Transit Review: Hello There

Dear Reader,

Thank you for subscribing to Transit Review. It makes me feel happy that you have trusted some of your valuable time on a weekend to read about transport.

While I was hoping to launch the newsletter this week, several unscheduled and unforeseen events prevented this from happening. However, rest assured, things will be on track, and next week, we hope to see things rolling out.
A special thanks to the x number of subscribers (0<x<50; solve for x). Your support is is the sole reason this newsletter even exists.

In This Week’s News:

Heavy rains continued to have absolutely no impact on transport in the city of Bangalore, as always. The city’s transport system only struggles during periods of incessant drizzle.

Elon Musk commended India’s ‘We will go fully electric in transit by 2030’ plan. Of course, whether we will succeed in it and whether we will have that much electricity by 2030 and more importantly whether it will be green or not…. Never mind.

Nagpur has launched India’s first ever ‘electric mass transit’ project. Someone tell Maharashtra that mass transit is not mass transit without buses.

That’s all from this end folks. Till next week. Adios.
Please send all comments, feedback, angry mails, by hitting reply.
If you want to write or would like to commercially exploit this newsletter, feel free to drop a line by hitting reply.

Thanks, and regards,
​Srikanth

Transit Review from BESTpedia (Volume 1)

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Newsletter: Transit Review

Yo folks,

Some of you may be happy, some may be not-so-happy about the fact that this blog does not have email newsletters. To be honest, email newsletters telling people what has been published may or may not work. However, what does work, is a newsletter, one that has some good content.

Presenting, Transit Review. (No, unlike the earlier post about a new magazine titled Transit, this ain’t no joke)

A weekly newsletter, (currently planned for the weekend) Transit Review is basically a a quick write-up of what’s going around in the commuting scene, giving what I hope can be considered a fresh new perspective of transport and commuting. After all, you need to get to work right?

I promise not to spam you, but merely make you read a small write-up (not more than 1,200 words I promise).

So if you think you’re game to be made a Transport Zombie like me:

Go ahead; sign up. Be nice, share this page as well.

Note: If you came from Facebook Instant Articles, you probably won’t be seeing the sign-up form below this. In that case, please visit the following link to sign up:

http://tinyletter.com/TransitReview

powered by TinyLetter

 

Transit Review is proudly powered by a combination of TinyLetter by MailChimp and WordPress. (Not to forget the various buses I take).

Note: Please add the following email address to your contacts to prevent the mail from landing up in your spam or promotions inbox.

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Local Economies, Explained

Alright, I know this isn’t really bus-related, but it is transport economics related. So here goes.

Men selling goods at a traffic signal in Mumbai
Men selling goods at a traffic signal in Mumbai. Image copyright Vikramdeep Sidhu, CC-Attribution 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Ever head of the local economy or the local ecosystem? Or its variants: The Traffic Signal Ecosystem or the College Ecosystem?

Any establishment that witnesses footfalls develops an informal ecosystem around it. The traffic signal ecosystem is among the best visible examples. At a traffic signal, it is not uncommon to find people selling toys, books, newspapers, flowers. The same is often visible at railway level crossings. Similarly, the temple ecosystem sees people selling flowers, camphor, fruits and other offerings outside a temple. A college ecosystem sees numerous housing units (hostels), eateries, stationery shops, tea shops, juice stalls, chaat vendors, etc. in the vicinity of a college.

If one were to take a stroll outside Andheri station in Mumbai, they would see umpteen outlets ranging from book stores, newspaper vendors, tea stalls, juice vendors, eateries, vegetable vendors, shoe stalls (cobblers), people selling stationery, clothing, jewellery and more. This is more or less the same across all major railway stations from Mumbai Central to Ahmedabad Junction to New Delhi. It is common sense that any major project will develop an ecosystem of this sort around it. A popular joke says that when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he was greeted by a Marwadi tea vendor. Point proven.

Whenever any government announces a major development project (mostly infrastructure), it is invariably met with a lot of scepticism and criticism. While scepticism stems from corruption within the system, delays in execution and the fact that some money is siphoned off within the political and bureaucratic ecosystem, criticism is more often than not based on unfounded claims.

To give a context to this discussion; I am referring to an article carried by Swarajya in January this year about the economic benefits of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (HSR) corridor, also known as the Bullet Train. While the direct benefits of the project to the economy of the belt has been discussed earlier, there are a few things that need to be addressed. As with any announcement related to a major infrastructure project, it met with a fair amount of scepticism, and predictably a lot more criticism, for various reasons. Among the various phrases thrown out describing the project, were “White Elephant”, “Showpiece”, “Waste of Money”, and “Hypocrisy” (due to the two cities being connected). Let us address these issues, keeping just the ‘Bullet Train’ in mind.

The Formal Impact

The formal impact refers to the people formally associated with the project once operational. Metro projects employ hundreds of staffers. Metro projects employ engineers, maintenance workers, public relations spokespersons, security staff, ticketing and administrative staff, locomotive pilots, etc. Given the magnitude of the project, plus the level of automation involved, the number of people formally employed will be huge. The engineers form a bulk of any mass transit project, and have a round-the-clock duty to ensure that services run uninterrupted.

Why can’t the money be used elsewhere?

On one hand we demand better services from the government, and on the other hand, we criticise it when it decides to spend money on a project that will benefit thousands.

These big ticket projects will definitely go forward in getting more people employed, be it in the formal or the informal sector.

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Stuck In Traffic? Here’s Elon Musk’s Boring Way To Move Vehicles

Boring? Why not!

Nobody likes being stuck in traffic, especially in large cities. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX too, got stuck in a traffic jam. The net result? He started The Boring Company.
What is this Boring business all about?
Unlike other players in the transport sector, such as Uber who are looking to develop aviation-based transport solutions within cities, Musk’s approach is somewhat lower than expected.
The Boring Company, also known as Tunnels R Us and To Be Continued, is a tunneling firm formed in 2016 after Musk tweeted out that traffic was driving him nuts and that he would build tunnels to escape traffic.

Tunnels under a city, that’s it?
Not quite. TBC has a more comprehensive plan in store. It’s a vast network that involves a lot of tunneling, construction and automation.
TBC’s plan is simple:
One, start tunneling under the city. Build a network of tunnels along with access points.
Two, build a network of guided pathways under the ground, that operate using these tunnels. There are select entry-exit points where the tunnels can be entered from above the ground.
Three, a system of automated ‘carts’ will allow vehicles to drive onto them, take them underground and enter the network.
Sounds familiar? Indeed, the last time Musk was stuck in a traffic jam, in 2013, he came up with the design of the Hyperloop, a futuristic high-speed transport system which he then explicitly open-sourced, allowing anyone to work on a prototype. The system is being designed for speeds of up to 200km/hr, and knowing Musk, will in all probability work on the principle of Magnetic Levitation, which is also the backbone of the Hyperloop.
The system is still in its initial stages however. TBC is currently building a tunnel that is 30 feet wide, 50 feet wide and 15 feet deep under SpaceX’s corporate headquarters in Los Angeles as it would require no additional permits. In February, a photo of the tunneling was posted on Twitter.

Why a tunnel based system?
Musk has stated in the past that the existing system of transport is largely two-dimensional, and that the tunnel system would be able to set up a three dimensional transport network. He said that without tunnels, everyone would be stuck in traffic forever, adding that it would be the ‘key’ to solving the urban gridlock. He also said that tunnels going 20 or 30 layers deep would be suitable for any city, no matter how big it was.
Musk has stated in the past that the existing system of transport is largely two-dimensional, and that the tunnel system would be able to set up a three dimensional transport network. He said that without tunnels, everyone would be stuck in traffic forever, adding that it would be the ‘key’ to solving the urban gridlock. He also said that tunnels going 20 or 30 layers deep would be suitable for any city, no matter how big it was.
Going up versus going down
At the same time, Uber has been advocating an aviation-based on-demand transport system. While an aviation-based transit system within a city may seem more feasible than a tunnel-based one, getting a working aircraft that can fly short distances with multiple stops is equally far into the future. At the same time, aviation is highly fuel-intensive, a constraint that terrestrial, ground-based transit systems can overcome.
At the end of the the day, Musk’s boring plan is similar to an underground metro rail system, except that it carries cars instead of people. It is like a cross between a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system and a Mass Rapid Transit System (MRT).
It is still unclear whether the system will work on magnetic levitation or not, but given that the proposed speeds are in the range of 200km/hr, one would assume that it would have to be maglev-based.
Too futuristic?
The system is certainly too futuristic a design. Musk’s last idea, the Hyperloop is still years away from commercial operations, and this too is of a similar nature.
There are lot of problems that need to be solved before it can be practically viable. Current tunnel systems under the ground are usually limited to a few levels deep. Having 30 levels is a huge challenge. Further, such a vast network of tunnels has never been done before. The most crucial requirement- ventilation underground at such depths need to be looked at.
However, what makes it more practical than Uber’s plan is the very fact that it is a grounded system, similar to road and railway networks. A system that is grounded is more efficient in the long term as well as safer in the event something goes awry.

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BEST Tries Out New Colours; Asks For Feedback

Mumbai: BEST has repainted a few of its buses with a new colour scheme and has asked for feedback on them.

 

 

The Press Note is mentioned below:

As

Press Note on New Colours
Press Note on New Colours

As per the Press Note, the newly colour buses will run from 27 April to 30 April on Route 111 between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Gateway of India. Feedback on the new livery can be sent to probestundertaking@gmail.com

Now, for the new livery itself. BEST has replaced its trademark red colour with a white livery and yellow stripes.

Non AC BEST bus with new livery
Non AC BEST bus with new livery

Along with this, the BEST logo on the side has also changed marginally.

They seem to have repainted some of the Purple Faeries as well, in spite of them being pulled out of service.

Howver

AC BEST bus with new livery
AC BEST bus with new livery

However, the new livery looks grand on the Cerita bus.

Let’s see what happens. Don’t forget to send your feedback.

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BEST Suspends All A/C Routes

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. Not even close to one.
BEST has announced that beginning 17 April 2017, operations of all AC buses will be suspended. This information was announced via a Press Note dated 13 April 2017.

BEST Press Note suspending AC services
BEST Press Note suspending AC services

This is a really sad thing. Mumbai is a huge city with a large number of vehicles. Cancelling AC buses would mean people will opt for cars/bikes/taxis.

BEST was among the first to introduce AC buses, way back in 1998. Things began going downhill when in 2007, then General Manager Uttam Khobragade (named in the Adarsh Scam along with his daughter Devyani Khobragade of the US Underpaid Maid infamy) procured Cerita buses by fakely claiming that they were Chinese Kinglong buses.

This is really a sad day for Mumbai. BEST had done all that it could in the last few months, from slashing fares, to introducing Happy Hours, to reintroducing cancelled AC bus routes. This is indeed a bad moment for us.

Featured Image: AS-524. (Photo Credit: Sameer More)

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Vehicle Manufacturers To Launch Deradicalisation Program

Vehicle manufacturers across the world have come together to launch a ‘dereadicalisation program’ to prevent trucks from ramming into people.

Given the alarming rate at which occurrences of trucks ramming into crowds have been happening off late, major manufacturers across the globe have come together to form the Association For Super-prevention Of Self-radicalised-trucks (AFSOS). AFSOS will have units across the world, to cater to local markets areas in order to prevent such incidents in future.

The Indian branch, AFSOS India (AFSOS-I), comprising of members from Indian auto majors such as Volvo, Scania, BharatBenz, Ashok Leyland, Tata, Eicher and Mahindra is launching a five-step program towards countering such problems in the future. Named the Deradicalisation in Indian Road Trucks (DIRT), the program aims to do the following:

  1. Train the trucks to not ram into living objects. Life is life. Live and let live. Do not ram yourself into living objects.
  2.  Train the trucks in non-discriminatory practices. Do not discriminate people on the road as holiday-revellers or people who are in-sync with your beliefs.
  3. Train the trucks to serve their purpose. A truck is mainly used to carry goods. Do that. Don’t go ramming into people. Who’ll carry the good then?
  4. Train the trucks to meditate, or even do yoga. Given that we have finally come to terms that meditation is calming (something Yogis have been saying for years),  let the trucks do Yoga.
  5. Train the trucks to love one another. Love is paramount. Love is peace.

AFSOS-I has decided to refrain from asking Liberal voices to pipe down. They have decided to speak up, after AFSOS-US blamed immigrant trucks as the problem. AFSOS-I has decided to promote ‘Multivehicleism’ to fight ‘Racist Vehiclephobia’, after following a poll by noted Editor and Commentator of ABP News, Kanchan Gupta.

 

P.S: Find this insensitive? Think this is a mad post in a case of terrorism and people losing lives? Let’s not blame trucks or guns then; they’re just tools. As they said in the olden days, Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People. Trucks don’t kill people, people kill people.

P.P.S: Afsos is a Hindi/Urdu term for Regret or Tragic, mostly the former.

 

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Announcing A New Magazine: Transit!

Hi Folks, it is with great pleasure that we announce a new magazine: Transit!

Transit! will be a web-magazine (using the best Content Management System available – WordPress). It will be based on a Subscription model, however, BESTpedia readers and fellow bus or transport bloggers are entitled to a free subscription for one year using the code BEST100.

Our editor-in-chief will be Ravi Marathe, a retired bus conductor from Maharashtra while our columnists will include several famed transit bloggers from India. We have also invited a few from outside the country to join us.

Unlike other so called transit magazines, we will exclusively focus on transit from the transit point of view. No fake articles talking about luxurious trips only to show you land up at some exotic beach in a foreign country, because for us, luxury is when we get into a bus that doesn’t bounce, although a bouncy bus sometimes becomes a luxury.

A tentative, and badly designed logo was prepared by our inexperienced graphics team last night, and we hope a better one will come out soon.

Transit!
Transit!

We hope you are as excited about this as we are. Till then….

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PS: Skeptical about this new magazine? Well you should be because this report was a part of our April Fool prank. The Transit world has few takers for its own magazine. Unfortunate, but true.

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The Leftist Transport Conundrum

Now, I have tried my level best to be as apolitical as possible, but I have had zero success, because transport, especially buses is that one sector that is abused by all types of politics for personal benefits and what not.

Bus transport has been used for vote-bank politics (Delhi, Blueline buses under the AAP government), propaganda (Telangana, Tamil Nadu under all governments), and is therefore caught in a heavy onslaught.

Below is a standard template of the leftist views on transport, which I had originally posted on Medium.

Leftists: No more cars on the roads, force people in to public transport.

Government: We are building a metro, sanctioning …

Leftists: NO! That is too much. We don’t need any metro or bullet train. You will chop down trees. Get more buses.

Government: We are procuring 250 diesel buses.

Leftists: Hawww. Diesel, you are polluting the environment!

Government: We are laying a CNG pipeline.

Leftists: You will give everyone access to cheaper fuel, people will take out their cars now!

Government: We we procure electric buses at ₹2.7 crore each!

Leftists: What a exorbitant waste of money! It can be better used to educate some poor children with help from a foreign-funded missionary NGO!

Now this is not a typical rant. It is exactly what happens in the real world.

For starters, the Namma Metro project in Bengaluru was to displace 1,000 odd trees between Byapanahalli. The image created by leftists: The BMRCL is ‘lying’ and ‘misleading’ the public. When MMRCL decided to build its depot in the fringes of the Aarey Forest, they went to the extent of saying it’s akin to ‘Cutting down trees for a project nobody will ever use’. Some of these NGOs, namely Vanashakti (or something similar) and Save Aarey went to the level of harassing Metro supporters like TheMetroRailGuy, who runs a brilliant website that tracks the progress of Metro Rail projects in the country. The level of abuse and unparliamentary language hurled at TMRG and several of us on Twitter was standard of the left: Abuse, scamper, and then play the victim card.

The simplest explanation of the left in terms of forcing people to get into public transport and blaming Diesel vehicles have been posted before:
Tax the car and free the bus; Delhi’s Odd-Even plan.

 Now, while it is known that the left openly shouts against cars, taxi services (including ride-sharing), and demands better transport, they have two agendas: 1. No private participation, the government does it. 2. The government just does it, no scope for innovation. The left also supports unionisation, which as I have written about on The Quint, is a bad idea.

The right, too supports, public transport, particularly buses, for it is simple: Buses can accommodate more people and reduce congestion. As Swarajya‘s R Jagannathan explained, The Future of Public Transport is the Bus, as simple as that. I agree. Metro and BRTS projects are long-term solutions. Buses are short, medium and long term solutions. They’re a flexible mode of transport, can be implemented anywhere and everywhere. Long distance route? Get a Double Decker or a Vestibule Bus. Narrow streets? Get a mini-bus. Affluent people on the route? Run an AC bus. The bus ecosystem is extremely flexible. New and upcoming locality? Extend a route. Run a new route. It’s not complicated at all.

The left doesn’t support this theory. They want buses. Cheap buses. Buses that may or may not even serve a purpose. Buses that just exist. For the sake of existing. They are in most cases, against luxury services, premium services, air-conditioned buses as well. Regular dabbas with cheap fares. They believe that bus services must run at a loss. They want complete nationalisation of all routes, something that I have explained earlier (on Swarajya) is a fatal move because the government cannot handle the load.

The Right on the other hand is far more practical. Although I am a quasi-libertarian, I do support some form of regulation. Extreme regulation, as well as extreme deregulation, both will create problems.

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport

A quote by Enrique Peñalosa, the former Mayor of the city of Bogotá, Colombia, this quote is again, slightly leftist. Of course, ignoring that fact that Peñalosa allegedly fabricated his PhD and Masters in Public Administration, this quote is wrong on several levels.

For starters, a developed nation is not where someone, no matter how poor or rich would have to use public transport. A developed nation, in an ideal, libertarian scenario would be one where anyone, again, no matter how rich or poor, would have the choice to use whatever form of transport they wished to use, be it buses, cabs, cars, trains, or even walk wherever they want to. However, the quote would hold true in terms of infrastructure, if one were to consider that a developed nation is where the infrastructure is good enough for a rich person to consider taking public transport. Going by this logic, I would safely ascertain that Mumbai is the most developed part of India, since even rich (or atleast well off) business-class people, take either a train (First Class of course) or a bus (Purple Faeries, ahem) to work.

Anyway, getting back to the left. The left does not want progress. All it wants is stagnation and forced coercion of people to use whatever form of transport is thrown at them.

Transport affects everyone equally, for everybody needs to get to someplace or the other, on a daily basis. Forcing such a crucial sector to stagnate, is the worst sin on society imaginable. If it weren’t for transport, every sector would come Crashing like a Canary (I invented this quote, don’t ask what it means).

To end a long story short, I quote myself.

Transport is nobody’s charity, and everybody’s business.

-Srikanth Ramakrishnan, 3 March 2017

Do let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section.

The left should ideally refrain from talking about transport. Click To Tweet

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A Dangerous Bus?

Most people say buses are dangerous and hence people won’t take them. However, there is a contrary view to it. Some economists are of the opinion that a more dangerous bus would mean more passengers. Do they board for the thrill of it?

Let’s ask Alex Tabarrok shall we?

 

Let’s Make Buses More Dangerous so People Will Ride Them

Jeff Kaufman writes:

Buses are much safer than cars, by about a factor of 67, but they’re not very popular. If you look at situations where people who can afford private transit take mass transit instead, speed is the main factor (ex: airplanes, subways).

So we should look at ways to make buses faster so more people will ride them, even if this means making them somewhat more dangerous.

Here are some ideas, roughly in order from “we should definitely do this” to “this is crazy, but it would probably still reduce deaths overall when you take into account that more people would ride the bus”:

  • Don’t require buses to stop and open their doors at railroad crossings.
  • Allow the driver to start while someone is still at the front paying.
  • Allow buses to drive 25mph on the shoulder of the highway in traffic jams where the main lanes are averaging below 10mph.
  • Higher speed limits for buses. Lets say 15mph over.
  • Leave (city) bus doors open, allow people to get on and off any time at their own risk.

Excellent recognition of tradeoffs. Pharmaceuticals should also be more dangerous.

Hat tip: Slate Star CodexCross-posted from Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok


Alex Tabarrok

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen. 

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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