Travis takes the Bus

The Uber guy took a bus. Yes, that’s right.

Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Uber, the ride-sharing app was in India recently, where he was present as an invitee to the Launch program of the Government of India’s Start-Up India program.

Post this event in Delhi, he made his way to Mumbai for an event at IIT-Bombay where he spoke about Entrepreneurship and Jugaad with Ronnie Screwvala, Founder and Former CEO of the UTV Group.

This is what Travis had to say, after he took a ride in a BEST bus.

Travis runs a company that is valued at $20billion. Never mind the fact that Uber has been banned in several countries, and several parts of India as well, for various reasons, from Regulatory issues, to Safety, to flouting Online Transaction Norms to apparent Monopolisation of the market.

All said and done, Uber has a significant presence in India. It has done better than its desi competition Ola Cabs, which has launched services such as Ola Cafe, Ola Market, etc to keep up with the competition. Uber has also eaten into a significant chunk of not only BESTs revenue, but the revenue of many Transcos across the globe.

When the CEO of a ridesharing company takes a bus, and talks of Jugaad, it means something. The impact of this, is reasonably significant.

I’m going to take this as a reminder that BMTC is getting a new Intelligent Transport System, which, from what is visible is a Trimax Project.

The new BMTC ITS will soon provide live data of buses on an app, similar to what BEST had proposed and what even NMMT had mentioned.

Travis came to India to talk at the launch Startup India. The need of the hour is for an Indian StartUp to set up a proper Research and Development firm in India with partnership or support of international players so that we can have a set of Intelligent Transit Systems in India which will br better suited for Indian projects, since each Transco [road, rail and water] in India has a different story.

We hope that Startup India results in something as bright as this post itself. Indian startups have the potential to do wonders in the field of transport. Trimax revolutionised the Ticketing scene across India, and went one step further in the field of Temple Management as well. The next few years are crucial as companies like Uber and Ola have been eating up into revenues of various Transcos and some of them, like BEST, PMPML, and BMTC are doing their bit to innovate to bring back the passengers and thus, give us more options on the road.

Remember, Travis took BEST, so let’s make BEST great again!

You can take an NMMT or a TMT, but if you’re within MCGM territory, go ahead, take a BEST. Bring out the BEST within you.

You could also book thru Hawala Travels.

When @travisK took a BEST bus! Click To Tweet

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Building a Smart Bus Stop

What is a Smart Bus Stop?

You could say that a bus stop is, well, just a bus stop. Or is it?

Transport for London recently debuted a new Bus Stop display at Waterloo Bride in London. Now, this bus stop displays arrivals and departures. A regular timetable you could say.

Waterloo Bridge - South Bank bus stop P where Transport for London (TfL) are trialling e-ink displays showing bus route information and live arrival information.
Waterloo Bridge – South Bank bus stop P where Transport for London (TfL) are trialling e-ink displays showing bus route information and live arrival information. Image copyright Chris McKenna, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

My first experience with similar installations in India was in Bangalore at the Shanthinagar TTMC. There was a LED display with a wireless reception unit. It displayed the arrivals of Vayu Vajra buses towards the Airport in Kannada and English. This was followed by one in Mumbai along the Western Express Highway which displayed the ETAs of all buses in Marathi, and was pretty accurate. This was pretty much explained, in a previous post. In our transport-obsessed group, we have several discussions relating to buses and bus stops. During one of our conversations, we discussed a similar set-up at several bus stops along Mettupalayam Road in Coimbatore by the Corporation of Coimbatore for TNSTC buses.

A bus stop with a scrolling LED display in Coimbatore.
A bus stop with a scrolling LED display in Coimbatore. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

This display, in Tamil shows the time, on the left, 05:37, which from the image metadata, I can gather is 05.37 in the evening, and the temperature 24°C. In between the two is the bus stop name: Vadakovai. The second line, which is scrolling, currently displays “Do not smoke here”. I’ve been told that it showed ETAs when it picked up an ETA. How this happened, however is a mystery. These displays appeared in 2012 and mysteriously vanished a year later.

Now, let us go deeper, and try and come up with an ideal ‘Smart Bus Stop’ shall we?

ACCESSIBILITY

An accessible bus stop in Paris.
An accessible bus stop in Paris. Image copyright jean-louis Zimmermann, CC 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The most crucial aspect of a bus stop is accessibility. Even if the bus stop is just a unipole like the BEST bus stops in Mumbai, the area around the bus stop must be marked, tiled, and leveled for people who are differently-abled. Ramps must be provided for both wheelchair-bound passengers as well as those with motor disabilities.

LEVEL BOARDING

An example Level Boarding.
An example Level Boarding. Image copyright ByteOfKnowledge, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Level boarding refers to the level of the floor of the bus being at the same level as the platform, similar to Metro Rail and BRT systems.

The advantages of level boarding is simple: It allows people to board and disembark faster, therefore reducing crowds at the exits. In the case of a BRTS bus, the platform can be raised as the doors are on the right-hand side and thus there are no steps. However, to achieve this on regular buses and bus stops, which are normally at a foot’s height from the road level, a low-floor bus would be required.

DYNAMIC INFORMATION DISPLAY

A Bus Stop with a Display Unit at Christchurch.
A Bus Stop with a Display Unit at Christchurch. Image copyright Chris Downer, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Generic, available on Geograph/Wikimedia Commons.

All bus stops need to be able to display details of buses, their arrival, route, in a dynamic manner. Digital signage similar to what Transport for London or the Corporation of Coimbatore did. When this is possible for trains, why not buses? Why do people who are waiting at a bus stop have to rely on their instinct to know when the next bus is due? Why can’t they just look up at a board and see where the bus is going? It would be cheaper to set up Display Units to show when the next bus is expected, rather than asking users to lookup an app or send a text message.

EASE OF USE

A bus stop with a box for Visually-Impaired people to hear details of incoming buses at Sealife Centre.
A bus stop with a box for Visually-Impaired people to hear details of incoming buses at Sealife Centre. Image copyright Paul Gillet, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Generic, available on the Wikimedia Commons/Geograph.

While this deals with the same as Accessibility as discussed above, this deals with how a commuter uses the bus stop rather than gets to it. The bus stop should have a tactile path around it, as well as a device to announce the bus routes stopping there. It can have a panel with the route details embossed in Braille as well. If the system picks up a bus less than 100 metres away, it can automatically announce the number.

The Bottom Line

So here are what a smart bus-stop needs, assuming that the buses on the service are low-floor buses with a GPS-based tracking unit to broadcast their location.

  1. Accessible for people with motor disabilities, differently-abled passengers, with a tactile path for the visually impaired.
  2. Have an information display unit connected to a central network to show the arrivals of buses and their routes.
  3. Announce route information, either based on availability [from GPS], or on request [by pressing a button].
  4. Incorporate level boarding for buses to speed up the process of getting on or getting off a bus, as well as reduce the effort taken in doing so.

 

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Getting around Gurgaon

Gurgaon, sometimes known as the Millennium City, is Haryana’s second largest city. It is also the most isolated part of the cities that form the first rung of the NCR. Unlike NOIDA, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, Gurgaon is at a little distance from Delhi, thus being buffered from its overflowing traffic and pollution.

While the original town of Gurgaon has existed for decades, the city in its current form is a recent development, thus making it the youngest city in the NCR.

Gurgaon has several modes of transport, like most major cities in India.

Autos

Autos are the most common form of public transport in Gurgaon. They are green in colour, can be hailed from anywhere on the streets, but they don’t have a Fare Meter. It is up to the commuter and autowala to bargain and agree to a price. However, Gurgaon autowalas are reasonable compared to their Delhi counterparts and a compromise can be reached easily. There are several Auto-booking apps as well, such as Jugnoo and G-Auto, the latter of which is backed by the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation.

Taxis

Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre.
Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Hailing Taxis on the streets isn’t a daily affair in Gurgaon. If you need a cab, the best thing to do is to use Uber or Ola. However, Bike Taxis are very common. Players such as Baxi and M-Taxi have proper taxi stands at prominent places, such as outside HUDA City Centre, while other such as HeyTaxi require to be booked using the Mobile App.

Shuttle Services

A Tempo on duty with Shuttl.
A Tempo on duty with Shuttl. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Shuttle services, like I had discussed, in an earlier post, such as Ola Shuttle, ZipGo, Shuttl, are available on select routes within Gurgaon and between Gurgaon and other parts of the NCR. These bus aggregators feature Mobile-app based bookings, free WiFi, cashless payments. Mostly operated using Tempo Travellers, they are popular with Office Goers in areas closer to Sohna Road and other such areas where the Metro hasn’t gone yet.

Metro

The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station.
The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station. Image copyright Ajaydeshwal1994, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The most important form of transport in Gurgaon, the city is served by two Metro lines: The Yellow line of the Delhi Metro that has five stations in Gurgaon, and the Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon, which is India’s first truly private metro rail to be operational.

Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line connects Gurgaon to some of New Delhi’s most crucial areas such as Connaught Place, New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Parliament House, Vidhan Sabha, Delhi University, Saket, Qutub Minar, etc.

Rapid Metro connects DLF CyberHub to Sikanderpur and will further connect to Sector 56.

Buses

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Gurgaon has City Bus services operated by Haryana Roadways.Buses connect various parts of the city with the Gurgaon Bus Stand, Railway Station or HUDA City Centre. Non-AC buses are blue in colour while AC buses are Red or Maroon. Buses are operated by HR’s Gurgaon Division and also the Faridabad Division which operates its city buses into Gurgaon.

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to this, the DTC operates its buses from various parts of Delhi, such as Karol Bagh, Anand Vihar, Badarpur, Uttam Nagar and Dwarka to the Gurgaon Bus Stand. Haryana Roadways also operates a Volvo service connecting Chandigarh to Gurgaon via Delhi Airport.

So there are the various ways of getting around Gurgaon.

Addendum.

If you’re in Sector 14, you  should try Mogli’s Coffee. They have some interesting variations, including Brownie Cappuccino among others. They are located at the far end of Sector 14 Market, in front of South Store on the same lane as the PNB ATM.

The best coffee Gurgaon can offer!

A photo posted by Kaboom-wala (@rsrikanth05) on

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How Amaravati can be a True Smart City

Amaravati, the upcoming capital of Andhra Pradesh, is touted to be a major game changer in Indian cities. While it will be the fourth major planned State Capital, after Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh and Gandhinagar, it will be the first major Smart City in India as a State Capital.

The Capital Region Development Authority [CRDA] which is the planning authority for the upcoming city has planned to have 9 sub-cities of 6000 acres each and three metro rail corridors.

Among other plans, Amaravati is also poised to get a transparent, underwater tunnel through the River Krishna as well.

Now, all this sure sounds rosy on paper, but fancy stuff isn’t what we’re looking for right now. What we need is functionality. Here are some key pointers that I have decided to put across for Amaravati’s transport, which will help livability in the city massively.

Theoretical Stuff

Start a new unified transit body

Create a new entity from scratch for Amaravati’s transport. That’s right. A new entity, solely for transport within the Capital Region. It can be either a Municipal-run body like BEST, or a State-run body like MTC. However, this body should be a Unified body on the lines of Transport for London [TfL] or New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]. Let this authority or agency handle buses, trains, and also be a nodal point for autorickshaws/taxis. The Transco can also be jointly managed by all three levels of government. Road related works can remain under existing agencies like the Public Works Department or Andhra Pradesh Road Development Corporation

Keep out of existing Establishments

Amaravati must not rely on APSRTC or Indian Railways for its Transport. Buses in Hyderabad were earlier run by the APSRTC, and now by the TSRTC. Rail transit for the new city must be independent of Indian Railways, to prevent congestion and avoid red-tapism on the network like on the Mumbai Suburban Railway. MSRTC operates inter-city buses in Mumbai. BEST operates intra-city services. The other transcos [NMMT, TMT, MBMT, et al] handle services between the different jurisdictions within the MMR. Amaravti might be made up of multiple Municipal bodies for Vijayawada, Guntur and the upcoming city, but transport within these regions must be kept for a single entity that exclusively serves it.

Practical Stuff

Underground Metro Corridors

Since the entire city is being built from scratch, the entire Metro corridor needs to be built underground. This will help keep the city aesthetically appealing. If elevated corridors are built, they should use the 25m segment like what Mumbai Metro 1 and incorporate the cantilever station design of the Hyderabad Metro.

Bus Rapid Transit Systems

Marechal Floriano BRT station, Linha Verde (Green Line), Curitiba RIT, Brazil.
Marechal Floriano BRT station, Linha Verde (Green Line), Curitiba RIT, Brazil. Image copyright Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Amaravti has the potential to make Bus Rapid Transit Systems [BRTS] work more efficiently than other cities including Ahmedabad and Surat. It can implement them on a large scale as a feeder system to the aforementioned Metro systems. Again, since the city is being built from scratch, bus lanes can be made signal free, making them truly rapid. Trolleybuses, or even trams can be run to make it more eco-friendly.

Smart Buses

The new Transco that was spoken about earlier needs to make itself ready for the year it was built for and not the 1950s. All buses need to be fitted with a Passenger Information System [PIS], as well as a system to allow the visually-impaired know the route number and destination of the bus. Let the bus be traceable using GPS, develop a smartphone app as well as a website for commuters to be able to use. Use GPRS-enabled always online ETMs similar to what the cluster buses of Delhi use, except ensure that they use Smart Cards for passes and prepaid payment systems like what BEST has achieved in Mumbai. Ensure that the fleet is an even mix of AC and non AC buses, if getting a fully-AC fleet is not possible. Additionally, encourage corporate bodies to take up bus clusters similar to Delhi on a Public-Private partnership.

Cycle-Friendliness

Amaravati must ensure that roads are built with proper cycle lanes that are separated from pedestrian lanes and motorised traffic. Encourage the usage of cycles, and incentivise riding them. Public cycles should be introduced. Use a smart card for parking spaces and renting cycles.

Accessibility

Bicycle lane and a pedestrians' path in Tsurumi, Yokohama, Japan.
Bicycle lane and a pedestrians’ path in Tsurumi, Yokohama, Japan. Image copyright Meme-Meme, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

All roads must feature properly laid and leveled pedestrian walkways as well as ramps for the differently-abled. With the Prime Minister stressing on the word Divyang for differently-abled people, it is imperative that this is taken up seriously. Traffic signals must be fitted with audio devices to let visually-impaired people know that they can cross the road. Bus stops should feature Braille signage and pavements should feature a tactile path similar to the one in Metro stations.

Smart Design and Technology

Solar Panels at HUDA City Centre Parking Lot.
Solar Panels at HUDA City Centre Parking Lot. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

All roads must be designed with ducts for cables, pipelines, and other channels to prevent them from being dug up very often. This is similar to what is done in Mumbai and Bangalore [the latter thru TenderSURE]. Roads should be laid using plastic waste to recycle the waste as well as make the road long lasting. Electric cables should be underground to prevent accidents. Traffic signals, bus stops, footbridges, parking lots, benches, should be fitted with CCTV cameras for safety and security, as well as fitted with solar panels to generate power as well as provide shade.

Common Payment instrument

A super crucial point, a Common Payment Instrument must be instituted across the city. A single smart card should be used for Metro, Buses, BRTS, Cycles, etc. This model is followed abroad in many places. Like several cities abroad, NFC-enabled smartphones can be used as a payment mechanism. As stated earlier for buses, an App could be developed for buses, trains, availability of cycles and payments. Keep it simple silly!

TAXIS and autos

Autos, while seen as a burden on the roads by many, are very crucial. Electric Rickshaws can be mandated to keep the air clean. Similarly, permits should be issued for regular taxis, similar to the Cool Cabs and regular Kaali-Peelis of Mumbai. However, these auto and taxi drivers must be given a loan to purchase a GPS-enabled Fare Meter that can support RFID/NFC payments so that people can use the aforementioned smart cards and phone payment methods. The Transport Department, City Administration and Traffic Police must strictly enforce this however.

Water Transport

Sitting on the banks of the Krishna river, Amaravati can make use of this natural resource. A network of channels can also be built across the city, with boats, similar to Allepy.

 

Overall, the future of Amaravati seems to be quite bright, with Chandrababu Naidu as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. I just hope some of these suggestions are taken seriously.

Do share this post. Tweet it out and use the hashtags #SunriseAndhra and #SmartCity so that it can reach the government.

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Odd or Even? Why the Delhi plan is the dumbest thing ever!

So recently, the Delhi Government, announced that they were going to implement a new rule from January 1st 2016, which would allow vehicles with Odd and Even registrations to ply only on alternate days. Like the rest of the world, I think it is a dumb idea. The intention might be good, to reduce pollution, but the backlash this is going to have, is going to wreak havoc across not just the National Capital Territory, but also the National Capital Region.

Note: Many readers have complained that I have a bad perspective because I’m a Mumbaikar. Just to clarify, that in the period running up to the New Year and for the next two weeks, I was a resident of the National Capital Region, living in Gurgaon and traveling to Delhi every alternate day. I was subject to the Odd-Even Joomla for 12 out of 15 days.

Before, I go forward, I just want to remind you of two things:

  • This nonsensical proposal was planned for Mumbai by the AAP’s big brother Congress, over a decade ago. It got scrapped, and for a good reason.
  • This proposal apparently works well in China. People who support it forget one thing. China is not a Democracy.

Another point to add is that the aim of this whole system is to reduce pollution, not traffic on the roads. Using that as a metric to claim its success is not valid.

So, why would this be a problem?
Enforcement Issues

Enforcing this would be a major headache. With the exception of Gurgaon, the areas of the NCR surrounding Delhi, are contiguous territories. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, NOIDA and Delhi. Now, given that the Delhi Government, specifically the Delhi RTA, would have authority over only DL-registered vehicles, how will they stop other vehicles from plying? Delhi, by virtue of being a Union Territory, has lesser road taxes, so nobody would get a HR or UP registration to ply their vehicles. But how would they stop vehicles from other parts of the NCR from doing so? Especially since places like Faridabad and NOIDA don’t have that good public transport as Delhi!

Extra Load on Existing Infrastructure

This move will screw up the way people travel in Delhi. Delhiites love poking fun at Mumbaikars for the Suburban Rail, calling it smelly, overcrowded, and what not. There is a statement, “Darr ke aage Jeet Hai, aur Dadar ke aage Seat Hai”, which translates to “There is Victory ahead of Fear, and a Seat ahead of Dadar”. Atleast, the Suburban, by virtue of not being air-conditioned, has stale air being pumped out from inside the train. More importantly, we have Fast trains in Bombay. We don’t have to sit in a train from Churchgate to Virar stopping at every single station on its way. The Delhi Metro is worse than the Mumbai Suburban in terms of crowd. DMRCL often goofs up by running 6 car trains to Gurgaon and 4 car trains to Faridabad.

There is this video of officers pushing people into the train, where they are packed like sardines in a tin can so that the doors can close. I have seen people pushing each other inside and being stuffed in a similar manner in Gurgaon-bound trains. The Delhi public will not travel in the Ring Railway, thus making Metro the ONLY way to travel around for those who need to go long distances. The situation in the MMR cannot be compared because the MMR has multiple railway lines, one Metro line, plus one Monorail, plus the killer combination of BEST, TMT, NMMT. No matter how unethical NMMT and TMT are, they are far more efficient than the DTC and its new sibling the DIMTS. This will also push up the crowds in buses, which already crowded. Delhi buses are filthy cheap, and this makes it worse. With a reported 400 buses breaking down each day, this means that the government has to hire more buses, which is resulting in the steady comeback of Blueline buses.

EMERGENCY

What if I have an emergency, I need to get out of my house in a hurry? What if my office is in the other end of the city and I don’t a have a Metro line anywhere near me? What if someone in my house is sick and I need to take them to the Hospital? Rich or poor, I am not going to buy a new car. This move will also affect carpoolers. What if five people who carpool, rotating cars on a daily basis, all have Even-numbered registrations? What if all are Odd-numbered? Has this been considered? I don’t think so. This move will affect Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber massively.

Fake Number Plates

Back in 2005, the Central Government had amended Section 50(2)(d) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules [CMVR] to mandate the implementation of High Security Number plates. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2011. These plates had security features such as a Hologram, could NOT be tampered-with and had to be fixed by an officer of the RTO only. So far only a handful of states including Sikkim, Goa, Gujarat, have implemented it. Anyone can duplicate number plates and change it daily. This is going to give a new boost to these fake number plate manufacturers however.

Priorities

Noble or not, the Delhi government has got its priorities wrong. Massively.

If the state government is seriously interested in reducing air pollution, it needs to start coordinating with the Centre, and other States in the NCR to find a long term solution to tackle the issue. The NCT is super congested, and banning certain vehicles on certain days is going to compound the issue rather than solve the problem. Delhi’s AC buses are already pathetic, and this is going to render them useless. Better public transport, and better connectivity, is what will show results, filling pockets of autowallahs who don’t charge per the meter won’t. Further, the ban on Surge Pricing for Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola is worsening the situation, causing a lack of cabs in places that require them and letting the Auto mafia rule.

In 1989, Mexico City implemented a similar plan. The net result? People stopped using Public Transport. Yes, they stopped using public transport.

Exemptions

Recently, the Delhi government announced a few exemptions. Among them are:

  • All two wheelers
  • CNG Vehicles
  • Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
  • Women Drivers with a Male Child of Upto Age 12
  • President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministers of other States, except Delhi
  • Emergency Vehicles
  • Defence Vehicles
  • Vehicles of SPG Protectees
  • Those On the Way to a Hospital [With Proof]

Now these exemptions, are major loopholes. Two wheelers are exempt. Are they not polluting? Evidently, Kejriwal and team have never been to Pune or Bangalore. According to a recent IIT Kanpur report: 46% pollution is created by trucks in the city when it comes to both PM 10 and PM 2.5. Two-wheelers contribute to 33% of the pollution, 10% is contributed by four-wheelers. Buses contribute to 5% of the pollution, whereas 4% is done by light commercial vehicles, and the rest is the contribution of three-wheelers and other factors.

CNG Vehicles, which make up most of the Public Transport. So, again, not much difference, people an pay ₹50k, get a CNG conversion done and keep going. Further, what stops a CNG vehicle from driving on Petrol? Hybid and Electric is fine to a certain extent, but then we must remember, these vehicles are expensive, and thus, the rich car owners of South Delhi can rejoice. Again, what stops a Hybrid vehicle from switching to fuel? Women Drivers with a Male Child? What sort of rubbish is this? So every woman in the household will now drive with her kid next to her. Official, Emergency and Defence Vehicles fine. Those on the way to the hospital must furnish proof? So if a car is stopped, you can throw a fit at the officers feet and he’ll let you go?

Commissioner of Police Delhi, BS Bassi, stated that out of 85lakh vehicles, 70lakh were exempt. What kind of rule is this? Lawyers have also been exempted from this rule.

The proposed fine for this is ₹2000 for each offence. Well done GNCTD, Well Done. You have successfully ruined a decent city.

Claiming that it was a success, two hours after it was launched, on a long weekend, when schools were shut in the winter, has to be the most illogical statement without any scientific backing whatsoever.

Updates

On 27th January, the Central Pollution Control Board stated that:

Overall, it can be stated that while some reduction in air pollution is likely to happen due to odd-even scheme, a single factor or action cannot substantially reduce air pollution levels in Delhi. Therefore, a comprehensive set of actions following an integrated approach is required to make substantial improvement in air quality,”

CNG Sticker Scam

With Round 2 of the Odd-Even scheme announced in April, a new twist has emerged.

The GNCTD had mandated that in order to be exempt from the earlier Odd-Even mess, all CNG vehicles would require a CNG sticker. These holographic stickers would be available at Indraprastha Gas stations. However, it has now emerged that these stickers could either be fake or sold off to car owners who don’t have a CNG vehicle.

Journalist Rahul Kanwal of India Today had this to tweet out about it.

Complete con job. Every other car at ITO has a CNG sticker. When I ask if the driver can open the boot – he freaks. Aise koi fayda nahi!

 

IVRS Scam

Another point to be noted was the IVRS Scam. Originally posted by the Frustrated Indian, this scam basically involved fake figures to showcase the Odd-Even hoopla as a success.

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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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The Laws of Waiting for Buses

Ever waited for a bus only to get frustrated? Well, let’s have a closer look at it shall we?

Before we jump into this madness, let me keep two random statements in front:

  1. Murphy’s Law

    Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

  2. The Peter Principle

    In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

Now, the above two statements are just there for the sake of being there. But, they will make a lot of sense after reading the rest of the article.

So, while waiting for a bus to arrive, you will observe some irritating and painful occurrences.

Presenting to you, my dear readers, The Laws of Waiting for Buses:

  1. As you reach the bus stop, you will miss as many buses possible and then none shall come.
    This law states that, ”As you approach the bus stop, maximum number of buses shall speed past you in the direction you intend to travel in, and shall cease as soon as you reach the bus stop.”
    Originally posted here.
  2. The bus you wait for shall never come, forcing you to take an alternative bus.
    This law states that, “If you are waiting for a specific bus number or a bus that follows a specific route, that bus or set of buses will not arrive till you are frustrated to the point of taking another bus, one that may involve multiple changeovers, or a longer route.”
    Originally posted here.
  3. When you give up on a bus is when it has the maximum probability of arriving.
    This law builds up on the previous law, and states that, “When you finally reach the frustration point and take the different bus, that is the moment in time when the bus you had been waiting for all along has the highest probability of arriving.”
    Originally posted here.
  4. When I was on the other side of the Road, a dozen buses sped by … Now I’m on this side, waiting, and not one bus is in sight …
    This law is similar to first one and states that, “When you are waiting for a bus that isn’t going to come anytime soon, you will see plenty of buses go by in the opposite direction.
    Originally posted here.
  5. The bus stops I choose have the least number of buses for my destination.
    This law states that, “When you reach a particular bus stop, it will have the least number of buses heading towards your destination.”
    Originally posted here.

So, in the end, the frustration builds up, and we end up taking an Uber, or an Ola. If you live in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, you will end up taking an auto or a train.

Note: Most of these incidents happen due to a phenomenon known as Bus Bunching. Bus bunching, also known as Bus Clumping, refers to a group of two or more bus, which were scheduled to be evenly spaced running along the same route, instead running in the same location at the same time.

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Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

– Doc Emmett L Brown, 27th October, 1985.

Fast forward to 21st October, 2015. Today. The day of the flying cars, Jaws 19, and Hoverboards.

Of course, there are no flying cars. Atleast not yet. I’m personally upset that while there was word of Nike’s Shoes with Powerlaces, I don’t have an auto-adjusting jacket that dries itself when wet. But enough of flying cars, we all know that’s still going to cause traffic jams, on the Skyway instead of the Highway. We have already seen a 100km long traffic jam in China, and with the number of cars being added to the roads each day, I won’t be surprised to see the same on the Western Express Highway. If flying cars did exist, expect a massive jam on the Western Express Skyway.

Now given that I am a Bus Aficionado, let us change our focus to buses. Right now, the closest we have got to Back To The Future is a Metro Rail, which is a railway line above the ground. Or, as they refer to the MRTS line in Madras, “Parrakum Rayil” [Flying Rail].

 

If Flying Vehicles existed in 2015, like BTTF predicted.

  • Western Railways and Central Railways would be plying flying trains from Chruchgate to Virar, or CST to Karjat and Kasara. Striking workers and rioters would have to tie themselves up to each other and suspend themselves, but the train would skirt them. Thankfully.
  • Idiots who drive like maniacs on the ground will do the same thing in the air. The impact of accidents may be worse because you’d fall a long way, but atleast people on the pavements won’t get run over.
  • BEST will operate them flying Purple Faeries on two types of routes: AS [AC Standard] and AExpress. AS-1 will fly on the Service lanes of the Eastern Express Skyway while A8Express will fly over all traffic. Don’t ask me how they intend to keep coming down to pick up passengers. Of course, they will continue to be loss making due to lack of passengers.
  • NMMT will continue to flood the Mumbai skyline with its fancy Volvo buses, introducing new routes from Worli to Navasari and Mulund to Dehu Road.
  • TMT will continue to operate it smokey, rickety rattle-trap buses, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear news of accidents caused due to the bus parts falling down.
  • The Bandra Worli Sea Link would become a place where homeless people hang out.
  • Thanks to technological advancements, the Metro tracks would be in a condition similar to that of IRs tracks with people using it as their personal loo.
  • Autos will fly and cause traffic jams. Some of them would be replaced by Tata Nanos. Don’t worry, Tata Nanos won’t catch fire in the air.
  • Jaywalkers will find a way to jump across the street, so high up.
  • MSRTC’s Shivneri will reach Pune faster. The Dadar (East) to Pune Railway Station journey will take 3 hours instead of the current 4 hour trip because of the sheer number of cars flying around Lonavala. Don’t forget flying cars selling Maganlal Chikki.
  • KSRTC’s Airavat will take 12 hours on the Bombay to Bangalore route. The Hubli Dharwad Skypass is still two lanes.
  • Ashok Leyland will flood the Skies with the SKiBus.
  • The Andheri flyover will be used by people on Hoverboards.
  • Dadar will continue to be a mess because of flying trains, buses, cars, taxis, everything. Kabootar Khaana would be the root cause of Congestion.

Note. I was originally intending to Photoshop a Cerita in the sky over the Western Express Highway, but it would have looked way too tacky. I’m laughing as I type this.

 

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Travelling with your television

So, I was randomly going thru the internet when this one thing stood out: Tata Sky Transfer. I couldn’t resist, so I went thru all the possible search results and came across this video:

It is a very interesting thought and I personally feel this would work wonders to provide a comfortable mode of transport for us. As you know, we spend quite a lot of travel time to work. Now imagine this scenario, I work at the World Trade Centre in Cuffe Parade, and I live in Thane. My work times are such that I am unable to catch the A8Express, so I end up catching AS1. Now I have to contend with sitting on that bus from 8am to 10am to reach work and sit from 7.30pm to 10pm on my way back as it makes its way thru Sion, Dadar, Parel and Byculla. I’m spending close to five hours of those in a bus. Now, I, for one would be happy because I love buses. But what if you wanted to do something else?

Let us assume that I want to catch up on my Television viewing instead. Now I’m a fan of Mash, Knightrider and Scooby Doo, and I hypothetically imagine that Comedy Central, Star World and Cartoon Network are playing the three of them respectively. So, I decide to record the episodes in the morning while I catch up on my sleep. I wake up, refreshed, and head to work. I finish my days work, and head back to Backbay Depot, from where I board my AS1. I want to unwind, so I pull out my phone, and turn on the latest episode that I recorded earlier in the day. What if one morning, I decided not to sleep, I could watch Scooby Doo instead. Or maybe, I recorded an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Present the previous night and decide to catch up on some intriguing mystery before I get to work? Imagine, one day, there is less traffic, and I reach home before I can finish my episode. I get home, and finish viewing it on my large screen TV. Or what if there is crucial Football or Hockey match that is going on, and I need to watch it, but don’t have the time, or am at work? I simply hit record, and watch it in the comfort of my AS1, and maybe even my home; that too with the added benefit of pausing and rewinding whenever I want.

Overall, I think #TATASkyTransfer seems to be a good deal. Go for it, and if you take A8Express or A13Express, ditch those for an AS1 so you could spend more time watching the Telly.

 

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