BEST: Free Bus Passes for Visually and Physically Impaired

BEST has announced that it will issue bus passes to Visually Impaired and Physically Impaired passengers with more than 40% motor disability or handicap.

According to a Press Note dated 19th October 2016, the scheme would be operational from 20-10-16.

The Press Note [in Marathi] mentions the following:

From October 20, 2016, a scheme for free of cost travel for the visually impaired and people with 40% or locomotor disability has been introduced in all buses of the BEST program, excluding the air-conditioned bus service. Highlights of this scheme:

Mumbai – Effective from Thursday, 20/10/2016, a program is being activated for handicapped persons (visually impaired and >40% handicapped) to avail of free transport in buses (except air-conditioned buses) operated by the BEST Undertaking.

Salient features of the program:

  1. The free travel benefit can be availed of by blind (visually impaired) and handicapped (more than 40% physical handicap) persons. This program will be applicable in the Mumbai Metropolitan region and adjoining cities where the BEST Undertaking bus service is operational.
  2. For those availing of the benefit, it will be mandatory to possess a RFID smart card/ ID Card issued by the BEST Undertaking.
  3. The blind (visually impaired) and handicapped (more than 40% physical handicap) persons wishing to avail of the benefit are required to go to Transport Departmental Office in any depot of the BEST Undertaking near their residence (or any other depot otherwise convenient to them), collect the free printed form issued by the undertaking and submit it, filled up along with a photocopy of the handicap certificate to the concerned Administrative Officer or Depot Officer during the office timings (9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, except for Sundays and public holidays).
  4. After the Administrative Officer scrutinises the form and the attached documents, the applicants will be sent to a nearby bus pass distribution centre for registration and photographing. The applicants will have to pay a fee of 40 rupees (only in the beginning) for the RFID card / ID card. The bus pass will and RFID card will be made available within 4 to 7 working days of registration at the bus pass distribution centre.
  5. Once this program for free transport for blind (visually impaired) and handicapped (more than 40% physical handicap) persons is activated, the existing travel fare benefit programs for visually impaired and handicapped persons will be cancelled.

All blind (visually impaired) and handicapped (more than 40% physical handicap) persons are requested to avail maximum benefit of this program of free transport in the in buses (except air-conditioned buses) operated by BEST Undertaking.

Prior to this BEST used to charge a flat fare of ₹2 for totally blind passengers on non-AC buses, irrespective of the distance traveled. This used to be ₹1 earlier.

The only drawback to this entire scheme is that the disabled person has to go to a Pass Issue Counter at a Depot, buy the ₹40 RFID card and submit all the documents. While paying a one-time fee for the card might be justified for BEST to cover costs of procurement and running the system, going to the Depot for a disabled person maybe extremely cumbersome

The template of a BEST RFID bus pass. It has the Users photo in the box, and their name and ID number on the right. Image: BEST
The template of a BEST RFID bus pass. It has the Users photo in the box, and their name and ID number on the right. Image: BEST

Accessibility in the Commuting and Transport sector is virtually negligible in India. This is a good step towards changing that. While one may argue that Subsidies are not good, this shouldn’t be treated as a subsidy but rather a necessity.

Thanks to Rohini  and Sameer for help with translations.

Thanks to Zophop for notifying users.

BEST offers free travel to Visually-Impaired commuters. Click To Tweet



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Mumbai autowala gives an actress a fake note, We’re left wondering

Recently, it emerged that an Autowala in Mumbai gave an actress Megha Chakraborty a Fake 100 rupee note.

The Fake 100 Coupon Note, signed by Santa Claus of the Children's Bank of India.
The Fake 100 Coupon Note, signed by Santa Claus of the Children’s Bank of India.

ScoopWhoop did a fantastic analysis of the note:

  • It claims to be issued by the Children Bank of India
  • It claims its value is One Hundred Coupon
  • The guarantee on it says ‘I promise to play with the coupon hundred’.
  • It is signed by Santa Claus.

Now, while we leave the analysis of the note to the experts at BuzzFeed and ScoopWhoop, we are left wondering about something else.

It is 2016. Cashless payment is here. UPI is here. Jio is here. RFID Cards are here. Uber and Ola are also here. PayTM and MobiKwik are here. Why pay with Cash?

The excuse that some people may not have a bank account, or a phone is no longer a valid argument, atleast not in India’s largest city.

There are two ways of achieving cashless payments:

The Physical Method

This is simple. An RFID card. BEST has a prepaid smart card in place for buses. Mumbaikars would know by now that there are FOUR prepaid cards available in the city: One for BEST, one for the Suburban Railway, one for the Metro and one for the Monorail. While the erstwhile Go Mumbai Smart Card that was scrapped in 2011 was valid on both BEST and the Suburban Rail, the RTA has mooted a common mobility card for all forms of transit. If this comes into play, this can be extended to auto-rickshaws too. Mumbai’s much, much younger sibling Ahmedabad has already raced ahead by enabling autos to be part of the Smart Card system. Of course, this will work only in a few cities. The Greater Mumbai Region, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, and to a certain extent Bengaluru, are among the few cities where one can find autowalas return even the last rupee change to the passenger. Delhi’s autos, with its fancy GPS enabled fare-meters NEVER ply by meter, so the chances of them accepting a prepaid card is close to zero. Gurgaon, and other areas, well, don’t even have a fare-meter in the vehicle, so tough luck.

The Digital Method

Again, Mumbaikars would know this well. The UTS app by the Centre for Railway Information Systems [CRIS] allows commuters to buy tickets and Season Passes using an Android phone and a mobile wallet. Of course, it has its own share of problems. This is also the model followed by Uber and Ola for non-cash rides. All one requires for this is a prepaid wallet and a phone. While Ola chose to partner with ZipCash, Uber chose to partner with PayTM. In some cities, autowalas have PayTM QR codes affixed to their vehicles, all the passenger needs to do is open the app, scan the code and transfer the amount. Walah!

The Bottom Line

We are not a poor nation. We are not a third-world nation. When we have advanced so much to the extent of having prepaid cards for bus tickets, and also buying suburban rail tickets on the phone, why can’t we slowly do away with cash based transit systems?










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A Bright Future Ahead for Electric Buses in India

Swiss Group ABB has come up with a rather grand plan to make India a completely electric vehicle nation in 12 years (2030). It has even announced its intention to supply buses that can be charged in 15 seconds.

Last year, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari stated that 1.5lakh buses operated by various state-operated transport undertakings (STUs) were to be converted to electric buses in a bid to save some money on its Rs. 8lakh crore crude imports.

The aim of this flash-charging technology is to enable buses to operate with smaller batteries. In August 2016, ABB India Managing Director Sanjiv Sharma had said that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had given its green signal to operate buses with the new technology on a pilot basis. Minister Nitin Gadkari had stated that these buses could be charged at night at Rs. 3.5 per unit of electricity as compared to Rs. 50-60 for a litre of diesel.

These buses would be charged at bus stations using a mechanical arm which charges only when a bus is connected. Further, it eliminates overheard wires and charges while passengers are boarding and disembarking.

ABB is partnering with Volvo buses to operate these buses in 13 cities across the country.

ABB is also planning a launch in December in Geneva, in partnership with Public-Transport operator TGP to operate 12 such buses across a 14km long stretch.


The National Electricity Mission Plan 2020 has identified the need to replace large batteries with smaller ones and use rapid-charging technologies to make it possible. The potential demand for Electric Buses is pegged at approximately 2500 buses by 2020.


Ashok Leyland, meanwhile has unveiled what it calls the first ‘Indigenous Electric’ bus manufactured in India. The Circuit series of buses, will be offered with a subsidy under the Central Government’s Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme and can travel 150km on a single charge.


FAME, as part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan, aims to put close to 7 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2016.


As stated earlier, The Future of Urban Transport is the Bus. Buses are more effective than other mass transit projects because they are cheaper, faster to procure and do not involve dedicated large-scale construction. The only thing a bus requires is a road and a bus station, which is why it forms the basic rung of public transport.
While the new buses will certainly be a game-changer in the field of transport, they will also be a big boost for Make In India. These buses will form a totally different market and will require a separate workforce to research, design and develop them, along with the supporting infrastructure. Ultimately, it will result in a massive employment surge while also providing an export market for completed buses.

The future of buses in India is certainly a bright one, one spark can ignite a fire. One bus can change the future.

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10k respond to PMPML public poll on Colour of Buses

The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Manahamandal Limited [PMPML] recently conducted a public poll on the colour of of buses that would operate on the BRTS, and the results were mind-boggling.

Voting was on from 5th October to 12th October to select one among the 3 colour schemes shortlisted.

PMPML's Poll to select the Colours of Buses.
PMPML’s Poll to select the Colours of Buses.

Chief Engineer for Buses, Sunil Burse said that over 10,000 people had responded by giving a missed call to one of the three numbers.

PMPML is procuring 1500 new buses for the various BRTS corridors along Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. It will also operate feeder buses connecting various Rainbow stations across the city to nearby localities.

Now, while this is indeed a shot in the arm for the PMPML, the real victory here goes to the city of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Pune Metropolitan Region, which till a few years ago was infamous for its below-average bus services, is now seeing a major change. For an organisation that was had over a 100 buses off the roads a few years ago because it couldn’t afford to service them, the PMPML has now gone to the extent of getting over 10,000 people to respond to a public poll. That, is the real victory here. Victory that the public cares for proper bus services.

Aesthetics is an important factor in any sphere of life. You choose a product or service on the basis of the feeling it gives you. A badly maintained bus will put you off. A well designed one will make you want to board it. That is one of the reasons why colours also matters. Of course, unless you are in Tamil Nadu, where all buses change colours according to the ruling political party, the fact that PMPML went to the extent of asking the public for its opinion on colours, is the first step towards efficiency.

SO here are the important lessons from this excercise that every transco must keep in mind:

  1. Aesthetics matter. It’s good that the PMPML is acknowledging this and has brought out three different colour combinations.
  2. Public Opinion matters: Garnering public feedback for the services they will pay for is the best thing to do.
  3. Public Interest: Getting 10,000 people to respond in Pune is huge. Pune has otherwise been infamous for pathetic bus services and was the frontrunner in developing a two-wheeler culture, much before Bangalore.
  4. People want better Services: It is wrong to say that in 2016 nobody wants to take a bus and people prefer cars. People still would prefer buses. The sheer number of respondents here proves it.

The Future of Public Transport is indeed the bus.



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Subsidies in Transport: Good or Bad

Subsidies in Transport are visible everywhere. Tamil Nadu has kept its bus fares at rock bottom rates, gives free bus passes to school students, Delhi has dirt cheap rates with the maximum fares being ₹15 and ₹25 in a non-AC and an AC bus. So, what else?

As stated earlier, extreme amount of subsidies bleeds the Transco of its revenue, and create a heavy indifference among the commuters to quality of services. Given that a vast majority of India’s transport services are entirely General Class services, revenues are inherently low. Similarly, in the case of Roads, a lot of people argue that Tolls are a “scam”, especially when they pay road taxes. Again, this is a false notion, one that can be explained if we cared to look at the Basic Difference between Toll and Road Tax: Toll is a User Fee. Road Tax is a Tax. I repeat, Toll is a Fee, and not a Tax. A tax is levied on a category of people on the basis of the income or what they own, in this case a vehicle. A toll, or a fee, is levied only on those who use the certain service or product, in this case the road. Many users accept this, but go on to further state that they are unjustly charged for using the entire section of a road rather than just the portion they used. Again, this is a flawed point of thought. In India, it would be a superhuman effort to set up Toll Plazas at every junction, man them [an automated one wouldn’t work, people will definitely find a way to avoid paying it then] and operate it. Of course, the Coimbatore bypass has 6 Toll Plazas on it, but 6 of them on a 28km two lane road, we all know the jam that occurs most of the time.

Toll Roads and other BOT transport projects, such as BOT Railway lines, like the Mumbai Metro One, Rapid Metro Gurgaon, Hyderabad Metro, et al, have specific intervals at which they are allowed to hike fees and fares, which makes it easier to operate and break even. In case of Transcos, most of them are either under pressure from the state or municipal body to keep their fares low [Prime Examples being DTC, MTC, TNSTC]. A few exceptions exist in the form of BEST, BMTC, TSRTC, which by virtue of the autonomy enjoyed by them revise [hike or slash] their fares at a reasonable interval. One method of determining rates is market oriented rates, which is what Uber and Ola normally does. When demand goes up, fares go up so that those who are willing to pay extra for it. However, this isn’t a feasible solution in all cases. In such situations, BEST’s Happy Hours concept works well. Similarly, KSRTC and the Indian Railways have successfully emulated the aviation industry with dynamic pricing in the form of Premium Tatkal tickets. Every transport corporation has schemes to attract customers. Similar to Toll Plazas offering a return ticket and seasonal pass, buses offer Passes and other forms of subsidies to frequent customers like the market.

Now, to take this further, below is an article from the Foundation for Economic Education which talks about the ill effects of subsidies.


The Distorting Effects of Transportation Subsidies

This article won the 2011 Beth A. Hoffman Memorial Prize for Economic Writing.

Although critics on the left are very astute in describing the evils of present-day society, they usually fail to understand either the root of those problems (government intervention) or their solution (the operation of a freed market). In Progressive commentary on energy, pollution, and so on—otherwise often quite insightful—calls for government intervention are quite common. George Monbiot, for instance, has written that “[t]he only rational response to both the impending end of the Oil Age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure.”

But this is precisely backward. Existing problems of excess energy consumption, pollution, big-box stores, the car culture, and suburban sprawl result from the “massive political pressure” that has already been applied, over the past several decades, to “redesign our cities, our farming, and our lives.” The root of all the problems Monbiot finds so objectionable is State intervention in the marketplace.

In particular, subsidies to transportation have probably done more than any other factor (with the possible exception of intellectual property law) to determine the present shape of the American corporate economy. Currently predominating firm sizes and market areas are the result of government subsidies to transportation.

Adam Smith argued over 200 years ago that the fairest way of funding transportation infrastructure was user fees rather than general revenues: “When the carriages which pass over a highway or a bridge, and the lighters which sail upon a navigable canal, pay toll in proportion to their weight or their tonnage, they pay for the maintenance of those public works exactly in proportion to the wear and tear which they occasion of them.”

This is not, however, how things were actually done. Powerful business interests have used their political influence since the beginning of American history to secure government funding for “internal improvements.” The real turning point was the government’s role in creating the railroad system from the mid-nineteenth century on. The national railroad system as we know it was almost entirely a creature of the State.

The federal railroad land grants included not only the rights-of-way for the actual railroads, but extended 15-mile tracts on both sides. As the lines were completed, this adjoining land became prime real estate and skyrocketed in value. As new communities sprang up along the routes, every house and business in town was built on land acquired from the railroads. The tracts also frequently included valuable timberland. The railroads, according to Matthew Josephson (The Robber Barons), were “land companies” whose directors “did a rushing land business in farm lands and town sites at rising prices.” For example, under the terms of the Pacific Railroad bill, the Union Pacific (which built from the Mississippi westward) was granted 12 million acres of land and $27 million worth of 30-year government bonds. The Central Pacific (built from the West Coast eastward) received nine million acres and $24 million worth of bonds. The total land grants to the railroads amounted to about six times the area of France.

Theodore Judah, chief engineer for what became the Central Pacific, assured potential investors “that it could be done—if government aid were obtained. For the cost would be terrible.” Collis Huntington, the leading promoter for the project, engaged in a sordid combination of strategically placed bribes and appeals to communities’ fears of being bypassed in order to extort grants of “rights of way, terminal and harbor sites, and . . . stock or bond subscriptions ranging from $150,000 to $1,000,000” from a long string of local governments that included San Francisco, Stockton, and Sacramento.

Government also revised tort and contract law to ease the carriers’ way—for example, by exempting common carriers from liability for many kinds of physical damage caused by their operation.

Had railroad ventures been forced to bear their own initial capital outlays—securing rights of way, preparing roadbeds, and laying track, without land grants and government purchases of their bonds—the railroads would likely have developed instead along the initial lines on which Lewis Mumford speculated in The City in History: many local rail networks linking communities into local industrial economies. The regional and national interlinkages of local networks, when they did occur, would have been far fewer and far smaller in capacity. The comparative costs of local and national distribution, accordingly, would have been quite different. In a nation of hundreds of local industrial economies, with long-distance rail transport much more costly than at present, the natural pattern of industrialization would have been to integrate small-scale power machinery into flexible manufacturing for local markets.

Alfred Chandler, in The Visible Hand, argued that the creation of the national railroad system made possible, first, national wholesale and retail markets, and then large manufacturing firms serving the national market. The existence of unified national markets served by large-scale manufacturers depended on a reliable, high-volume distribution system operating on a national level. The railroad and telegraph, “so essential to high-volume production and distribution,” were in Chandler’s view what made possible this steady flow of goods through the distribution pipeline: “The revolution in the processes of distribution and production rested in large part on the new transportation and communications infrastructure. Modern mass production and mass distribution depend on the speed, volume, and regularity in the movement of goods and messages made possible by the coming of the railroad, telegraph and steamship.”

The Tipping Point

The creation of a single national market, unified by a high-volume distribution system, was probably the tipping point between two possible industrial systems. As Mumford argued in Technics and Civilization, the main economic reason for large-scale production in the factory system was the need to economize on power from prime movers. Factories were filled with long rows of machines, all connected by belts to drive shafts from a single steam engine. The invention of the electric motor changed all this: A prime mover, appropriately scaled, could be built into each individual machine. As a result, it was possible to scale machinery to the flow of production and situate it close to the point of consumption.

With the introduction of electrical power, as described by Charles Sabel and Michael Piore in The Second Industrial Divide, there were two alternative possibilities for organizing production around the new electrical machinery: decentralized production for local markets, integrating general-purpose machinery into craft production and governed on a demand-pull basis with short production runs and frequent shifts between product lines; or centralized production using expensive, product-specific machinery in large batches on a supply-push basis. The first alternative was the one most naturally suited to the new possibilities offered by electrical power. But in fact what was chosen was the second alternative. The role of the State in creating a single national market, with artificially low distribution costs, was almost certainly what tipped the balance between them.

The railroads, themselves largely creatures of the State, in turn actively promoted the concentration of industry through their rate policies. Sabel and Piore argue that “the railroads’ policy of favoring their largest customers, through rebates” was a central factor in the rise of the large corporation. Once in place, the railroads—being a high fixed-cost industry—had “a tremendous incentive to use their capacity in a continuous, stable way. This incentive meant, in turn, that they had an interest in stabilizing the output of their principal customers—an interest that extended to protecting their customers from competitors who were served by other railroads. It is therefore not surprising that the railroads promoted merger schemes that had this effect, nor that they favored the resulting corporations or trusts with rebates.”

Reprising the Role

As new forms of transportation emerged, the government reprised its role, subsidizing both the national highway and civil aviation systems.

From its beginning the American automotive industry formed a “complex” with the petroleum industry and government highway projects. The “most powerful pressure group in Washington” (as a PBS documentary called it) began in June 1932, when GM president Alfred P. Sloan created the National Highway Users Conference, inviting oil and rubber firms to help GM bankroll a propaganda and lobbying effort that continues to this day.

Whatever the political motivation behind it, the economic effect of the interstate system should hardly be controversial. Virtually 100 percent of roadbed damage to highways is caused by heavy trucks. After repeated liberalization of maximum weight restrictions, far beyond the heaviest conceivable weight the interstate roadbeds were originally designed to support, fuel taxes fail miserably at capturing from big-rig operators the cost of pavement damage caused by higher axle loads. And truckers have been successful at scrapping weight-distance user charges in all but a few western states, where the push for repeal continues. So only about half the revenue of the highway trust fund comes from fees or fuel taxes on the trucking industry, and the rest is externalized on private automobiles.

This doesn’t even count the 20 percent of highway funding that’s still subsidized by general revenues, or the role of eminent domain in lowering the transaction costs involved in building new highways or expanding existing ones.

As for the civil aviation system, from the beginning it was a creature of the State. Its original physical infrastructure was built entirely with federal grants and tax-free municipal bonds. Professor Stephen Paul Dempsey of the University of Denver in 1992 estimated the replacement value of this infrastructure at $1 trillion. The federal government didn’t even start collecting user fees from airline passengers and freight shippers until 1971. Even with such user fees paid into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, the system still required taxpayer subsidies of $3 billion to maintain the Federal Aviation Administration’s network of control towers, air traffic control centers, and tens of thousands of air traffic controllers.

Eminent domain also remains central to the building of new airports and expansion of existing airports, as it does with highways.

Subsidies to airport and air traffic control infrastructure are only part of the picture. Equally important was the direct role of the State in creating the heavy aircraft industry, whose jumbo jets revolutionized civil aviation after World War II. In Harry Truman and the War Scare of 1948, Frank Kofsky described the aircraft industry as spiraling into red ink after the end of the war and on the verge of bankruptcy when it was rescued by the Cold War (and more specifically Truman’s heavy bomber program). David Noble, in America by Design, made a convincing case that civilian jumbo jets were only profitable thanks to the government’s heavy bomber contracts; the production runs for the civilian market alone were too small to pay for the complex and expensive machinery. The 747 is essentially a spinoff of military production. The civil aviation system is, many times over, a creature of the State.

The State and the Corporation

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the dominant business model in the American economy, and the size of the prevailing corporate business unit, are direct results of such policies. A subsidy to any factor of production amounts to a subsidy of those firms whose business models rely most heavily on that factor, at the expense of those who depend on it the least. Subsidies to transportation, by keeping the cost of distribution artificially low, tend to lengthen supply and distribution chains. They make large corporations operating over wide market areas artificially competitive against smaller firms producing for local markets—not to mention big-box retailers with their warehouses-on-wheels distribution model.

Some consequentialists treat this as a justification for transportation subsidies: Subsidies are good because they make possible mass-production industry and large-scale distribution, which are (it is claimed) inherently more efficient (because of those magically unlimited “economies of scale,” of course).

Tibor Machan argued just the opposite in the February 1999 Freeman:

Some people will say that stringent protection of rights [against eminent domain] would lead to small airports, at best, and many constraints on construction. Of course—but what’s so wrong with that?

Perhaps the worst thing about modern industrial life has been the power of political authorities to grant special privileges to some enterprises to violate the rights of third parties whose permission would be too expensive to obtain. The need to obtain that permission would indeed seriously impede what most environmentalists see as rampant—indeed reckless—industrialization.

The system of private property rights . . . is the greatest moderator of human aspirations. . . . In short, people may reach goals they aren’t able to reach with their own resources only by convincing others, through arguments and fair exchanges, to cooperate.

In any case, the “efficiencies” resulting from subsidized centralization are entirely spurious. If the efficiencies of large-scale production were sufficient to compensate for increased distribution costs, it would not be necessary to shift a major portion of the latter to taxpayers to make the former profitable. If an economic activity is only profitable when a portion of the cost side of the ledger is concealed, and will not be undertaken when all costs are fully internalized by an economic actor, then it’s not really efficient. And when total distribution costs (including those currently shifted to the taxpayer) exceed mass-production industry’s ostensible savings in unit cost of production, the “efficiencies” of large-scale production are illusory.

Kevin A. Carson

Kevin A. Carson

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.



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Stories behind a Ticket

By now, you know me well. I’ve written earlier about why I am fascinated by buses.  You also know that I collect bus tickets. But there is something about these tickets that is not well known to most people.

I often write notes and story ideas on the back of my bus ticket. It can be anything. Most of the time it has everything to do with the journey itself.

So, below are a few such tickets with my stories on them.

Behind a BEST ticket.

A story written on the back of a ticket on Bus. 56. We met. Our Eyes Met. Our Smiles Met. Our Hearts Met. 56 - Yay .... JS - 27 - 05
A story written on the back of a ticket on Bus. 56

Behind a BEST Daily Pass.

A story written behind a BEST Daily Pass. Kid blows bubbles on the street. Sees two men playing Uno in a Cafe. Sees two women playing Chinese Checkers next to them. Is there a Mystery?
A story written behind a BEST Daily Pass.

Behind an MSRTC [ST] Shivneri Ticket.

A story behind an MSRTC Shivneri ticket. My twin and I were returning to Pune from Mumbai. I'm lucky to have a twin. She's not the evil one though. I am. You'll see.. Someday..
A story behind an MSRTC Shivneri ticket. My twin and I were returning to Pune from Mumbai. The evil bit refers to my pranks.

Behind an NMMT ticket.

It was pouring in Bombay when I took this bus. I was lost in an alternate reality where the rain caused an apocalyptic flood. Stormy Night Here. Would I be the Hero of my own Story?
It was pouring in Bombay when I took this bus. I was lost in an alternate reality where the rain caused an apocalyptic flood.

Behind a BMTC ticket.

My boss and I have for long agreed that the Silk Board junction was never a problem. What if the traffic at Silk Board was really a Screening Mechanism to deem who is worthy of entering HSR Layout first?
My boss and I have for long agreed that the Silk Board junction was never a problem.

Behind a Delhi Cluster Bus ticket.

I was sick after inhaling a bit of Delhi's polluted air in Azadpur. Is Delhi's pollution all a plan to systematically force people to move out? A la Tughlaq?
I was sick after inhaling a bit of Delhi’s polluted air in Azadpur.

Two PMPML tickets, both from June 2014, have gone missing. One was referring to a story about an alien visiting Earth that I had written when I was 12: A Visitor From Xyralite, and the other was an outline for a story that I wrote two months later on a Nuclear Apocalypse: Silence. I will find these someday and post them here. Till then… *salutes*



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Uber is focusing on a lot more apart from Transport

Uber has off late being doing a lot more apart from Transport. Isn’t that a good thing? It improves the scope and impact on Transport. People seem to view transport as just moving from one place to another, but the larger point is, it includes a lot more. For many of us, a daily commute is a new learning experience. Ola did the same with Ola Cafe, but they didn’t gauge the market correctly, thus leading to a premature death, similar to Flipkart’s Flyte Music Store shutting down in 2013, when Apple iTunes entered the Indian market. Both Flyte and Ola Cafe shut down when the competition was relatively low.

Why don’t people understand the need for diversity within the transport ecosystem? Is it that hard to understand? Is the traditional get into a train and let the conductor tear a ticket the only way to travel? Is driving your own car the only way to travel? Technological disruption cannot be ignored. It is the same disruption that allows for multiple possibilities in any sector, be it transport or food.

Below is an article from the Daily Caller on this matter.

What are your thoughts? Do leave them in the comments below.

Uber’s New Ventures Have Little To Do With Their Transportation

Uber is full steam ahead on their mission to permeate every aspect of the service industry by integrating far more than ride-sharing. The introduction of “Uber + Travel” and “UberLIFE” showcases that the ride-hailing company isn’t satisfied with its current global stature. The new features will be available in China over the coming months, and will…



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BEST to partner with Zophop for real-time updates

BEST has an update for their long lost initiative of informing commuters when a bus will arrive, to attract more commuters to use buses. BEST will now show real-time locations of AC buses using a third party android application called Zophop. It is interesting that BEST is partnering with third party private firms to inform the commuters than maintaining the tech in house which can result in heavy IT expenditure. Even though we have our very own GPS satellites in space, tracking a bus still seems like a challenge.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the new hot discussion among many cash deprived transit agencies, every agency wants to use them to improve operations and attract commuters. BMTC has recently launched their own ITS system with a whopping cost of 89 crores to track buses. But none of these systems can help the agency if they are not implemented in the right way. Every agency is experimenting with the setup with no major success stories in sight.

In the past BEST has sold the rights of advertising to a third party firm Verve Soft Pvt Ltd. which has placed GPS units, TVs in the buses. This firm has launched a website and app called BEST Passenger Information System ( with little or no useful information. This lack of useful information resulted in many third party applications to track locals and bus timings in Mumbai like m-indicator, smartshehar, ridlr, Zophop and citizen led initiatives like ChaloBEST.

BEST partnering with one such firm is an interesting development, yet is it only sharing the data with zophop or will it also share it with others? Several people have approached BEST for data and have been shunned away in the past. From an anecdote, IIT Bombay was paying a hefty amount to buy GPS data of BEST for their research work on a real-time multimodal trip planner. As a public agency BEST cannot favour one private player and the partnership terms need to be transparent, so that any other private firm like Google Maps can also access this real-time data to show updates for commuters.

For BEST to share this real-time data with others, it should be noted that the data rights need to be with BEST. From what is known BEST has already sold these rights to Verve Soft Pvt Ltd. and may not have any rights over it as BEST has not spent any money on GPS units and might be receiving money through advertising revenues. Several transit agencies abroad have been sharing their real-time data to commuters by making it open to anyone including researchers and individual developers. Even though BMTC has announced an intention for such an open data policy to share data with third parties, it hasn’t been executed yet. Third party partnerships and open data policies will likely be adopted by many transport agencies in the near future in India. BEST is already experimenting with such practices, but it needs to be more transparent in doing so as a public agency.

Disclosure: The author was an employee/Director at Zophop briefly in 2014 and helped source transport data while at the firm.

BEST to partner with Zophop for real-time updates Click To Tweet

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Double Fun with a Double Decker

In the past, I had explained why bus journeys are fun. But there is, one thing more fun than a bus ride. A ride in a Double Decker.

While many cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi had double deckers earlier, only a handful of them continue to operate them, namely Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi and Solapur.

A BEST Double Decker on Route 138 at CST.
A BEST Double Decker on Route 138 at CST. Image copyright Srikar Kashyap, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported.

Now, Double Deckers have been in Mumbai since the 1930s. In the last few years, there were talks of BEST scrapping them, but they decided not too, saying that they were an irreplaceable part of the city’s heritage. Among the reasons for scrapping them were: Extra cost in maintenance, difficulty in maneuvering, and the fact that they required two conductors, one at each level.

But, but but, they were not scrapped, and we are thankful that have not been because they are really really fun to travel in.

BEST earlier used to ply them on 251 of the Oshiwara Depot from Versova to Andheri Station [West], but after the merger of the Versova and Yari Road Bus Stations into one, as well as the commencement of the Metro, they were replaced with regular buses, mainly due to the reduction in passenger traffic as well as height clearances on the West. They still run on the East, connecting Agarkar Chowk to SEEPZ due to height clearance from the Metro. Most of Mumbai’s flyovers are built at a height to allow double deckers to pass beneath them.

Among the prominent routes they run on, as 310 from Bandra Station [East] to Kurla Station [West], and 138 from Backbay Depot to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. 138 enjoys a reputation because it not only plies within the CBD, but also because it plies along Marine Drive.

Now, for the fun:

Double Deckers are fun because there is no driver in the upper level. As a kid, I was known to run up and sit up front to enjoy the breeze hitting my face. I was also branded the black sheep of my family because I once sent my cousin crying down after I told him the upper level had no conductor and only grown-up children were allowed. I do not regret doing that. During every trip of mine, I used to run up to the top, just for the air to hit my face. On one of my trips, a friend of mine from Gurgaon, who had never been in a Double Decker got in with me. He was awestruck, and spent the the entire journey with his DSLR stuck to the front window, capturing footage of vehicles moving at at 8pm at Bandra Kurla Complex.

We have been known for playing games, with the conductor being complicit in our [mis]adventures. We used to pretend that the upper level of the bus was a vehicle with a mind of its own, and that we, along with the conductor had to stop it from running into an obstacles.

Double Deckers have become an inalienable part of our culture. It is unfortunate that several cities like Chennai and Bangalore cannot ply them because of height restrictions.

Truly, these buses are a gem!

Double Fun in a Double Decker. Click To Tweet

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When a Rumour spread about BEST

I was going thru the BEST website today, and was going thru the Daily Press Notes section, when I came across an interesting press note, dating to 21st February 2015. A very interesting note to say the least.

The Press Note, Numbered 65, on 21/02/15, is an appeal to Consumers of the Electric Department.

It talks of a rumour that has been spreading via Social Media to ask Consumers to check the back of the BEST Electricity Bill, where there is an alleged claim that BEST’s electricity department is charging consumers for losses made by the Transportation Department, and that if you wrote a letter and handed it over at the Head Office at Dadar TT, they would stop charging you.

BEST responded by saying that such rumours were baseless and consumers should not pay any attention to them. Fair enough right?

But, did anyone notice a deeper message?

For starters, this message came at about the same time when BEST made its first mistake. The disastrous fare hike of February 2015. This was followed by an even more disastrous fare hike in April 2015 that left BEST [especially its lacklustre AC services] completely alienated from its passengers. It was during the latter half of 2015, that BEST AC conductors at Thane Station encouraged passengers to take a TMT AC 65 or NMMT AC 131 instead of the AS 700. Even BEST conductors seem to have dissociated themselves from their own buses!

Next, as stated earlier, BESTs Transport Deficit is -₹858.02crore while the Electricity Surplus of ₹925.41crore. This ₹67.39 that is left over, along with some cash from the MCGM, as well other schemes such as JnNURM/AMRUT and from the State Government is what keeps BEST afloat. In the long run, it is true, that the Electricity Division surplus does pay for the deficit, but in a different manner. As per BESTs tariff, there is a Transport Deficit Loss Recovery Charge which is charged as a rate per kilowatt. Doesn’t this actually prove BEST’s notice false? Or was the notice only about getting the surcharge reversed on submitting a letter? Confusing, isn’t it.

But.. But.. But.. There’s something interesting to note here. BEST supplies electricity only to South Bombay. The Suburbs are served by Reliance Energy [formerly BSES], and MahaVitaran [MahaDiscom]. South Bombay is home to Mumbai’s richest people. Actually the country’s richest people.

So, let us take a look at the tariff structure of BEST, Reliance and Mahavitaran side-by-side, shall we. I’ll be comparing the regular rates for residences under the non BPL category.

BEST: Link to Tariff [Page 3]

Fixed charge goes from ₹40 to 100, the consumption charges vary from  ₹2.45 to ₹6.35 per Unit and only goes up to 8 when the consumption is above 500 units, that too for the balance units over and above 500 units.

Reliance Energy: Link to Tariff [Page 1]

Fixed charge goes from ₹50 to ₹100, the consumption charges vary from ₹2.43 to ₹5.57 per Unit and only goes up to 7.21 when the consumption is above 500 units, that too for the balance units over and above 500 units.

MSEDCL: Link to Tariff [Go thru all 381 pages.]

The format used by BEST and REL is not present and hence requires a little thinking and calculation.

While BEST might be charging more per kW/hr or Unit, it charges a minimal Transport Loss Surcharge which does not exceed ₹1.44 per Unit [Below 500 Units]. REL instead charges a fixed wheeling charge of ₹1.8 per Unit and a Regulatory Asset Charge, which ranges from ₹0.56 to 0.89 per Unit [Below 500 Units]. This brings the sum total of Reliance Energy’s charges to higher than BEST. Plus, with all the rich bigwigs and the who’s who of the social circuit living in BEST’s captive territory, does it really matter?

Now, the most important thing in the Press Note:

BEST, in 2015 recognised the existence of Social Media. Yes. They acknowledged that something called Social Media exists. Small, as it may seem, this is a significant step in getting our Government bodies on Social Media to respond to citizens better, as I had stated in an earlier post.

What are your thoughts?

P.S: The head office of the Electricity Department is located at Electric House and the Transport Department at Transport House, both of which are part of the Colaba Depot, which was BEST’s first depot.

Rumours abound: Understanding BEST’s Electricity Tariff in relation to the Transport Division. Click To Tweet

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