabad Multi Modal Transit System [MMTS], both come under Southern and South Central Railway, therefore under the Government of India. Metro Rail, as always comes under the State Government, while MTC/TNSTC/TSRTC also come under the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

Pune is an interesting case. Barring a few ST routes connecting Swargate or Pimpri-Chinchwad to nearby towns in the district, all routes are handled by the PMPML, while the Suburban Rail is handled by Central Railway, thus reducing the role of the State Government to almost nothing.

Surat and Coimbatore are polar opposites. In the former, the Surat City Bus and Surat Citilink BRTS are handled by the Surat Municipal Corporation while in the latter, TNSTC – Coimbatore operates buses as a State-level body.

Delhi, again is different. DTC and DIMTS are operated by the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, while the Delhi Metro comes under both Centre and State.

Other cities, such as Bangalore, Mysore, Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, et al come under similar arrangements of Centre-State-City.

Now, before going further, I’d suggest a quick pre-read: The Escape Velocity of JnNURM Buses, which talks about legal definitions of Transport Bodies, Special Purpose Vehicles and Para-Statal Organisations.

Now, what is the problem if a Central or State-level body operates a transco?

Barring Delhi, which is a city-state and the National Capital, the major problem when one of the two upper levels operate transport is bureaucracy and red-tapism.

Take the case of Mumbai. Any improvements in the Suburban Rail has to go all the way to Delhi where it has to be approved. The previous Railway Ministers, from Bihar and Bengal, never bothered. Under Suresh Prabhu, things are certainly changing with Railway Divisions being granted more autonomy.

Similarly, is the case of a Coimbatore. While routes, planning, repairs, etc. are carried out by the Coimbatore division, fare revisions and new buses both come under the Transport Ministry, but is mostly under Chief Minister’s office! This means, whether you are in Coimbatore [under TNSTC Coimbatore] or Madurai [under TNSTC Madurai], fares and new buses are dependent on the Chief Minister’s mood.

The question is clear: Why should someone sitting in either New Delhi be in charge of a person going from CBD Belapur to Andheri? Or for that matter, why should a person sitting Bangalore be in a decision making capacity for someone who wants to take a bus from Hubli Airport to Hubli Railway Station?

The issue is not so bad in cities where the state government has a dedicated transport body, such as Jaipur City Transport Services Limited [JCTSL], BMTC and MTC, however, all three are Capital cities. In the case of Mysore, where the MCTD operates, it is similar to BTMC’s set up, however, still controlled by Bangalore. However, it is worthwhile to note that KaSRTC gives more autonomy to its divisions than TNSTC.

Indian Railways has set up Special-Purpose Vehicles [SPVs] for certain projects with state governments, key being the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation [MRVC] which is a 51-49 JV between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra. MRVC does not operate any services, but is responsible for development and upgradation of the Mumbai Suburban Railway Network.

It is interesting to note, that the three Union Territories: NCT Delhi, Puducherry and Chandigarh have a different model. In the case of Delhi and Puducherry, the UT Government operates the DTC and the PRTC, while in Chandigarh, the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU] comes under the Municipal Corporation.

So, what should be the ideal situation:

For cities with multiple Municipal bodies in the vicinity, and depending on their sizes, let the Municipal Bodies handle operations. Mumbai has got it right, with its 7 Transport Undertakings, each handling their vast territories, and also running a few services into their neighbouring territories. For railway, an SPV should be set-up between the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and all the Municipal Corporations covered. If needed, neighbouring Pune’s model can be adopted, where the PMPML was formed by merger of the erstwhile PMT and PCMT to serve a larger metropolitan area.

For areas separated by state borders such as the Tricity Area consisting of Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula, or the core NCR of Delhi-Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ghaziabad-Noida, a slightly different model needs to be explored. Since Municipally operated services may not be able to cross into another state, each entity must ideally have a State-Operated Transport body solely to serve the region, with a organisational board consisting of board members from the city itself.
For cities like Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, a separate Corporation under either State or Municipal control with board members from the city must be set up. The Transco should have a jurisdiction of upto 100km from the City Centre.
The Central Government should move out of Local Transit entirely and let local bodies handle it. Similarly, the state should also try and localise transit.
The same principles can be applied to other matters, such as:
  • Water Supply
  • Power Supply
  • Roads
  • Other Utlities
Transit should be with the local government, not with the territorial ones. Click To Tweet

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One Year of BESTpedia: A quick recap #InkingReflections

BESTpedia has turned a year old. I’m just doing a quick recap of what all has happened in the past one year.

The first post went live on 9th July 2015. There has been no looking back ever since. Of course, Analytics didn’t make an appearance till a month later on 19th August. So, there is little hope of finding out what the hit count was that month, but then, the past is the past.

Anyway, moving on, July saw 6 posts, with two highly successful posts on BEST [Electronic Tickets and Curious Case of BEST AC Buses] and one Fiction Post on Bus 8954.

August saw a two really popular posts among others. Branded Bus Services, and Sherlock’s Day Out were both incredibly popular with the latter getting close to 600 shares on StumbleUpon.

September saw some offbeat posts including ideas and a post on temples, and the first entity that wasn’t directly on the blog [later, part of the Stupindex]. Visits dropped from around 800 to 500 a month however.

October saw a rise in the number of hits with six posts. It also marked the first occurrence of a series of several satire posts on the blog. It was in this month that I got to attend IndiBlogger’s #BNLF in Mumbai.

November marked a significant change for the blog. 10 posts were made, the highest per month till date. It was also the first time that number of visits crossed 1000, ending at 1606. It also marked my first major interaction with the IndiBlogger community with their #madeofgreat series of contests.

December continued on the same high as November. Six posts were made, including two on Delhi [where I was working], one on the Chennai floods, 2 on BESTs plans for buses to Imagica and Parking Lots at Depots, and one on the Bullet Train.The last post for 2015, published at 11.45pm on 31-12-15, was a major one on Amaravati, which went semi viral and got the blog loads of shares the next month. A total of 2245 visits came in December.

January got off to a good start, mainly thanks to the spillover traffic from December. It also witnessed the first two guest posts on the blog. A total of five articles were posted, but due to the traction gained by the Amaravati listicle in December, the month saw 3238 hits, a figure that was exceeded only twice after that. In fact, the first one week alone led to a huge spike in the number of hits, with the 1000 mark being crossed in the first week itself.

February saw a slight slump in articles, with the first article coming out at the start of the third week and the only other article in the month coming out on the 28th. The #MakeInIndia article got good traction however, with Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, as well as the DIPP retweeting my tweet linking to the article.

March saw a slight comeback with 6 posts. The piece on JnNURM buses violating norms was a significantly investigative one, which did get positive feedback from transport lovers. The month saw my first active participation with #BlogChatter as well. The major post of the month however, was the Public Service Announcement produced with my friend Deepak.

April saw 5 posts with one of them being a highly successful guest post by GSR Chaitanya of LoveOfZ about Hyderabad, and a super popular tongue-in-cheek April Fool’s Day post on Taxi services that was quite popular.

May saw 5 posts, with Dork Guru returning to do one more guest post as a follow up to my post. Traffic remained average with 2959 visits. A new feature, titled Unsung Heroes Made an appearance. It also saw the formal creation of The Stupindex as a Table of Contents for all the off-blog inanities around here.

June saw 3450 hits, the highest till date, with a significant amount of traffic coming in from Swarajya Magazine where I had written an article on Highway Strips which was extremely popular. 6 posts were made, including another satire post [BEST Dish of the Day] that got me a comment and a share from Purba Ray. The last article of the month on Zeppelins was also popular after Jayaprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta Party retweeted a link to it on Twitter.

July has so far seen only one article with this one being the second. A total of 70 articles have been posted prior to this with a total of 576 comments and pingbacks/trackbacks. At the time of writing this post, the blog has received a total of 25,320 hits!

It has been a completely amazing ride in the last one year as a blogger. A sincere round of applause for the readers, fellow bloggers, and everyone out there who has encouraged me.

Now a few acknowledgements are in order:

  • Team #Blogchatter: For all the amazing support and motivation. I’m also the Blogstar of the Week!
  • The IndiTeam from IndiBlogger: For all their IndiVine topics that helped me write a lot.
  • Team Swarajya: I did write three major articles for them!
  • The Skyscrapercity India community: I get a lot of ideas for my content from discussions there.

Individuals I need to thank:

  • Janvi: The first person to recognise my flair for writing light humour, and allowing me to co-write this post, way back in 2013.
  • Geetika: For all the motivation, critique, support, and being a victim to me disguising blog links.
  • Nidhi: For all the mentoring, motivation, pep talks and encouragement.
  • Rohini: Again, a lot of support, motivation, and that she is Sherlock’s hooman.
  • Sameer: For all the feedback and encouragement.
  • Deepak: For helping me out with the PSA, and being the first to read my blog posts.
  • Richa: For introducing me to a lot of people in the blogging community which has immensely helped me as a blogger.
  • Gauravi: The first victim of the Stupindex.

And the entire Blogbuddy group; InkingPages consisting of:

I’d strongly suggest going thru the individual links of the various people mentioned above. They’re in many ways responsible for the vibrant environment that I am in.

BESTpedia is now one year old! #InkingReflections Click To Tweet

A quick chart of all the ups and downs the blog has had:

BESTpedia IndiRank stats
BESTpedia IndiRank stats

 

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BEST Announces Revised Fare Structure

Two months after BEST announced its intentions to rationalise fares, BEST has kept its promise and revised them.

BEST has already started the new AC routes [AS310, AS415, AS71, AS72]  proposed, and as of 1st July 2016, the new fares are in operation..

The new BEST committee headed by the BJP has done well in giving BEST the necessary shot in the arm.

The new rates are close to half of the earlier ones.

Here are the rates:

BEST Fare structure July 2016
BEST Fare structure July 2016

The usual conditions, such as 15 paise nutrition surcharge, concessional fares for children below 12, flat fare of ₹2 for visually-impaired passengers, additional charge of ₹1/₹5 for non-AC/AC buses beyond MCGM limits and luggage rates are applicable.

Passes and Happy Hours

For passes, monthly and quarterly rates have been reduced. For Daily Passes, the rates for the non-AC passes are the same. The AC Magic Day Pass now costs ₹150, as was the case before the April 2015 fare revision.

A separate fare structure exists for Children, which costs roughly half the regular adult fare.

The concept of Happy Hours has been introduced, between 1100hrs and 1700hrs [11am to 5pm]. During Happy Hours, all passes are sold at the rate of Child Passes.

For the full fare revision; please click here.

A friend reported that post the fare revision, a ₹105 trip from the JVLR/Jay Coach Junction to Airoli in an AS524 now costs ₹65.

This would mean that a trip from Thane Station [East] to Borivali Station [East] on AS700 would cost around ₹75-80 instead of ₹120, bringing it on par with TMT AC65 and NMMT AC131.

Similarly, Agarkar Chowk to Mulund Check Naka Bus Station on As422 should cost ₹60 instead of ₹100.

All this brings BEST on par with NMMT and TMT in terms of fares. Interestingly, while NMMT/TMT have hiked their fares in view of the recent introduction of a 6% Luxury Tax by the Government of India, similar to BMTC and TSRTC, BEST has reduced the fares. One would have to assume that the new reduced fares are inclusive of this surcharge.

Now, with the new fare structure in place, BEST needs to work on a few things, mostly dealing with its AC fleet. They are:

  • Fix the Cerita fleet. Get them in working order as long as they are around. Some of them have been converted into non-AC buses to replace the Starbus fleet that has been taken off the roads.
  • Get those 46 Volvos from Asian Concierge. Crucial for BEST to remain in the competition.
  • Reintroduce routes such as AS422, AS4, AS1 on Sundays.
  • Reintroduce discontinued routes such as AS505 to take on NMMT’s AC105.

BEST is certainly moving in the right direction. With a few more steps, it can soon recover its losses and be a role model for other Transcos.

 

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Idea: Zeppelins in the Sky

Recently, I wrote an article for Swarajya about Nitin Gadkari’s plans to develop Highway Strips or Road Highways for defence and civilian purposes in India. You can read the article here.

A reader posted a comment, suggesting the use of Zeppelins as a mode of transport.

The LZ 129 Hindeburg on its flirst flight in 1936.
The LZ 129 Hindenburg on its first flight in 1936. Image in the Public Domain.

Now, Zeppelins [often incorrectly referred to as Blimps] have always fascinated me. A Blimp is a Non-Rigid Airship, while a Zeppelin is a Rigid Airship. Developed in the late 19th Century by the Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, it was patented in Germany in 1895 and the United States in 1899. They made their first commercial appearance in 1910, operated by  Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG). They were extensively inducted into the German military as well. They were phased out in 1937 after the Hinderburg Disaster at New Jersey. [Clip Below, else click here to view]

Post 1990,  Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, a daughter enterprise of the Zeppelin conglomerate that built the original German Zeppelins, has been developing Zeppelin “New Technology” (NT) airships, which are semi-rigid vessels.

Now, the important thing to remember that Zeppelins were phased out, their hangers demolished and the all supporting infrastructure disbanded. They were completely phased out in favour of Fixed-wing aircraft, which is where the problem is.

Fixed-Wing aircraft, which we fly in, the aeroplanes, have a major disadvantage; fuel consumption.

As per SuchindranathAiyer’s comment: In winged aircraft, 75% of fuel is spent on “lift” which is saved by using Zepellins. Again, Zepellin have last mile advantage as they can come to Mooring Towers in the city center. They require amazingly less support infrastructure unlike Railways and Airlines. All this would reflect in low travel costs.

This takes us back to my first article on Swarajya where I spoke on the need to invest in Railways as opposed to Aviation because of the slow depletion of fossil fuels.

However, since Zeppelins consume lesser fuel, they can operate at cheaper rates, thus making them more viable as long term alternatives to both winged aviation as well as rail.

The mooring towers can be built in a conveniently accessible location, such as around Kashmere Gate in Delhi, the Sion Causeway in Mumbai, Shanthinagar in Bengaluru, Koyambedu in Chennai. The Terminal building can be built on the lines of a Metro station. The hangars can be built elsewhere where the airships can go after the trip is completed. Hangars can also be built one atop another and land usage can be minimised.

Zeppelins were phased out in 1937. Blimps are still in use, but rarely for long distance transport. While Zeppelins used Hydrogen as the gas to hold them afloat, modern Blimps use Helium to do the same.

It is 2016, technology has evolved massively, research has massively increased in the field of elements and gases as well as in safer docking techniques. Disasters like the Hindenburg crash can be averted with proper use of technology. With research being done for Solar-powered aircraft, Zeppelins too can be made Solar-powered.

The Zeppelin can be good for Short-to-Medium distance transport, such as:

  • Mumbai-Valsad-Surat [upto Ahmedabad will anyway be connected by the Bullet Train]
  • Mumbai-Pune-Satara-Kolhapur
  • Panaji-Belgaum-Hubli
  • Bengaluru-Mysore-Madikeri
  • Palakkad-Coimbatore-Salem
  • Chennai-Mamallapuram-Puducherry
  • Chennai-Tirupathi
  • Hyderabad-Vijaywada-Amaravati

These routes can have intermediate stops such as multiple pick up points. For example, Mumbai [which currently has 5 Outstation Railway Termini, and 5 State Transport Bus Terminals] can have multiple mooring towers such as Sion, Borivali, Chembur, Mulund, as well as Vashi and CBD Belapur in Navi Mumbai.

The unfortunate incident involving the Hindeburg [resulting in 36 deaths] brought development in airships to a grinding halt. If disasters such as Air India Express Flight 812 [which overshot the runway at Mangalore in 2010, killing 158 people] had happened back then, would it have brought development of winged-aircraft to a halt as well?

Of course, if the sector is opened up to the Private Sector, expect several carriers to light up their buses with LEDs and call themselves LED Zeppelin. On a related note, Led Zeppelin’s self titled debut album had a picture of the Hindenburg Disaster as the album cover.

After all this, you can probably sing “Hawa Mein Udti Jaaye, Oh mera LED wala Zeppelin Helium ka”.

Zeppelins in the Sky, Definitely Worth a Try!

On a related note, in 2016, the Agra-based Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), a division of the Defence Research Development Organisation [DRDO], developed Nakshatra, an unmanned Helium-filled airship for surveillance. This comes four years after a similar system called Akashdeep.

Zeppelins in the Sky, Definitely Worth a Try! Click To Tweet

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#TransitIssuesIN – Instagram your Transport Problems with #Blogchatter

So a lot of us have had an issue with Transit in our daily life. Buses may be late, trains may be dirty, autos may overcharge, and the list goes on.

The general solution till a while back would be to call up the Authorities, tell them your problems, let them ignore it and go on.

But not anymore. In today’s age and times, many Government Transcos as well as Private ones are online! You can always send out a tweet and wait till you get a reply. Such is the power of Social Media.

A group of us have planned a Hashtag for this on Twitter and Instagram; #TransitIssuesIN.

Now; the power of Social Media is a well known fact. With more government bodies and private parties getting onto the Social Media bandwagon, it is easy to ensure that this reaches the right person. And Twitter and Instagram, ensure that it remains in Public view, or to be a little legal, ‘On Record’.

How do we go about this?

Simple, let us follow a small procedure.

First, ensure you have a Twitter and Instagram account. Follow accounts of people you know, people who can help share and amplify your content. You can follow me [@Rsrikanth05 on Twitter, @Rsrikanth05 on Instagram], and the blog [@BESTpedia on Twitter].

Second, connect your Twitter and Instagram accounts. Click here to learn how to do so. However, since Twitter doesn’t show photos uploaded to Instagram as native images and only provides a link to Instagram, the best thing to do would be to use IFTTT to link the two. IFTTT [short for IF This Then That], allows you to create a Recipe to make your Instagram photos appear as Native images on Twitter. Click here to find out more about this recipe.

Third, upload your image. Let IFTTT share it on Twitter. Ensure you use the Hashtag: #TransitIssuesIN at the start of your post.

And that’s it. You’re done. Let the power of Social Media take your post up. Let us try and create a revolution that forces these service providers to sit up and take heed of the problems that they often cause, irrespective of whether it is Intentional or Accidental.

#TransitIssuesIN
#TransitIssuesIN

Why Instagram and Twitter?

Simple, both are public platforms [unless you keep your account private, which dilutes the purpose this entire exercise], both are simple, and easy to use. The impact of an image on the human mind is far superior to text, and images are more likely to be viewed in search results on Twitter.

So go ahead, take things forward!

Instagram your Transit problems with #TransitIssuesIN !!! Click To Tweet

A special thanks to Richa [http://subzeroricha.com] for letting me know of the Instagram-IFTTT-Twitter link.

A huge shoutout to #BlogChatter [http://www.theblogchatter.com] for giving me the ideas and the motivation for coming up with this.

 

#TransitIssuesIN with @Blogchatter @aseemrastogi2 @veniceriwe #blogchatter http://bit.ly/INtransissue

A photo posted by Kaboom-wala (@rsrikanth05) on


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#YogaDay special: Yoga and its contribution to Public Transport

Today is International Yoga Day, something that was recognised by the United Nations last year.

Not many people are aware of the immense contributions that Yoga has had on Public Transport.

We often hear negative news about Staff and Employees of Transcos allegedly harassing commuters. Sometimes, we also hear about bus drivers moving down people. While, I don’t want to get into the specifics of all of this, let us look into the root cause of all of this.

All of them have a common cause: Stress.
A bus driver and conductors job is most certainly not the easiest task in the world. It requires a lot of skill and patience. Drivers have to put up with traffic jams, negligent and rash drivers, bad roads, and also passengers who don’t board/disembark through proper doorways or at specific bus stops. This adds to a lot of stress.
A conductor has to deal with people not giving change, rude passengers, passengers boarding/disembarking via the wrong pathways or at bus stops, people not moving to emptier sections of the bus, etc. This, again adds to the stress.
Now, multiply these instance by multiple passengers, number of trips, depot officials asking for fuel reports and fare collections, and you have a perfect recipe for a Nervous Breakdown.

To reduce the load on the staff, several Transcos decided to take up Employee Care measures by introducing Yoga, and Meditions sessions.

MTC has mandatory yoga sessions for staff involved in accidents. They also have sessions to prevent a stress overload, as well as sessions on effective communication and life skills. Similarly, KaSRTC, too has sent its staff to Yoga and rehabilitation to help reduce alcoholism among its staff members.

Others, such as BEST, MSRTC, and BMTC too have had sessions on meditation, anger management, and relaxation to keep staff at ease during long working schedules in order to help reduce stress levels and increase productivity.

Yoga is something we should be proud of. It is pretty much a Soft Power that originated in India. It was earlier laughed off by critics, but today is accepted as an international practice.

Hats off to the government for promoting Yoga as a stress-buster and natural relaxant. If people practiced Yoga on a regular basis, it would help everyone. A stress-free and relaxed person has the ability to keep calm in tense situations, and altercations may be avoided. If everyone is in such a state, imagine the transport scenario will also be one which people would look forward to.

#YogaDay Special: How Yoga is beneficial to Public Transport. Click To Tweet

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A sneak peak at BMTC’s and MCTD’s ITS

A lot has been said about Smart Cities and Smart Transport. Earlier, a post on Smart Bus Stops made an appearance as well. This article aims to cover the Intelligent Transport System [ITS] of two Southern Cities: The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation [BMTC] in Bengaluru and the Mysore City Transport Division of the KSRTC in Mysuru.

Bangalore

BMTC has recently rolled out their [ITS]. I managed to get a chance to talk to someone in the Office of the Chief Systems Manager at Shanthinagar today.

The ITS is being implemented by Trimax Infra, who earlier implemented the Electronic Ticketing System for BEST, RSRTC, and UPSRTC.

A handheld ticket machine used in BMTC buses in Bengaluru.
A handheld ticket machine used in BMTC buses in Bengaluru. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Here is what I gathered. The ITS is being implemented in three parts:

  • Electronic Ticketing Machines: Trimax has deployed 10,000 Verifone ETMs to 39 depots of the BMTC and trained 7,000 of its drivers. The earlier used Quantum Aeon machines were junked in favour of the new ones which BMTC claims was to enable compatibility with RFID-smart cards. Real-time monitoring of ticket sales is possible, although not being used.
  • Tracking of Vehicles: Every bus has been fitted with a GPS-based tracker which can be tracked online, or via an app.
  • Public Information System: Under the PIS, displays have been installed at major bus stations to inform the public of which bus is arriving soon. This is similar to what several BEST bus stops on the Western Express Highway have, and what Coimbatore was experimenting with in the post on Smart Bus Stops.

All three components of the ITS are already in operation with the PIS displays installed only at select Bus Stations. BMTC has decided to go for an Open Data Policy, thereby allowing developers to build apps and interfaces with an API to access the data from the ITS.

Smart Cards are not part of the ITS project. They are being done separately and are due to be rolled out in 3-6 months with all the Pass Issuing Centres being upgraded to issue Smart Cards.

A chat with a conductor later did explain the shortcomings with the ETMs, although Trimax does take quick action on faulty equipment.

BMTC's ITS: Electronic Ticketing and Vehicle Tracking get a Boost! Click To Tweet

Mysore

The Mysore City Transport Department [MCTD] of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation [KSRTC], also has an ITS in place, called the Mysore Intelligent TRAansport System, known as MITRA. MITRA was formally inaugurated in 2012 by the then Minister for Transport R Ashoka.

Among MITRA’s aims are:

  • Real-time monitoring and tracking of buses and help reduce road congestion and other transport issues.
  • ITS improves passenger safety, fleet efficiency, services and traffic situation through transmission of real time information.

According to the MITRA microsite, it’s components are:

  • Vehicle Tracking
  • Real Time Passenger Information System
  • Electronic Display Systems

Mysore was smart enough to implement it before the situation got out of hand and sought funds from the World Bank under GEF and JnNURM.

As part of MITRA, the MCTD recorded the pronunciation of every bus stop name, fitted buses with LED Displays, Speakers, set up display units at Bus Shelters, as well as trained its staff to handle the system. An app was also released less than a month ago for commuters to be able to get bus details as well as fare details on their phone.

KSRTC also ran a User Satisfaction Survey, which showed positive results. The entire results of the survey can be seen here.

While MITRA may not seem as fancy as BMTC’s ITS, it is most certainly benefiting commuters positively and helping promote Public Transport in Mysore. One hope that BEST learns a lesson from this, when restarting its own ITS.

Mysore's MITRA is certainly a game changer in Intelligent Transport! Click To Tweet

Both BMTC and MCTD built a huge control room with a server to handle the large volume of data. Data is crucial to any project that involves the common man, mainly for operational efficiency.

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[Unsung Heroes] A candid chat with a BMTC conductor

Today, I had the luck of having a candid chat with a BMTC Volvo conductor at Shanthinagar. Here is a quick summary of what all I learned:

  • Lack of confidence in the new ticketing machines: The new Verifone ticket machines [procured by Trimax, yes the same Trimax who set up BEST’s system]. Apparently, these new machines hardly last for the sale of 100 tickets before the battery dies out. This, happens on a full charge after being plugged in for 6 hours. The earlier Quantumn Aeon machines, still being used by KSRTC lasts a full two days on a full charge. The new machines are also prone to system crashes, and lack of connection to the server. He equated the new ETMs with the AC Tata Marcopolo buses, which frequently broke down [similar to BEST’s Purple Faeries].
  • Frequent breakdowns due to complete lack of maintenance: He said that all buses, including the Corona and Volvo fleet were not maintained at all and were prone to breakdowns, especially on Airport services. If a bus broke down on the road, it would lead to them getting a Challan from the Traffic Police, and if it happened in a Bus Station, BMTC would issue a memo. The fines would get deducted from the salaries of both the driver and conductor. Due to this happening, cases of staff committing suicide has also seen a significant rise. He mentioned that these would go unreported more often than not.
  • Actions taken on faulty parts: When any LED display got spoiled, conductors and depot workers normally try to fix it. They have gained knowledge on fixing the circuit after years of experience. However, if the administration, got wind of it, they’d junk it and procure a fresh piece which would normally cost anywhere from ₹50,000 to ₹1,50,000.
  • Kickbacks while purchasing buses: Apparently, babus and politicians have got huge kickbacks while buses were purchased, resulting in losses to the exchequer.
  • Lack of attention from higher ups: Complaints about faulty equipment, breakdowns, etc go unheard. Staff is supposed to fill out their feedback and personnel details and put in into a box, which goes unseen for ages.

Overall, he said that BMTC alone could fill a book in terms of mismanagement, maladministration, and general negligence on the part of the higher officials.

He further added, that due to the additional 6% Luxury tax charged by the government, which BMTC has not yet integrated into the Electronic Ticketing System, conductors have to sell the extra surcharge as paper tickets and keep a stagewise log of these extra tickets being sold.

I was told that the reason BMTC discarded the earlier machines for the new one was to enable RFID integration for the near-future Smart Card rollout, which is rather strange, because according to MicroFx and Quantum Aeon,the ETMs used earlier were RFID enabled.

 

That is all in this post. A follow up post on the BMTC ITS will come soon.

 

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[Satire] BEST announces BEST Dish Of The Day

In a move to boost employee morale and get more publicity, BEST has come up with a new programme.

Capitalising on Masterchef’s Best Dish of the Day concept, BEST officials decided that the new program will help boost publicity and the morale of staff and their families.

A BEST staff member from the Colaba Depot excitedly announced that, the Spouses of BEST employees would be cooking under this new scheme. The dish which manages to satisfy the judge or judges the most will be awarded BEST Dish of the Day and will then be sold in BEST’s Mobile Food House [Phirte Upahar Grih/फिरते उपहार गृह ] to tourists who use BEST’s Mumbai Darshan service. It will have a big banner with BEST Dish of the Day, and बेस्ट डिश ऑफ़ दि डे , written on it.

BEST's Phirte Upahar Grih, Mobile Food Van, Canteen On Wheels.
BEST’s Phirte Upahar Grih, Mobile Food Van, Canteen On Wheels. Image copyright Neeraj Pattath, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

According to sources, negotiations are underway to rope in Akshay Kumar, who hosted the first season of Master Chef in India as the judge for the program. Sanjeev Kapoor is also rumoured to have been contacted. One staffer even suggested that the Undertaking should try and rope in British food writer and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson to increase BESTs visibility to the world.

When contacted, BEST General Manger Jagdish Patil’s assistant responded by saying that his boss had gone for a food tasting. He said, “BEST has a brand name, and we must capitalise on this. Boss was joking about how Navi Mumbai cannot have an NMMT Dish of the Day, because it sounds stupid. He did say that TMT could capitalise on its brand name because its buses were falling apart like a bunch of rusted, loosely held TMT rods. This is one area where they cannot copy us, or outperform us.”

When contacted, NMMT General Manager Shirish Aradwad seemed a little irate. “They cannot focus on buses, now they are focusing on food also? We’ll make sure their food doesn’t enter our Depots just like we stopped AS-505 from entering the CBD Belapur Bus Stand. They say they’ll sell the dish made by spouses on the Mobile Catering Van, right? Well, we’ll get every employee of ours, to cook food and sell it on every bus. We’ll provide every bus with a stove running on the bus CNG tank and a chimney so that conductors can cook in between stages and drivers can cook while waiting at signals. We’ll even rewire the Bell Pull to stir the food when the conductor is selling tickets.”, he retorted.

One hopes that whatever happens, happens soon, and all of us have our tummies full.

BEST decides to award the BEST Dish of the Day! Click To Tweet

Note: All content in this article is fictitious, and must not be taken seriously. This article is satire, and should ideally be treated as such.

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