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:
- Central Bus Station to the State Transport Depot
- Central Bus Station to the Railway Station
- Central Bus Station to the Fire Station
- 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.
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