Transport in Chandigarh- Exploring the CTU

The Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU], a division of the Chandigarh Union Territory Administration, that comes directly under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, operates buses in and around the Tricity area.  It also operates a few long distance routes to neighbouring regions in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh as well as Jammu and Kashmir.

The CTU came into existence in 1966 with a fleet of 30 buses. Today it has 468, with 329 of them operating as city buses and the remaining on long distance routes. Interestingly, it had 517 buses till 2011-2012.

The CTU operates two Inter State Bus Terminals [ISBTs]:

  • The ISBT at Sector 17 caters to local buses, as well as buses catering to Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The ISBT at Sector 43 caters to local buses [AC buses included] and to those catering to Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

The CTU has four depots, one near Powergrid, where its head office is also present, one in Sector 28, one in Sector 25, and the fourth one at the Sector 43 ISBT.

Chandigarh is a fairly active city, mainly due to the presence of Mohali [Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar/SAS Nagar] in Punjab and Panchkula in Haryana that are contiguous with it. Services operated by the CTU also extend to these two towns along with other areas in the region.

Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU]'s Corona bus on Route 38 at the Mohali terminal of the airport.
Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU]’s Corona HVAC bus on Route 38 at the Mohali terminal of the airport. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 3.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons
While an exact count of CTU’s AC and non-AC fleet isn’t available, CTU does have a sizable fleet strength in AC buses as well. The fleet colour is the same as Delhi, Green for non-AC and Maroon for AC. The Corona fleet that connects the two ISBTs to the new Mohali terminal of the airport is Red in colour. Among the buses that CTU has, it has AC and non AC Tata Marcopolos. It also has minibuses, both AC and non-AC, which follow the same colouring scheme. However, unlike the Delhi counterparts, these buses are not powered by CNG, instead being Diesel buses and thus efficient, along with good, functional air-conditioning units.

A CTU non-AC Tata Marcopolo.
A CTU non-AC Tata Marcopolo. Image copyright HFRET, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The CTU has passes for its commuters, with a regular Monthly Pass priced at ₹720 for AC and ₹470 for non-AC buses. A ₹30 Smart Card is issued for a pass, although ticketing is not electronic. Daily Passes are also available, priced at ₹30 for non-AC and ₹40 for AC buses. These passes are valid on the respective buses within the Municipal Limits of the Tricity. Thus, if I am on a bus to Landran, the pass is valid only upto Sohana where the Municipal limits of the Mohali Municipal Corporation ends. For journeys beyond Sohana, I’d have to buy a ticket. Not bad, I guess.

All this seems to work well with the CTU’s plan to focus more on the entire Tricity Area and not just the Union Territory of Chandigarh alone. AC fares were also slashed back in 2015 to encourage Public Transport.

Fares are on the lower side, similar to Delhi. DTC and DIMTS charge ₹5, 10, 15 for non-AC and ₹10, 15, 20, 25 for AC buses. CTU charges ₹5, 10, 15 for non-AC and ₹10, 15, 20 for AC buses.

However, the major issue with the CTU is lack of services in several areas outside of the Union Territory.

Take for instance, Mohali. Phase V in Mohali has no CTU bus, inspite of having numerous bus stops everywhere. The closest place from where you can get a bus is Phase VII, which is a good kilometre away. Further, only Landran bound buses operate on this route, with the last bus leaving at around 7.30-8pm.

Similarly, Panchkula too has its fair share of problems. The CTU route list doesn’t list out too many buses heading out to Mohali, Panchkula, Zirakpur, Manasdevi, et al. In fact, while Mohali does have a few buses, Panchkula seems to have fewer.

As far as ticketing and passes are concerned, the CTU uses the traditional punched ticket system that we Mumbaikars are used to seeing. Of course, the tickets are in multiple colours [pink and yellow] like PMPML, and double the size of a standard PMPML ticket. Interestingly, the ID Card for Monthly Passes is a Smart Card, which leads one to believe that the CTU is going to implement an Electronic Ticketing System soon.

The CTU has a lot to learn from other STUs, namely BEST [for operating services outside its administrative boundary as well as Electronic Ticketing], KSRTC-MCTD [for its ITS] and TSRTC-Hyderabad [for taking feedback from Commuters in running newer services]. Similarly, other STUs need to learn from the CTU, like DTC [operating buses beyond the boundaries], DIMTS [for privatising bus routes], and of course, BMTC [to learn how to run buses in the first place]. The CTU model can be adopted in any area where city buses cross state borders. Municipal borders for buses owned by a Corporation can also be taken into consideration.

Overall, I think the CTU has done a good job for the city of Chandigarh. It is the Greater Chandigarh/Chandigarh Tricity Area/Chandigarh Capital Region that needs better services.

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BEST slashed its AC fares by half. What happened then is obvious!

BEST recently slashed its AC fares by 50%. The results of this, while obvious, are quite shocking.

BEST also introduced several new routes: AS-71, AS-72, AS-318, AS-415.

Earlier, NMMT and TMT AC buses would always run full while BEST buses were like Chauffeur services, with one or two passengers in some of them. The reasons were clear: BEST used its Purple Faeries while the other two use Volvos, and further, BEST charged one and a half [1.5x] times what the other two charged.

But not any more. BEST’s minimum AC fares have come down from ₹30 to ₹15 while NMMT and TMT charge ₹20.

The Net Result?

BEST’s AC buses are seeing a higher patronage. BEST, whose ridership had fallen from 43lakh to 30lakh, is now trying to get it to 45lakh.

Take a look below and see how two AC buses are performing.

AS-318

This is AS-318 at Bandra Bus Station [East] towards the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Bandra Kurla Complex.

As you can see in the picture, the bus is quite full.

BEST bus AS-310.
BEST bus AS-310. Image copyright Coolguyz.

AS-415

This is AS-415 from Agarkar Chowk to SEEPZ. As you can see, the bus is full of passengers.

BEST bus AS-415.
BEST bus AS-415. Image Copyright Coolguyz.

When was the last time you saw a BEST AC bus full of passengers? 2009? 2010.

With BEST getting the new Tata Starbus Hybrid fleet soon, things are just going to improve.

Of course, as stated earlier, BEST needs to get rid of the Cerita fleet soon and go for more powerful Ashok Leyland, Corona, Scania and Volvo buses to sustain this increase in passengers.

BEST slashed its AC fares by half. What happened then will NOT blow your mind! Click To Tweet

Images courtesy Coolguyz from Skyscrapercity.

Go ahead. Share this article. Share the joys of traveling in India’s Oldest Public Transport Company.

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BMTC’s ITS: Misleading and Fraudulent

BMTC’s much touted ITS is nothing but a fraud. There is a lot more to it, but if you happen to be an ardent BMTC fan, I’d suggest you read this post before defending this third rate transport corporation that needs a major revamp.

For starters, the ticket machines are the biggest problem right now. Some BMTC buses, both the regular rattletraps as well as the Volvo and Corona fleet use the older Ticketing Machines; The older Quantum Aeon machines and not the Verifone machines that Trimax has supplied. These machines are not compatible with the current system. As simple as that. As if this wasn’t enough, there are some Volvo buses where the conductor still uses the older manual ticketing system. He tears out a ticket from his bunch and gives it.

Now, coming to the crucial part:

I wanted to travel from Central Silk Board to Arekere Gate at 7.30pm. I pulled out my phone and checked the BMTC app. It showed me a 411GT Volvo with the number KA57F996 with an ETA of 12 mins. The map showed the bus at Iblur. I waited. I tracked the bus on the map. After Agara, he suddenly turned into HSR Layout, before coming out at 5th main. I had a doubt when I saw the bus with a 57F registration. After a few minutes I saw it whiz past me. A green Vayu Vajra on an ORRCA route.

I looked up the app again. It showed the next 411GT 11 minutes away. This time, the number was KA01FA1418.

Screenshot of the BMTC app showing KA01FA1418 on route 411GT
Screenshot of the BMTC app showing KA01FA1418 on route 411GT

Along with this, the BMTC app shows me buses contracted to Manyata Tech Park, Bagmane Tech Park, ORRCA, etc. All the buses which a regular commuter cannot board.

Fine. I waited. I waited for 25 agonising minutes, possibly because of the traffic. Silk Board is not to blame here. It does its job well by holding up traffic so that the signals on the other side do not get overwhelmed.

The bus arrived alright, but just as I had expected, it turned out to be something else. A 500NA.

BMTC bus KA01FA1418 on route 500NA
BMTC bus KA01FA1418 on route 500NA

This annoyed me to no end. Here I am wasting 40 minutes of my time, and BMTC is taking me for a ride [figuratively].

Now, listing out buses leased out, itself is misleading. For someone new to Bangalore, they simply won’t know that this bus is not meant for them. Listing out a bus as en route, but not plying that route at all, is not only misleading, but fraudulent. I’d call it a criminal waste of my time if I could.

Now, the situation wouldn’t be so bad normally, but this is Bangalore, where the state government has made life difficult for commuters in every possible way. Starting with ridiculous laws for Uber and Ola, thanks to which it is near impossible to find a cab, even a sharing/pooled one. Next, the government came up with a plan to Nationalise bus transport in the state. While I’m not really fond of all those flashy, colourful Private buses on the road that drive like Delhi’s Blueline buses, they are the lifeline for some sections of the society, mainly those going from far flung suburbs to KR Market. On top of all this, remember what a chat with a conductor revealed?

I’d like to title this as the Great Bangalore Transport Scam. Sab Mile Hue Hain.

Remember that all the data from the ITS will be freely licenced for others to tap into the API and use it for their apps. Such wrong data is just going to screw things up badly.

I hope the BMTC learns something fast. It already has a snarky reputation for not stopping at bus stops and not opening its doors when it does stop.

What can be done here?

Decentralisation is pointless. Handing BMTC over to the BBMP is as good as the GoK handling it. Both are inept, incompetent, and brazenly corrupt.

BMTC's ITS is a sham. #TransitssuesIN Click To Tweet

What are your thoughts?

Note: We decided to give the ITS a second shot today. It just confirmed our belief that this is all one big scam.

The embedded tweet below should explain everything. In the event it doesn’t load, here is a direct link to the tweet: BMTC’s ITS Today.

 

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Strike it Off!

Strikes. Strikes by Auto Rickshaw drivers. Strikes by Bus Transport employees.
Strikes. An old Blackmail method used by the Communists and Socialists [the Left] that unfortunately works even today.

There are two common reasons why Transport related employees strike:

  • Competition from the Private Sector or others.
  • Demand for Hike in Wages.

Competition from others

Frequently seen in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, both, employees of state run transcos, as well as auto/taxi drivers have often protested against others disturbing their Monopoly.

Recently, autos and taxis in Delhi went on a strike demanding that the government shut down app based aggregators such as Ola and Uber.

The irony of the situation is that such strikes force the public to turn to the aggregators, totally defeating the purpose of the strike. In cities like Mumbai and Pune, an auto or cab strike might affect businesses because both run by the meter. However, the use of non Kaali-Peeli cabs and auots is quite high in the city.  In Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, these strikes would be problematic, because the autos in the city rarely go by meter. In the long run, an Uber or Ola would cost lesser than an auto anywhere in Delhi.

Demand for Hike in Wages

The other reason for a strike, a more legitimate one, is the demand for a hike in wages.

Recently, employees of BMTC, KSRTC, NW/NE-KRTC in Karnataka went on a 3-day strike demanding a 35% hike in wages. Though the strike lasted only three days, it was declared as indefinite, and would have gone on had the Government of Karnataka not convinced the striking staff to accept a 10.5% hike. This strike made life miserable for people in Bangalore. Autos began fleecing commuters, something that they are experts at. To compound the issue, the Karnataka Government’s draconian 1950-era rules for Cabs and Aggregators just made life miserable. With some universities choosing to remain open, life looked very dystopian.

In Ocober 2015, BEST employees threatened to strike because the higher-ups held back their Diwali bonus. Common sense prevailed and the strike was called off.

This kind of strike is a bit legitimate, since employees do deserve an occasional pay hike.

Now, what can be done?

What can be done about a strike?

A Strike or Bandh can cripple a city, or in this case, a state. It kills productivity, and destroys the economy. Of course, there are some people who claim that Strikes and Bandhs are Good for the Environment.

Here are some methods to help limit strikes and their impacts on the society and its economy.

  1. Decentralisation
    A decentralised transport system limits the impact of a strike. A strike by BEST employees won’t affect transport in Nagpur. However a strike by BMTC will affect Mysore since BMTC is essentially a subsidiary of KSRTC.
  2. Salaries must be on par with inflation and the private sector. Bus drivers and conductors aren’t the ones with the easiest job in the world. Pay them what they’re worth.
  3. Take strict action against those striking. Just because employees belong to a government body, that doesn’t let them strike as and when they feel like.

 

 

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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 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 similar, yet different model. DTC, PRTC, and the CTU, all come under the Union Territory Administration, but the DTC and PRTC are corporations that come under the elected Territorial Government, while the CTU is an undertaking which comes under the Central Government.

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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