The Hangman Returns

So, at the beginning of this month, it was announced that CIDCO and NMMC were planning a Cable Ropeway from Shivaji Showk, Vashi Bus Station to Teen Taki Chowk, Kopar Khairane Bus Station.

So, barely two weeks later, it turns out that CIDCO gave an in-principle approval to Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited [TRIL] to prepare a Detailed Project Report [DPR] for the project. If approved, this would be done on the “Swiss Challenge” method, wherein when a tender is floated, in which TRIL will have the right of first refusal and get an opportunity to match the best offer.

Along with this, a new route has been proposed. Now here’s where it gets interesting. The new route, has been proposed from Vashi to Ghatkopar. Yes, you read that right. Vashi to Ghatkopar, across the Thane Creek. The proposal is to connect it to the Metro at Ghatkopar [which seems nearly impossible given that there is no land available near Ghatkopar]. However, it would be marginally easier to connect it to the Monorail. Or better. Connect it to Ghatkopar Depot. Get on to them Purple Faeries on AS-388 to Poisar Depot.

Now, what seems to be the problem here?

  1. Building a set of pillars for a ropeway from Vashi Bus Station to the Vashi Creek.
  2. Building a set of pillars in the wetlands occupied by mangroves on both sides of the creek.
  3. Building a set of pillars on the actual creek.
  4. Crossing the Eastern Express Highway, building in Ghatkopar, and reaching the station.

So at the end of the day, this will be a super problematic thing to build. However, if they are able to build it, I, for one, would be super happy.

The issues here are:

  • Permissions to build over wetlands and the creek itself.
  • Variations in height. Most Ropeways/Cable Cars have a fixed gradient. This stretch would require the alignment to go up and down multiple times.
  • Turns. Again, most systems have a straight route. This one would require zig-zags.

However, the Vashi to Kopar Khairane plan is a brilliant idea. For starters, it would ease traffic on the Trans-Harbour line, the Thane-Belapur Road, as well as the Vashi Bus Station Road. Besides this, it will also provide a brilliant an scenic view of the entire city. While in most parts of Mumbai, the West saw development, in Navi Mumbai, barring Nerul and CBD Belapur, it was mostly the East, along the Highway that grew faster. It’s time to revolutionise our nations’ transport systems, and what better way to do it than the Mumbai Metropolitan Region!

 

 

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[Story] Jump Around Town

Part – I

The Mayor looked at the proposal sent in by the citizen group. This was what he had been waiting for ever since he had been sworn in. He held a proposal sent in by the citizen group with a detailed action plan to set up a municipal bus service in the town. He quickly sent a copy of it to the Municipal Commissioner for his approval, as well as to the Minister. He knew this was the one thing that the town needed at that moment to get the attention of the local politicians who had been ignoring the town for years. This was the only town in the state that was a District Headquarters but did not have a Bus Service.

The proposal was to purchase five minibuses and hire another ten to run them on ten routes. One of the citizens, a 70 year old War Veteran, had suggested buying five of them first so that the town could keep them forever, on a sentimental basis. The Mayor added his proposal to set up 50 Bus Shelters in the town with advertisements on them to earn some much needed Revenue.

The Municipal Commissioner, who had been appointed a year ago, the same time the Mayor got appointed, was upset that the town was ignored, and thus felt bored most of the time as there was no work to do. It was therefore, but natural for him to feel elated when this proposal was received, for it meant he’d finally have some work to do in this small but bustling town.

The Commissioner sent the signed proposal up to the Minister. He had a plan to get the Minister to accept the proposal without a fuss. The Minister had agreed to meet him for half an hour to discuss the proposal. He walked into her office and sat down.

“So, Commissioner, tell me. How is this proposal going to go through without any government funds?”

“Ma’am”, he replied, “It’s a Simple Deal. All the Council Members of the Municipal Body have agreed to divert their Local Area Development Fund for this year towards this. With all 37 of them agreeing to contribute, that enables us to purchase 35 buses. However, we are spending on only 5 buses for now, hiring an additional 10, so that we may also be able set up a Transport Body and employ drivers, conductors, and other staff. The Municipal Body will totally undertake this operation. The Mayor has a bill ready to be introduced in tomorrow’s session to set up a Transport Board consisting of several Council Members and Citizens as well.”

“I see. I trust, you won’t be bothering me or the State Government once I sign this proposal?”, she asked.

“No ma’am. We just need your approval to set up the board, the undertaking and give us complete autonomy over the entire operation, so that we won’t have to disturb you again.” He wanted to add that he had drafted the document in such a way that the State would also not be able to interfere in the Transport body once it was set up, but he refrained from saying so, as he didn’t want to antagonise her at this stage.

“Alright”, she replied, “You have my approval, now don’t disturb me again.”

“Yes ma’am”, he said, saluting as he left.

He walked out of her room and ran out to the parking lot, where a car was waiting to take him back to town. He couldn’t wait to get back and hand over the signed deed to the Mayor and Council. He reached his office and immediately asked for the Mayor to call for a Council meeting. The Mayor immediately introduced his bill which the Council passed unanimously. The bill referred to the deed that was signed by the Minister, and once passed, the Council set up an ad-hoc Transport Board with three Councillors, the Mayor and the Commissioner.

The Transport Board called for their first meeting an hour later where they decided to discuss three things. The first, was the composition of the permanent board. The bill passed in the Council mandated a seven member panel with three Councillors, three citizens and the Municipal Commissioner. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor would act as Observers, but would get to weigh in and no decision by the board would be valid without the signature of the Mayor. The board agreed to induct two senior councilors who had earlier lived in bigger cities due to their experience, one of the two ad-hoc Board members from the Council as half of the Board. The citizens side was to be represented by two Retired Army Officers, both of whom had experience dealing with bureaucrats, and the wife of the Commissioner of Police. Once this was done, they decided to proceed with the next item on the agenda: Shortlisting manufacturers for the buses to be purchased and hired. This was easier said than done. A week prior to this, the Municipality had invited bids from several Manufacturers for Minibuses. All of them eagerly came forward with fancy buses. After agreeing that they needed a basic, no-frills, but fuel efficient non-airconditioned bus, they zeroed in on one model. The Commissioner sent his deputy to inform the bidders that the process was over and that the winning manufacturer would receive the order in a day. The Municipality had also invited bids for hiring buses, and decided to go with the cheapest offer.

With two hurdles out of the way, the Board now had only one major item in their agenda. They needed to find drivers. The Mayor suggested that they hire drivers and conductors along with the buses, and find a permanent solution for the purchased buses. The Commissioner agreed, and decided that the Transport Undertaking that had been formed would formally put out advertisements the next day. With the main problems sorted, the meeting was adjourned, and the Mayor posted the minutes of the meeting on the Noticeboard outside the Town Hall.

That night while eating dinner, the Mayor was going thru the documents prepared earlier in the day and realised that there were three things to be done. He called up the Commissioner and told him that they needed to build a depot, set up a system for tickets, and set up bus stops.

The next day, the newly formed Transport Board called for a meeting with full strength. The Commissioner tabled the Mayor’s recommendations and the agenda was set. The Municipality had a barren plot of land at one end of the town where the new four lane highway connecting the town to the State Capital was to end. The State Transport body was planning to shift the ST terminus there as well. The Board agreed that this plot would be fenced and divided into two, one for the depot and one for the bus station. Once funds started flowing in, a proper bus station would be built. The Board agreed to name the body ‘Jump Around Town’ and on the suggestion of the Deputy Mayor, decided to invite bids from advertisers to set up Bus Stops with hoardings across the town. A local Printing Press was given a contract to print 25,000 tickets of different denominations and the board set up a fare slab.

Part – II

A week had passed after the Board Meeting. A bank account for Just Across Town – JAT, had been created where all the Councillors had deposited the money they had pledged. The Manufacturer had said that buses would be delivered in a week as they were quite popular among government agencies. The Printing Press had delivered the entire set of tickets to the Municipality. Twenty drivers and conductors, as well as five depot managers had been hired on a permanent basis. Ten buses had been hired, and ready to be put in service. The board had decided to put up advertisements on the bodies as well as the inside of each bus. Several advertisers had come forward and one was selected. One advertiser had set up 20 bus stops around town and signed a deal to pay 10% of the income to JAT. The land for the depot had been leveled, concreted, and a wall erected all around it, as well dividing it into two. The depot was given an office block as well as a resting area for staff, build using Ready to Assemble components. The Bus Station was given a proper shelter, washrooms, platforms and benches, with a huge signboard proclaiming: CENTRAL BUS STATION.

The Board was ready for the inauguration of bus services.  They had invited the Minister, as well as the Politicians representing the town to the event, although none of them turned up. Four routes were planned:

  1. Central Bus Station to the State Transport Depot
  2. Central Bus Station to the Railway Station
  3. Central Bus Station to the Fire Station
  4. Central Bus Station to the Hockey Stadium

The Board announced that there would be free transport on the day of inauguration. On the suggestion of one of the Board Members, a few thousand Daily Passes, and Monthly Passes were also printed. Each conductor was given a ticket punch, and each bus was fitted with a bell-pull.

With 20 bus stops in place from the Advertiser, the board had allocated funds from their Corpus to set up another 50 bus stops across the city, and leased it out to advertisers, thus earning a lot more. A pay-to-use car park was built across the street from the Bus Station which was made operational that morning. Shops were set up inside the parking and the bus station and rented out to several traders.The Mayor and the Commissioner had thought of everything humanly possible that was left to be done before services commenced.

The inauguration ceremony was simple. The Mayor made a short speech about JAT, and the Commissioner made a quick intro to what the Undertaking’s setup looked like. Once this was done, they unveiled a special collectible Medallion with an engraving of a bus on one side and JAT on the reverse. This was to be sold at a premium rate at the bus depot. 5,000 of them were produced in the first lot. Once done, all four buses left from the Bus Station. The townsfolk happily boarded them and took a joyride. Around a hundred Monthly Passes were sold then and there.

Part – III

Jump Around Town was very successful in the coming years. The number of routes went up from 4 to 56 in a year. All rented buses had been returned as JAT bought itself another 100 buses. The State Transport department stopped running its buses through the town and handed over its routes to JAT. Thanks to the new National Highway, the town began to expand in along the Highway. The National Government agreed to set up Bus Stops along the highway for JAT, while the State Government grudgingly expanded the Municipality’s limits in the newly added areas. Route 56 became the longest route operated by JAT, connecting a Refinery on the Outskirts to the Fire Station via the Central Bus Station. The Mayor and the Commissioner were happy and pleased with their work.

However, the State Government was not too pleased. The Minister, who had approved the Transport Plan, deemed it illegal and unconstitutional when she realised that the State Government would not be able to meddle in its affairs. She had the Commissioner transferred to State Health Department and replaced him with another fellow, one who was loyal to her. This move did not go down well with the townsfolk or the neighbouring villages, which were also now served by JAT.

Elections were around the corner. The Mayor’s party wanted him to stand as a candidate from the Town to the State Legislature. Thanks to its unpopularity, the previous government fell and the Mayor’s party pulled through with a slim majority. The Mayor himself won with an overwhelming majority and was now made the Minister of Transport with his former friend, the Commissioner assisting him as the Commissioner of Transport. They knew that good times were ahead for the state. They had five years to turnaround the fortunes of the ailing State Transport undertaking, and integrate services with the numerous local services. The future was bright. Very bright.

 

The name Jump Around Town [JAT] was inspired by Jump Around Carson [JAC], the Municipal Transport Body in Carson City, Nevada, USA.

While writing this, I felt hungry. To feed myself, I turned to Gurgaon’s best Home Cooked food at Bite Club. If you are in Gurgaon, head to BiteClub.in for some really good, tasty and healthy food. Use my Referral Code SRIK5N9N and earn yourself ₹50 in credit.

If you came here from IndiBlogger, please do promote this post on IndiVine.

 

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee is #madeofgreat

Do you know someone who is #MadeOfGreat? I do, and his name is Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Who doesn’t know Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Arguably India’s most famous Prime Minister, the man is a legend.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001. Image credits EditorMarkJameBenson, released into the Public Domain, available on the Wikimedia Commons

I’m not going to go into his background, for that is irrelevant for us here. I’m only going to focus on one major section of his life. The one section that had a profound effect on the entire nation. Yes, it has everything to do with transport. I’m referring to Atalji’s second and third terms as Prime Minister. It was during this time, that he did three major things relating to transport:

  • The National Highways Development Project
  • The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana
  • Delhi-Lahore Bus

Let me start with these, and explain exactly what they mean to us as Indians.

The National Highways Development Project [NHDP]

The National Highways Development Project, the crowning glory of the first NDA government in India consisted of two main sections at that time:

  • The Golden Quadrilateral
  • The North South East West Corridor
The Golden Quadrilateral
The Dehu Road - Katraj Bypass at Pashan in Pune along the Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore National Highway.
The Dehu Road – Katraj Bypass at Pashan in Pune along the Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore National Highway. Image copyright Amit20081980, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The GQ was envisioned as a set of four lane highways connecting the four metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. It also included India’s first major Expressways; Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Gurgaon, and Ahmedabad-Vadodara. Barring a few stretches such as the Udaipur Bypass and the Hubli-Dharwad bypass, it was mostly four-laned, with a few sections being six laned. The net result? Travel time to between various cities shot down by 50%. Subsequently, the UPA government decided to six lane the GQ, while several state governments initiated similar programs for four laning their State Highways. The impact of the Golden Quadrilateral was felt immediately as sections were completed. Nearly 95% of the project was completed before the NDA government left office, and one must congratulate Major General BC Khanduri, then Minister of Surface Transport with the Government of India and Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Public Works in Maharashtra till 1999 for laying the groundwork for future projects. The bulk of the project was funded through a 1% cess levied on fuel and recovered by collecting Toll. The GQ also saw the construction of India’s first and so far, only National Expressway, the Mahatma Gandhi Expressway, connecting Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat. The only major non-National Highway section on the GQ is the Yeshwantrao Chavan Expressway, built by the MSRDC, connecting Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra.

North-South and East-West Corridors

Another major project initiated under the NHDP by the NDA government, this project aimed to connect Srinagar in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and Silchar in the East with Porbandar in the West. The connected major Indian cities that were not covered by the GQ, such as Hyderabad, Nagpur, Jabalpur, Coimbatore, Cochin, etc. It also laid the basis for the Port Connectivity Projects, Sagar Mala, Bharat Mala, etc by subsequent governments in the centre. Again, it also spurred several state and city funded projects to provide connectivity between National Highways and others towns as well. Two notable projects include the four laning of the  Bangalore-Mysore State Highway connecting Mysore to both the GQ and North South corridor at Bangalore and the six-eight lane Hyderabad Outer Ring Road that connects the two arms of the Sringar-Kanyakumari, Pune-Vijaywada National Highways apart from numerous state highways passing thru Hyderabad.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [PMGSY]
A PMGSY Road marker in Jalandhar.
A PMGSY Road marker in Jalandhar. Image Copyright Gopal Aggarwal of http://gopal1035.blogspot.com. Image available on the Wikimedia Commons under a CC 2.0 Attribution Generic licence.

The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [PMGSY], literally translating to Prime Minister’s Village Roads Project, was initiated by the NDA government in order to provide all weather roads to villages that were hitherto unconnected. In 2010, it was reported that the PMGSY started changing the lifestyles of villagers in the North Eastern Parts of the country. A very noble plan, it has impacted villagers massively, offering them connectivity which has in turn boosted trade and helped villagers deal with others without middlemen as well.

Of course, the subsequent UPA government tried to hijack the project with Jairam Ramesh infamously stating that the Project was Atalji’s “Poem” but it was the subsequent government that gave it the wings. A fine way to steal credit, might I add.

Delhi-Lahore Bus
The Friendship Bus Delhi-Lahore at the Pakistan-India border.
The Friendship Bus Delhi-Lahore at the Pakistan-India border. Image Copyright Lorenz Khazaleh, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0, available on Flickr.

This was the most amazing thing that Atalji’s government did. A bus connecting two neighbouring countries that have been at war for most of their history. Officially known as the Sada-e-Sarhad, it was launched on 19 February 1999 connecting Delhi and Lahore via the Attari-Wagah border. A gesture of friendship between India and Pakistan, it continues on today, 16 years later. It is jointly operated by the Delhi Transport Corporation [DTC] and the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation [PTDC], who run buses on alternate days. It laid the basic framework for the introduction of the Delhi-Kathmandu Bus by the DTC and the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala buses by the Tripura Road Transport Corporation [TRTC], West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation [WBSTC] and Shyamoli Paribahan [SB] a decade later.

In 2015, India was a signatory of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement [BBIN MVA], for seamless movement of road traffic among the four nations. This achievement, combined with the launch of international bus services makes international road travel something every Indian can look forward to.

 

At the end of the day, one can say that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was certainly one of the best Prime Ministers we had. By laying a solid foundation in the transport sector, he effectively ensured that all other sectors benefited and the economy grew and that millions reaped rewards. So next time you take your brand new Tata car out for a drive and cross 100km/hr, remember that it was Vajpayee who made it possible.

This post has been written for a competition organised by Tata Motors because Football legend Lionel Messi has been roped in as their Brand Ambassador. For more details, head to http://madeofgreat.tatamotors.com/. You stand a chance to win a voucher worth ₹750 from Amazon if you are able to answer the following question: “What do you think of Tata Motors’ association with Lionel Messi?” in the comments below. Make sure you aren’t left out! Please post your comments by 25th November 2015.

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World Toilet Day – #WeCantWait in Transit

19th November, World Toilet Day.

Toilets are very important as far as Transit is concerned. One reason, is to maintain cleanliness in public.

Whether you are traveling long distances, or going for a short trip, a toilet is important. Imagine, you have been running errands all day, and need to use the toilet. A blog post on the Wall Street Journal states that India has the worlds longest waiting line for using the toilet. While providing  toilets to people who don’t have one at home is out of the purview of this post, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government and the Narendra Modi Government have done a lot to change the ground reality. Now, the rest of this post deals with sanitation and related issues while traveling.

It is humanly impossible for BEST, or BMTC or any transco to provide toilets on every bus. Toilets on buses have been there for several years now, most notably in KSRTC’s Airavat Bliss and SETC’s Classic series of buses. The former was a Volvo B9R, while the latter was a custom-built non-AC coach on an Ashok Leyland chasis. Both had the same issue however: Foul odour because of people not using the toilet properly, not washing properly, or flushing something that wasn’t meant to be flushed. While it helped in a non-AC bus to have open windows, you can imagine the situation in a closed to air Volvo. If this is the case with long distance buses, one can only imagine the magnitude of how bad things can be if there were toilets in a regular bus running trips inside a city.

Now, it is impossible for BEST to provide toilets at each bus stop as well. The issues are plumbing and water. It would be nearly impossible to get the plumbing to each bus stop. However, here, I’d like to talk about something interesting that the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation did in Coimbatore. They set up stainless-steel booths on top of manholes which connected with the sewage lines and made them urinals. These urinals were interesting, but the main issue was that they were only meant for men. However, the issue would be less complex at BRTS stations. On BRTS systems like the Janmarg or Rainbow, the stations are at the centre of the road. Here, a toilet can be built, with a little less complexity. While I haven’t seen any Janmarg station with a toilet, I know that the Mukai Chowk terminal at Kiwale has toilets.

Railways stations almost always have toilets, though they are mostly in deplorable conditions and not fit for use. Ideally, Indian Railways should hand over the maintenance contracts of toilets to accountable contractors and make them answerable, otherwise we will always have people sitting on railway tracks or taking a leak at the end of the platform. Metro stations, mostly because they are new and relatively modern, usually have better toilets. The Airport Express line on the Delhi Metro has some clean toilets. The rest of the Delhi Metro, especially the Yellow and Red lines, feature Sulabh Shouchalayas. The Bangalore Metro on the other hand decided that it would be toilet-free with the justification that one would not need a toilet with such short trips. Utterly stupid, in my opinion. However, they have now partitioned the employees toilet into two, and made one half a Pay and Use toilet. Better late than never I guess. Mumbai did the right thing by ensuring that all Metro stations have a toilet in the paid area, that was available to users, free of cost. A fine decision I must say, given that Reliance has ensured that it earns maximum revenue possible at each station.

Now, the most important of them all: Bus stations. Bus stations usually have a toilet, especially the long distance ones. It is unfortunate that while most BMTC bus stations, atleast the larger ones feature reasonably clean pay and use toilets, no BEST bus station has one. I personally feel this needs to change immediately and BEST needs to provide loos in bus stations. All KSRTC and MSRTC bus stations have toilets, with the former being superior in terms of hygiene an cleanliness. While one may expect them to have clean toilets, atleast for Shivneri, Airavat or equivalent users, the situation isn’t the same everywhere. Tamil Nadu meanwhile has toilets at all bus stations, these are usually just a wall that can be used as a urinal. They are filthy, with the only clean toilet I’ve seen being the one in the Mettupalayam Road Bus Stand in Coimbatore, and also the most expensive.

But wait, aren’t we forgetting something important here? Yes we are. What about the bus conductors, drivers, railway engineers, et al? While most Metro operators have staff restrooms at terminal stations, the situation may not be the same with buses. Bus drivers and conductors with BMTC, KSRTC, MSRTC use the same rest room facilities as the passengers. While MSRTC normally doesn’t charge for urinals, the other two do, and this is why, I have seen a BMTC Volvo driver and conductor stop the bus near Bannerghatta National Park, go out, take a leak and come back. Similarly, due to lack of clean facilities, you’ll often see drivers of Haryana Roadways buses take a leak on the service lanes in Gurgaon. BEST meanwhile, has restrooms and sleeping areas for its staff at all depots. It has canteens for them at bus stations as well. Among all, the recently rebuilt Kurla Depot is supposed to have really good facilities for staff and being attached to the once dreaded Kurla depot has now become a privilege.

So, like I said last time, littering in public is a sin, but defecating, is a bigger sin. I just hope all transcos take a note of each other and provide proper facilities for both passengers and staff at all depots, stations, major bus stops, etc.

The answer to a lot of these problems lies in the eToilet. What is an eToilet, you ask?

e-Toilets are unmanned toilets which work on a sensor-based technology. The self-cleaning and water conservation mechanism in the toilet makes it unique. 

If India can adopt eToilets on a large scale, it would truly help our nation. All one needs to do is to set it up, and let the system run itself. Investment and operational costs can be recovered thru advertisements around it, or by putting a coin entry system and charging all users ₹1 to use it.

The problem is that very few people are willing to shell out that rupee. Most would prefer to take a leak elsewhere.

It is right now, the age of Digital Technology. Apps drive our world. When we can book a cab, buy groceries and provisions, even find a person to date with an app, it should be easier to find a loo with an app no? It is! Download PeeProvider, an app that helps locate the nearest clean loo!

PeeProvider
PeeProvider

On an unrelated note, today is International Men’s Day, World Toilet Day, and also the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.


World Toilet Day IndiChange Participant


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Buy the ticket, board the Bus

So I took a bus from Gurgaon to Faridabad. Just like the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation [TNSTC], the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation [KSRTC], Haryana Roadways [HR] and the Delhi Transport Corporation [DTC] make the mistake of running JnNURM buses on Inter-city routes. TNSTC-Villupuram runs Volvo B7RLE buses that the Metropolitan Transport Coporation [MTC] of Chennai received under JnNURM on Chennai-Pondicherry routes along East Coast Road and the Grand Southern Trunk Road, while its Kerala counterpart runs them from Cochin to Trivandrum via Allepy or Kollam. Similarly, DTC runs its JnNURM low-floor AC and non-AC buses from various parts of Delhi to Gurgaon. Haryana Roadways, meanwhile runs various AC, non-AC buses from Delhi, Faridabad, Chandigarh and Gurgaon to each other.

Now, my point with this post is not about the use of JnNURM buses on intercity routes, but something totally different.

Now, for some background on this topic, you might want read my earlier post on Conductor-less buses.

MSRTC
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket.
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

MSRTC runs conductor-less buses on multiple routes; Mumbai-Pune, Pune-Ahmednagar-Aurangabad, Pune-Kolhapur, Pune-Sangli among others. The principle here is that there is a booth, wherever the Bus Stops, with a Conductor waiting, who issues you a ticket.

An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket.
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The purpose of this model, as discussed before, is to eliminate the need for a conductor on-board the bus, thus reducing travel time and costs on employing conductors.

Prior to Electronic tickets, ST conductors at these booths would issue punched tickets, and these would be logged under the individual conductors sales, and the numbers would be written on the trip-sheet.

 

Haryana Roadways

Now, for the Haryana Roadways model! If this can be called one that is. The bus I took was a Volvo B7RLE 8400 model, acquired by the Haryana Roadways Corporation – Faridabad Division under JnNURM. It was running on the Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ballabgarh route, as a city bus. Yes, as a city bus. I reached Gurgaon Bus Stand, and saw two identical Volvo buses parked next to each other. One had a Cardboard sign saying Ballabgarh in Hindi and the other had one saying Rohtak, in English. I asked a conductor if either bus would go to Faridabad, and was told that the former would go. I walked upto the Conductor and I was told to go to the Ticket counter in front of the bus. At the counter, I was given a punched ticket for ₹50. A punched ticket [yes HR conductors religiously punch tickets in all services, unlike their DTC counterparts], not a printed one.

A Haryana Roadways punched ticket.
A Haryana Roadways punched ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

I expected the service to be similar to MSRTC. But, I was mistaken.

The bus started, and left with its front door open. The conductor stood there, shouting out Faridabad, Ballabgarh, as we pulled out. The door remained open till we crossed the Sikanderpur Metro Station, after which the conductor came behind. I was seated on the last seat. He asked all of us who had bought tickets at the counter to show him the tickets, after which he pulled out a stack and issued them to those who had just boarded. The real concern here is that these are punched tickets, not printed tickets. If you remember what I had said about MSRTC in the post on Electronic Ticket Machines, this would be tricky to handle. While I bought the ticket at the counter, the conductor was next to the bus. He took his set of tickets from inside his pouch, long after we had left the Bus Stand. Obviously the guy at the counter wouldn’t have handed over his set to this fellow. Won’t logging or tracking ticket sales then be difficult? What, pray, may I ask, was the purpose in making me go and buy the ticket at the counter, when you were going to sell it inside the bus anyway?

This is something that I find fishy. I sincerely believe that the three states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat have figured out the best way to run transport services and that every other State Transport Undertaking should learn from them.

If anyone can answer why this absurdity happens, please do let me know in the comments section below.

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Stop and Go

So, how do Bus Conductors tell the bus driver to start the bus, and stop the bus at a bus stop?

There are various ways. In this article, I’m going to explore the different ways they are done, as well as delve a bit into the operations of buses of two non Indian cities, where a conductor doesn’t ask for a bus to be stopped, but the passenger does.

So let me start with our Desi transcos.

Starting, in no particular order:

BEST, NMMT, PMPML

The BEST Model also applies to NMMT, TMT, MBMT, PMPML, and partly to MSRTC.

A Bell-Pull inside a BEST bus.
A Bell-Pull inside a BEST bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Here, there is a bell next to the driver, with a bell-pull that goes upto the back of the bus. The rope of the bell pull is looped through several hoops, enabling the conductor to pull it from wherever he is standing. He pulls the rope and the bell rings. A single ring signifies stop, and a double ring signifies go. In MSRTC buses, especially at night, a double ring while the bus is in motion is to inform the driver to switch off or switch on the lights. Since BEST AC buses have only a front door functional, the driver knows when to stop or move the bus, while in the case of NMMT and TMT, the rear doors rarely open.

MSRTC

This is very prevalent in the Hirakani [Asiad] buses. It is similar to the bell-pull, but with a twist. Instead of a bell, an electric bell is installed near the Driver. A wire casing runs along the roof of length the bus, with bell switches after every three seats. The conductor presses the switch once for stop, twice for go, and twice in motion for the lights.

BMTC and KSRTC

One of the most interesting methods, no bus of BMTC has ever had a bell pull for the last decade. The conductor here, tells the driver to stop or move. He or she yells, that’s right, yells! The phrases used are Hold for stop and Right for go. Of course, Hold often sounds like Hold It, or Whole Day, and Right sounds like a Britisher saying the word, with stress on the ‘r’ and the ‘ight’ sounding like ‘oit’. This happens in the Vajra as well. Few conductors carry a whistle with them, blow it once for stop and twice for go, but most of them prefer shouting it out.

MTC and TNSTC

Older MTC and TNSTC buses had a bell pull in them, with the same ringing order as BEST. However, newer buses, especially the semi-low floor buses that came with the advent of JnNURM buses didn’t have these. In these buses, the conductor officially carries a whistle, and blows it; once for stop and twice to go.

DTC

DTC is a unique case. The conductor doesn’t tell the driver to stop or go. The driver stops, and looks at the mirror and leaves. However, this does get a bit confusing, given that nobody in Delhi seems to follow the enter from the rear, exit from the front rule. I wonder how the driver manages.

 

And now, for something completely different …

MTA

Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] buses in New York have a system where the passenger tells the driver that he or she wants to disembark at the next stop, since there is no conductor. How I wish, the BMTC was a bit smarter in this regard.

If you are a fan of the 1990s Nickelodeon animated TV show Hey Arnold!, you would notice that in the very first episode, Downtown as Fruits, you’d notice that Gerald refrains from pulling the bell-pull to indicate the stop.

MTA buses used to have a bell-pull along the length of the bus, next to the window, which a passenger could pull to indicate that they wanted to disembark at the next stop. These were subsequently phased out in 1980, with a yellow touch-sensitive tape on the walls that passengers would use instead. Once considered a relic of the bygone era, they made a comeback in 2009. Many a passengers were surprised, especially the old-timers, who were overjoyed on seeing something from their generation return, followed by the youngsters, who had never seen them before.

TfL

Transport for London [TfL], which operates the red London bus, which is what BEST buses were originally modelled on, have a bell-switch on the support poles within a bus. Indian buses, most notably Tata Marcopolo buses also have these, but they are not in use.

Of course, knowing the British, it is not surprising when I heard of a driver who left a note saying BELLS NOT WORKING, If you want Bus to stop, Yell Ding Ding.

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A Smarter BEST for a Smarter Mumbai

This can be taken as a continuation of two earlier posts, BEST Limited and NMMT Limited.

BEST Bus No. 56 at Versova Yari Road Bus Station.
BEST Bus No. 56 at Versova Yari Road Bus Station. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, BEST made an announcement that it would enable users to track a BEST bus live using a phone app.

Public Information System / Intelligent Transport System

Now, I am going to start by introducing BEST’s Public Information System [PIS], also known as Intelligent Transit System [ITS], that I had attempted to explain in my post on Electronic Ticket Systems. As stated earlier, each bus stop in BEST is numbered. This number is used to identify the buses that stop at that particular bus stop and is used to determine the ETA of the buses that are arriving at that stop. This number also ensures that each stop is unique and in the database, so that the conductors can enter it on their ETMs. While, there may be two or more bus stops, adjacent to each other, sharing the same name, each bus stop caters to different buses and has a different Stop Code. However, for a particular bus, only one of those stops matters and thus, there is no confusion for the conductor as well.

In partnership with several firms, including Trimax IT, Verve Compusoft, Overtures Infotech, the BEST PIS is visible at its website http://bestpis.in.

Each bus is fitted with a set of GPS devices that are present above the drivers’ seat. This helps coordinating the location of the bus and transmitting the location to the server.
So, now:
At 9.10am on 8 September 2015, I sent
BEST 07187 as an SMS to 56060.

I promptly got a response with the following:

NEHRU PLANETARIUM STOP : 003AS ETA 09:41,004AS ETA 09:41,033 ETA 09:44,305 ETA 09:48,592AS ETA 11:07,086 ETA 13:01,, Powered by Verve Compusoft Pvt. Ltd.

Here, 07187 is the stop code for the last Bus Stop towards Tardeo at Nehru Planetarium, where AS4 and A74Express stop. The response may be a bit confusing if it is the first time you are reading it, but here is what it means:

Nehru Planetarium is the name of the stop. The Expected Times of Arrival of the following buses are:

  • AS-3 at 9.41am
  • AS-4 at 9.41am
  • 33 at 09.44am
  • 305 at 09.48am
  • AS-592 at 11.07am
  • 86 at 1.01pm.

Of course, do note that this doesn’t mean that the next 86 is going to come after 4 hours, it merely means that the next 86 with  working GPS device is that far. It could also mean the system is faulty, since it was showing an ETA of 3.42am for AS-4 last night.

Now, BEST plans to integrate the existing system with a map that will show the exact position of the bus, live, on the map. While I personally feel this is a great move, BEST should also use this opportunity to ensure that all its buses are taken into consideration.

Stop Information System

This was something that started with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM], now replaced with the Atal Mission for Rejuvination and Urban Transformation [AMRUT]. Under this, all buses were fitted with three exterior LED displays, one at the front of the bus, one on the side and one at the rear to display the route. While cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mysore alternatively scrolled English and Kannada/Tamil on these displays, and Coimbatore showed only Tamil on all displays, BEST decided to have only Marathi on the front display, with English on the other two displays. A fourth LED display was present inside of the bus, behind the drivers area. This panel would display the upcoming stops, accompanied by an announcement. In most cases, they rarely work. They work in most of the older Blue-coloured JnNURM BMTC buses where they display the destination and the next stop. These systems work excellently in the Ahmedabad Janmarg as well as PMPML Rainbow. In BEST, I have experienced this only once, back in 2012, when I was in an AS-505 between Bandra Bus Station and CBD Belapur Bus Station. This system works with GPS too. However, it is nonfunctional on most BEST buses today, and needs to be revived soon.

Bus Identification System

Now this may come as a surprise to many, including my fellow BEST users, because it is not a very well known system. Some people may have seen it in a few buses that are part of Backbay Depot.

OnBoard Bus Identification System for Visually Impaired Passengers on a BEST Bus of the Backbay Depot.
OnBoard Bus Identification System for Visually Impaired Passengers on a BEST Bus of the Backbay Depot. Image copyright Coolguyz.

This device is called OnBoard, and is jointly developed by the Xavier’s Resource Centre for Visually Challenged (XRCVC), in collaboration with Assistech of IIT-Delhi. It was tested first by BEST in two buses in February-April 2015 and then tested out in DTC. From what I gather, the system requires a visually impaired person to activate a switch which then informs them of any approaching bus. The box is fitted on the window frame next to the single seat up front. I believe this has scope to connect to the existing GPS set-up in order to make it automated, so when the bus reaches a stop, it gets triggered on its own. So, imagine if someone is waiting at World Trade Centre, for Bus No. 134. A bus fitted with OnBoard arrives, detects its location, or synchronises itself with the Bus Stop [a slightly expensive, difficult to maintain, but more efficient system] and it announces to the passenger: बस क्रमांक १३४: बॉकबे आगार ते प्रबोधनकार ठाकरे उद्यान शिवडी , followed by Bus Number 134, Backbay Depot to Prabodhankar Thakre Udyan Sewree. This would be great in my opinion.

This would be BESTs second attempt at trying improve accessibility for disabled passengers, with the previous one being the induction of the Ultra-Low-Floor Tata Starbus in 2004 with automatic doors and ramps for wheelchairs.

At the end of the day, BEST has done a good job at trying to do what it is supposed to do: Be a Transport Undertaking that caters to the Passengers, rather than try and rake in money, which is what NMMT , TMT, and mainly the BMTC seem to be doing.  BEST was among the first transcos in India to reserve seats for women, senior citizens, physically-impaired commuters, and charge visually-impaired commuters a flat fare of ₹2 [earlier ₹1].

A smarter BEST, one that is able to cater to its commuters effectively, will most certainly help in making Mumbai a smarter city.

What are your thoughts?

 

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The Underrated Daily Pass

Daily Passes are something that drives every Transco today. It is not only beneficial for the transport body, but also for the commuter. A Daily Pass allows a commuter to travel unlimited for the day it has been issued at a nominal cost. In the long run, it is very useful. Some cities, like Bombay, and Bangalore, have special Daily passes for regular buses and AC buses. Now, there is a lot more to Daily Passes than what is visible on the pass itself.

The biggest headache for a transco is the resale/reuse of passes. To prevent this, several of them implemented select measures. Now, let us have a look at some of these measures.

PMPML

A daily bus pass of the PMPML.
A daily bus pass of the PMPML. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

PMPML has had Daily passes right from the PMT-PCMT era. Even back then, it had mandated a PMT/PCMT issued Identity Card for the Daily Pass. With the subsequent merger of the PMT and PCMT into the PMPML, the PMPML started issuing the ID cards and Daily Passes. The old PMT era Daily Pass is today used as a PMPML Weekly Pass with the start and end dates punched out.

The PMPML Daily Pass, is a Pink or Off-white coloured ticket, with space for the date, month and last three digits of the ID card printed on it. This is valid on all buses including the Rainbow BRTS, Katraj-Swargate-Hadapsar BRT Volvo buses, but are not valid on the AC Pune Darshan and CityAir Airport connectivity buses. The pass is valid on the entire operational region of PMPML, outside the municipal limits of both Municipal Corporations. To prevent its resale, the ID card number is punched out. The pass cannot be used on the same date a year later because the ID card would no longer be valid by then.

MTC and TNSTC

An MTC Daily Pass in Chennai.
An MTC Daily Pass in Chennai. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

MTC and TNSTC have both had Daily passes in large cities including Chennai and Coimbatore for a long time. In Coimbatore, these passes require a local ID proof in order to be purchased and are valid only if the holder shows the ID card  as well. In Chennai, known as the Travel As You Please ticket, they require an MTC ID card for Weekly/Monthly passes which costs ₹5 [according to the website, while I paid ₹20 for it]. The pass costs ₹50 per day and is not valid for night services. There is no Daily/Weekly/Monthly Pass for Volvo buses, which is surprising.

BMTC and KSRTC

A BMTC Gold Day Pass.
A BMTC Gold Day Pass. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

BMTC is undoubtedly the leader when it comes to Daily Passes. It has a wide variety of Daily Passes, something like their wide variety of buses as well. They currently have three major daily passes for people who do not have any other pass. This includes a regular daily pass for non-AC services that comes in two forms: One for those who own a BMTC ID Card, and one that costs ₹5 more for those who don’t have a BMTC pass. Those who purchase the former have to write their ID number on the pass, and all passholders have to sign the pass. The Vajra Gold Day Pass costs twice, and is valid on all buses except the Daily Rounds, and Vayu Vajra buses. A pass that is priced between the two exists for AC-Suvarna/Tata Marcopolo AC buses. ID Cards are of two types: One is the Loyalty Card that costs ₹25 for a year and is valid ONLY with the non AC Daily Pass, while the ₹100 ID Card is mandatory for a Monthly Pass as well. Today, BMTC conductors only sell the Gold Day Pass if the commuter has a valid Government issued ID or BMTC ID. Due to high sale volumes, BMTC changes its pass everyday. Each day of the week has a different, colour-coded pass with the day of the week written in Kannada/English and the serial number of the pass starting with a different series for different days of the week. BMTC also has a Saral and Sarag pass that it issues with the BMRCL. Saral is a Gold Daily Pass that allows unlimited travel on the Namma Metro, while Sarag is the same for non-AC services. All Daily Passes are valid throughout the operational area of BMTC. In 2009, BMTC and KSRTC had jointly released a ₹70 rupee pass that was valid on all non-AC BMTC as well as non-AC KSRTC Karnataka Sarige busees in the nearby districts. The AC pass now costs ₹150 including a 6% Luxury Tax introduced by the Central Government.

KSRTC MCTD's Daily Bus Pass for Volvo buses.
KSRTC MCTD’s Daily Bus Pass for Volvo buses. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

KSRTC in the Mysore City Transport Department has a similar arrangement. It has two passes, one for AC buses that costs ₹96 [with the Service Tax] and one for non AC buses that costs ₹50. The pass is valid throughout the service region of the MCTD and is valid on all MCTD buses. Compared the Bangalore, both the pass rates as well as the fares are low.

TSRTC

TSRTC Travel As You Like [TAYL] Ticket.
TSRTC Travel As You Like [TAYL] Ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation has a Daily Pass System in Hyderabad, referred to as the Travel As You Like [TAYL] Ticket. It is printed using the ETM. It is of two variants, one priced at ₹70 for non-AC, regular, and Metro Express buses and the ₹150 pass which is valid on Sheetal and Metro Deluxe Volvo buses. The pass now costs ₹160 after a 6% Luxury Tax introduced by the Central Government. The conductor asks for the passengers age and mobile number, both of which are printed on the ticket. The passenger is required to write their name as well as sign the pass. The pass is valid in the Twin city regions of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

In June 2016, TSRTC announced that Daily Passes would be valid 24 hours from the time of issue. Later on, they announced that the passes could be purchased upto 7 days in advance.

BEST

A BEST Magic AC Daily Pass issued on Sunday.
A BEST Magic AC Daily Pass issued on Sunday. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The story with BEST is a different one altogether, atleast today. A few years ago, BEST had daily passes similar to the current PMPML passes except there was no ID card. There were two types of Daily Passes, the Regular and Limited Pass for ₹25, which as the name suggests was valid on regular and Limited Routes, and the Corridor Pass at ₹40 which was valid on Express and Corridor services. The pass was punched with the date and gender, and to prevent misuse, the conductor would scribble a description of purchaser on the back. However, later on BEST began insisting on ID proof and asked commuters to write the ID number on the back of the pass. All this changed when BEST went digital in 2011-2012.

Once BEST went digital, they made it mandatory for commuters to have an RFID card for ALL passes. A horizontal ID card was issued for monthly and quarterly passes while a vertical one was issued for prepaid cards. Both can be used for Daily Passes. Till February 2015, BEST charged ₹50 for a non-AC Daily Pass and ₹150 for an AC pass. These passes are also referred to a Magic Daily Pass [AC and non-AC]. After February, BEST increased the rates to ₹70 and ₹200 respectively. All Daily Passes are valid throughout the operational area of BEST including Navi Mumbai, Thane, and Mira-Bhayander.

However, in September 2015, the BEST decided to introduce a new change in the non AC Magic Pass. As per the new system, the BEST now has three kinds of non-AC passes:

  • The regular ₹70 Magic non-AC pass that is valid throughout BESTs operational limits including Navi Mumbai, Mira Bhayander and Thane.
  • The ₹50 Suburban pass that is valid in the Suburban limits, and upto Mahim/Sion/Rani Laxmi Chowk in the South and Dahisar/Mulund Check Naka in the North.
  • The ₹40 City pass that is valid in the Island city region, again upto Mahim/Sion/Rani Laxmi Chowk.

No daily pass on Sundays or Public Holidays requires an ID card. Anyone can buy a pass. Since it isn’t tied to an ID card any longer, it needs to be carefully preserved throughout the day, and the conductor must enter the right gender. Of course, if you give your ID card, it logs it onto your ID card, and automatically detects your gender and the conductor can still validate the card with the ETM.

The Magic AC pass remains the same, however, on Sundays, half the AC buses are cancelled, thus making the Magic AC pass pointless. I personally feel BEST should either charge less for the AC pass on Sundays or go the BMTC way and charge extra for non ID passes on all days. Any pass can be purchased on any bus because they are all digitally printed.

MSRTC

MSRTC has a 4 day, 7 day, Monthly, quarterly and annual pass called the Travel Wherever you Like Pass. They have been in operation since 1988. The current form of the pass is similar to BEST’s Daily Pass system. Users are required to have a Smart Card for it.

For pricing, two seasons have been created:

  • Congested Season: 15 October to 14 June.
  • Non Congested Season: 15 June to 14 October.

Pass rates vary per season. The cost of the passes is mentioned on the MSRTC website.

DTC

A DTC AC Green Card.
A DTC AC Green Card. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

This is probably the first time I’m mentioning DTC on BESTpedia, but being one of the transcos catering to a large city in India, I guess this needs to be mentioned.

The DTC refers to its Daily Pass as a Green Card. The DTC Green Card is neither green, nor is it a card. There are two variants. ₹40 for non-AC and ₹50 for AC. Yes, you read that right. The Delhi AC Daily Pass is cheaper than Bangalore, Pune or Mumbai’s non-AC pass of ₹70! But then, it is hardly surprising, given that Delhi has been spoilt by subsidies solely by being the Capital of India. The Green Card is available with the conductor of the bus and a non-AC bus conductor sells both types. It looks like a regular ticket, and the conductor writes the commuters name and age on it, while marking the date and month. That’s it. No other measure to prevent resale. The downside to this is:

  • Very few AC buses compared to regular ones.
  • Due to it being so cheap, AC buses are as crowded as their non-AC counterparts.
  • Neither pass is valid on the Orange-coloured Cluster services, which form roughly 1/3rd of the buses.
  • This pass is ONLY valid within Delhi borders, and not in the rest of the NCR.

CTU

Daily Bus Pass issued by the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking for the Tricity Region.
Daily Bus Pass issued by the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking for the Tricity Region. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another first on BESTpedia, this is the first time I’m mentioning the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking. The CTU, under the UT administration operates buses throughout the Tricity region comprising of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali.

The CTU has two kinds of Daily Passes: A green coloured one for non-AC services that costs ₹30 and a pink coloured one for AC services, priced at ₹40.

Both passes are valid throughout the Municipal Limits of the Tricity Region comprising of Chandigarh, Mohali, Panchkula, Zirakpur, Saketari, Manasdevi, and Mullanpur. For routes that go beyond the Municipal borders, such as to Landran, the pass is valid only till Sohana, where the Municipal Corporation’s jurisdiction ends.

Similar to the DTC Green Card, only the Passenger’s name is written on the ticket. The date is both written, as well as punched by the conductor. Passes are available aboard a bus, or at the ISBTs.

 

So at the end of the day, we can conclude that BMTC is the undisputed leader of Daily Passes. BEST, lags a bit behind, but is great with technology. PMPML, is with BEST. DTC, on the other hand is a totally different ball game. While people may not realise it, Daily Passes are very crucial, for both the commuter as well as the transco. It is useful for tourists and business people.

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BESTpedia at #BNLF

So last week I was fortunate enough to attend Day 1 of IndiBlogger’s Blog Now, Live Forever [BNLF] event at The Lalit in Bombay. A lot of knowledge was shared, from the speakers, from my blogging bretheren, and various others, and I intend to document what I learned with this blog post.

BNLF was my first ever blogging event, in spite of me having had a blog since 2005. I didn’t want to miss it, and I was super glad to know that I didn’t have an examination on that day.

I bought myself a new shirt, and left the previous evening. The event was to start at 8am on 31st, and I didn’t want to risk taking the 5.15 Shivneri. I took a Hirkani at 2am the previous night, and landed up at Mumbai Central at 6am. I spent some time at a Starbucks prior to that, working on my Blog Post [The Laws of Waiting for Buses], before heading to Swargate Bus Station, where I whiled away my time reading newspapers, and watching some guys shoot a TV show with a Red Pro 5.0 camera. I learnt that MSRTC has a Weekly pass for ₹1600 that allows you travel anywhere in India in a non AC bus. Must use this for future blogging adventures.

Anyway, after spending 4 hours at Swargate Bus Station, I can now certify myself as a true Swargate-Keeda. I reached Bombay at 6am. I got out at Mumbai Central, did some loitering around the ST Depot, went up to the BEST depot, then came back to the Railway Station and took a slow train to Andheri. I wanted to go slowly so that I wouldn’t land up before time.

I landed up at Andheri Station at 7am, and spent the next twenty minutes loitering around Agarkar Chowk. I saw NMMT’s AC-122 and TMT’s AC-125 waiting there. I was appalled to see a sticker on the BEST bus stop saying that AS-422 was cancelled on Sundays. I ranted about it on Twitter, and felt bad, especially because my blog is dedicated to BEST buses, and AS-422 was the first AC bus I took in Bombay after the 2008 renumbering. I waited till the first AS-422 arrived because it struck me that I had no picture of AS-422 in my collection till date. I played around with the focus of my camera for a while, and patiently [tapping my foot impatiently though] waiting for people walking into my frame to walk out. At 7.45, I took the Metro to the Airport Road station and started walking towards The Lalit. I reached the Lalit at 8.10 and guess what? I was early. Like .every. other. single. time.

The event started an hour later. There was a live performance by the IndiBlogger band “Blunder in the Code”, along with Nadisha Thomas.

And now, for the keynote speakers.

Purba Ray

I’ve been following Purba Ray’s writings online for a while now. My favourite writing of hers was a Political one that I had read in 2014 on The Unreal Times. I really enjoyed it for two reasons: Finding NaMo and The Clown Prince. I freelance as a humour/comedy script-writer and Purba Ray has been one of the sources of inspiration for me for the past year and a half. She brought up the age old question that we Bloggers face: What do we do? What do we do, apart from blogging? What do we do, to fill our stomachs? Having faced this question in the past, having to answer to various people, that my blog is indeed my main source of livelihood, I could comprehend. She encouraged us bloggers to keep blogging, something that only a true blogger can actually do, since the rest of the world looks at bloggers as people who do it as a hobby.

Arnab Ray

I’ve come across Arnab Ray earlier, under his Twitter handle although I didn’t know that it was him. A doctorate in Computer Science, Arnab has been blogging since 2004, just a year longer than me. He started out with reviews of Mithunda films [reviewing Gunda long before Kanan Gill and Sahil Shah did], and wrote about everyday stuff. He reminded us to feel free to take potshots at politicians, something you may see me doing in the near future. Arnab, however contradicted Purba by telling us to keep our blogging as far away as possible from our professional lives. So much for making blogging our living, but still.

Kanan Gill

Kanan Gill  spoke about his experiences, his writings and how he became a blogger. He didn’t talk about Video Blogging, but he spoke a lot about getting motivated. He kept a slide titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Monk Who Sold His Ferrari You Can Win – A motivational talk. Then came the slide with just ‘Boobs’ on it, and the slide with his final advice:

Just resolve to be happy

Inculcate positive thoughts

Zoom in to focus and find your

Zest in life

This, was also known as the JIZZ theory.

Christophe Trappe and Jeff Bullas

While these two were separate sessions, I’m going to talk about them together, since they were closely related. Among the important things I learnt was: The Best SEO is unique Content. Use Seductive Headings. Christophe stressed on Authentic Storytelling is Everything under the Sun, Blogposts that are 500-700 words in length are the best, but 1200-1300 word posts get shared more often. Jeff reiterated that  one must make their content clear and genuine, That is the real art of catching traffic.

Anshul Tiwari

Anshul Tiwari, is the founder of YouthKiAwaaz [YKA], a platform that enables people to forth their opinions. His talk was about the importance of public opinions in modern day scenarios. He explained his time with bringing up YKA as a website, to the level it is at today.

Preeti Shenoy
Preeti Shenoy, is an award-winning, bestselling author. She has won numerous awards for her books, and the best part about her? She started out as a blogger too! She explained how she went from a Blogger to an Author, explained why anyone would prefer a publisher rather than self-publishing their works. She explained why Rejections shouldn’t demotivate you from writing. She then proceeded to explain the importance of various points related to writing, such as developing a specific skillset, doing proper research etc.

The key point of hers that I made a note of is: Never get a Writers Block, Keep Writing. Write atleast 500 words a Day.

I’ve resolved to buy all her books and read them all. I stopped reading Indian authors thanks to Chetan Bhagat but Ms. Shenoy has convinced me otherwise.

Bruce Dickinson
The last speaker of the day was Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of the rock band Iron Maiden. Bruce is also an accomplished pilot and fencing champion. He’s a brilliant guy, he still uses a Nokia 3310, albeit taped up. He spoke about many things, mostly about how to keep the consumers of your product loyal. He spoke about how Iron Maiden made use of Airline schedules to brand their own plane and how he managed to continue using it for branding even after their tour was done. He spoke about Trooper Beer that he had developed to promote the bands album. He mentioned his aircraft repair workshop in detail. He spent the greater part of the speech defining a Customer and a Fan and why a Fan is more important that the Customer: The customer may leave, a fan won’t. He then proceeded to explain his concept of 0+0=1, or ‘Take Something, Add Value to it’. Again, for someone who take Blogging very seriously, this is a super important concept. Value-addition drives the Service sector forward and now I think and ask myself: What value am I adding to the Blogosphere with BESTpedia? What value am I adding to the IndiBlogger network by blogging about Buses? His analogy of the Creative Mosquito; an Idea is like a Mosquito, always around but hard to see, made perfect sense to me. My drafts can attest to that.

Key takeaways from the day

  • Keep headlines simple and short
  • Keep content simple and get loyal readership
  • Evergreen content can be shared multiple times
  • Create content for skimming and scanning
  • Think like a publisher

All this done, I was unable to attend the Backstage party as I had to leave and head back to Pune. I collected my IndiBlogger BNLF tee, a bright red one, which adds to my collection of primary colours, for I have a Yellow one. A green one would make me a walking Traffic Signal, so, I’m on the lookout for the perfect Green tee. I took the metro, reached Maitri park, where as I stated in a comment on my article ‘The Laws of Waiting for Buses’ [which I was working on the previous night and finished between Purba Ray and Arnab Ray’s talks], missed my MSRTC and took an NWKRTC Airavat. Of course, I did not know that NWKRTC was infinitely slower than KSRTC. I reached Aamchi Pune at midnight, [Chembur at 8pm, Hinjewadi at 12am, yes], cried, and headed back to my campus.

BNLF Day 1 was a brilliant experience. The exchange of knowledge was what really mattered. I got to speak to Christophe Trappe and Purba Ray and they gave me some brilliant ideas, the former on Marketing and Branding, the latter on writing Humour. The only two things that put me off were BEST cancelling AS-422 on Sundays and NWKRTC leaving Borivali at 5.30 pm and reaching Swargate at 12am.

I am now a Blogging Genius, hehe, imparting my awesome Gyaan on campus to other people, and having them bow down to me [of course not, if it were true, I’d be arrested for Slavery].

For those interested, I’m a Script and Screenplay writer in my normal life apart from being a Marketing and Media fellow. I freelance a lot and you know can ping me on bestpedia[at]gmail[dot]com if you ever wish to hire me.

A special thanks to the IndiBlogger team for their awesomeness. Thanks Renie, Vineeth, Anoop, and the rest of the IndiCrew. You guys made my day. Thanks to all the other bloggers who were there, we wouldn’t be anything without each other. You guys made it possible. Thanks all. Keep blogging, stay amazing. Blog Now, Live Forever!

Adios, folks! Till my next post, which will be in a day or two, go travel in a bus, smile at a conductor, be polite, collect tickets, and live the life of the Daily Bus Commuter.

P.S: Thank you guys, sponsors and all. I got to ride a Segway that day.

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Hang Me, Oh Hang Me!

In a new adventurous twist, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation [NMMC], along with the City and Industrial Development Corporation [CIDCO], has proposed a brilliant way to travel from Vashi to Kopar Khairane! Well, what is it you ask? Surprise, surprise, it…. is … a ROPEWAY!

A Ropeway, aka Aerial Tramway, aka Cable Car, is a form of elevated transport where a box is suspended under a cable and moves from end to end. Several exist across India, most notably in hilly areas such as the ones in Darjeeling, Gangtok, Palani, and Raigad Fort.

So, according to MiD-Day, Tata Reality has done a survey on a 5km stretch and pitched the idea to NMMC and CIDCO.

Tata Reality and Infrastructure Limited, TRIL, has also bagged a ₹150crore project to build a 2km Ropeway in the Dharamsala-McLeodganj section.

As many as six stations are being considered on the Stretch from Sector-17 in Vashi to Teen Take Chowk in Kopar Khairane. Currently, the fastest way to traverse this section is by road, and most commuters use autos, share autos and NMMT [AC 121, 123, 125 and others] or BEST [AS 524 and AS 592 and the regulars] buses.

The plan is to set it up initially on this short stretch, connecting Vashi Bus Station and Kopar Khairane Bus Station and then extend it further to different areas as and when required.

Let us now take a quick look at Navi Mumbai, it’s existing Transport system, and try to fit this in.

Navi Mumbai has two railway lines, the Harbour and the Trans-Harbour lines:

  • The Harbour Line connects Panvel to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on the Central Line and Andheri on the Western Line via CBD Belapur, Nerul, Vashi and Chembur.
  • The Trans-Harbour Line connects Turbhe to Thane via Airoli, Rabale, Ghansoli, and Kopar Khairane. The Trans harbour line splits into two south of Turbhe and one joins the Harbour line towards Vashi and CBD Belapur respectively.

There is one Metro Line under construction, connecting CBD Belapur and Taloja via Kharghar and the Central Jail. Apart from this, there is a melee of BEST, NMMT, TMT, KDMT, and KMT buses flowing all over. BEST operates C-52 from Wadala Depot to Kalamboli, while NMMT operates 103 from Dadar to Panvel.

With so many modes of transport criss-crossing Navi Mumbai, one would assume that traveling there would be easy. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Navi Mumbai is vastly spread out. The two most important nodes, Vashi and CBD Belapur are separated by 10km. The former is an important commercial centre, while the latter is important in terms of governance.

The two main lifelines of Navi Mumbai; the Harbour Line and the Sion-Panvel Highway are not enough. The former has only slow rail services and the latter caters mostly to vehicles going from Mumbai to Pune.

Thus, it would be a wise move to welcome the Ropeway. It would be less land-intensive, would provide some good respite to the traffic in the area and would also afford a good view. Having six stations en route, again, a brilliant idea. NMMC and CIDCO can consider multiple routes. In Northern Navi Mumbai, it would help relieve the burden on the Trans-Harbour Line and the Thane-Belapur Road. The sections along the Western side are booming residential areas, while those on the East, like Mahape, Millenium Business Park, Reliance Knowledge Park, are booming business corridors. This would make the Ropeway immensely beneficial to these areas.

A second ropeway can be considered in Southern Navi Mumbai, connecting CBD Belapur with Nerul and Kharghar. The geographical terrain here is very much favourable for a ropeway as it is hilly. This would connect the Jetty at Nerul, the Hoverport at Belapur and the residential colonies at Kharghar. This would also act as a feeder for the Metro.

Right now, if the existing plan to build the Vashi-Kopar Khairane line is complete, it would act like the Mumbai Monorail; an independent mass transit line on one corner of the city, whose purpose would be limited because it isn’t connected well to other parts of the city and other transit systems.

NMMC and CIDCO should ponder upon this.

Note: I posted an update to this post later in the month. Click here to view it.

Navi Mumbai is getting a Ropeway! Click To Tweet

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