DTC and Ethics: No connection there

The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is not really the most ethical transco in India. Believe me. It is nowhere close to being one. Why do I say this? There are plenty of reasons. I have listed its inefficiencies earlier in Delhi and it’s Bus Melee.

 Daily Passes

As I mentioned last year (The Underrated Daily Pass), DTC’s ‘Green Card’ doesn’t have any of the security features of say a BEST Magic Pass or a BMTC Pass. The only personal detail stored on the pass is the user’s name and sometimes their age as well. On one trip last year, when I was getting off near a Metro station, the conductor asked for the pass to be returned to him. When asked why, he responded with a “You’re anyway taking a Metro, why do you need a pass after that” kind of statement. I was intially puzzled, but then it struck me. He was obviously asking for the pass back so that he could he sell it to someone else, which was confirmed when a co-passenger explained that it was normal in Delhi. While it is known that BMTC conductors in Bangalore do collect money lower than the actual fare, pocket the cash and not give the passenger a ticket (I had parodied this on The Unreal Times, click here to read), this is one step more unethical.

LED Displays

The exterior display of a bus, is generally used to the the Bus Route number and route. Be it the Rolling Cloth display used by BEST, or the metal plate used by PMPML/BMTC, it is always used for the route. DTC, however uses it for other purposes too. In Novermber 2015, I spotted some of them saying ‘Car Free Day 22 October’. Not counting the fact that the bus was advertising for an event that was already over, the advert was displayed on the external LED Rolling Display. While many may agree that a Car Free Day might be good (I may or may not, it depends), using a Bus’ external display is wrong. If the government wants to promote a scheme or a programme, it can, like any other advertiser, pay the Transco and put up banners, or adverts on the grab handles or behind the seats. The external LED, is a BIG no no! Of course, there are many who will point this out with MSRTCs older Shivneri/Ashwamedh fleet (prior to them getting LED displays). The older fleet had a board with the route on it, above the driver. It usually had an advert for either Manish Potdar or Chandukaka Saraf. They however, were smaller and below the routes.

Demonetisation

And now for the big one.

With Arvind Kejriwal going hammer and tongs against the current Demonetisation drive by the Central Government, calling it India’s largest scam, a new twist has emerged. Before I get into the actuals; let me remind you: DTC’s non AC fare is ₹5, 10, 15, and AC fare is ₹10, 15, 20, 25. This fare is from the DTC website, last updated August 2016. A regular monthly pass costs ₹800 and 1000 for the two categories. The most expensive pass is the Airport Express Coach (NCT+NCR) which costs ₹1800.

The Aam Aadmi Party has been accused of using the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) to exchange illegal ₹500 and ₹1000 notes for valid notes.

In a letter to Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung, Delhi BJP leader. He alleged that the DTC deposited ₹3 crore in old ₹500 and ₹1000 notes.  Jansatta, a Hindi Daily claimed this was the method used by the AAP to covert money it had received as donations.

The letter claimed that with fares ranging from ₹5 to ₹25 and most commuters giving change, it would be difficult for the Corporation to deposit revenue in the higher denomination notes.

The letter said, “It has been found that the most part of the revenue submitted by DTC is in banned currency notes. This raises suspicion of wrongdoing and the money may be connected with the donations collected by ruling party (AAP).”

He asked the Lieutenant Governor to ask the DTC management to come clean on the issue to prevent maligning of its reputation.

 

If this is true, it is a true black spot for Indian Transit.

God save the DTC. May common sense prevail.

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American Elections Are Like Indian Transport: Fragmented

The world’s oldest democracy is going to vote soon. Two years ago, the world’s largest democracy voted. What is the difference between the two? Well, without going into the nitty-gritties of both, let’s just focus on one point: Fragmentation.

In India, elections be it General, State Assembly, Municipal or Presidential are conducted by the Election Commission of India. Each state has a Chief Electoral Office [CEO] who is repsonsible for voter enrollment, candidate declarations, etc. While each state has a different way of getting the Enrollment done [Karnataka enabled Voters to submit scanned copies of their documents and fill the form online, as far back as 2013], the Election Process is Uniform across India. In the United States, the system is totally different. The Constitution, under Article 1, Section 4 gives complete power to the State governments in matters relating to voting. The Federal Elections Commission oversees the election in general, enforcing term limits, disclosing campaign finance information, etc.

Due to this decentralised nature, each state has its own method of conducting elections. Some states may use Electronic Voting Machines, so may use Ballot Papers, etc. This may result in some anomaly. The Butterfly Ballot issue of Palm Beach County Florida [explained here in the American Political Science Review] is one such example.

Reconstruction of the Butterfly Ballot Paper from Palm Beach County Florida in 2000.
Reconstruction of the Butterfly Ballot Paper from Palm Beach County Florida in 2000. Image copyright Gzuckier, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

In places where Electronic Voting is followed, the voter has to fill up an optically-readible ballot paper which is then fed into a machine.

In India, a standard uniform system is following using the Electronic Voting Machines developed by Bharat Electronics Limited and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited.

An Electronic Voting Machine in India.
An Electronic Voting Machine in India. Image: பரிதிமதி, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons

Now, while diversity is a good thing, for it results in better quality of products and services, fragmentation is not really that good in reality.

Now that we understand the issues relating to a fragmented system, let us come back to Indian Transport.

Transport in India is largely a fragmented segment. Excluding aviation, which is governed by central policies and is full of private players, and the Indian Railways network, let us focus on the Buses and their operations.

Depending on which part of India you are in, the bus you board would be operated by either the State Government or the Municipal Corporation. The exception is Chandigarh, where the CTU comes under the Union Territory Administration, and in the absence of a Legislative Body like in Delhi or Puducherry, it comes under the Union Government.

But it is not this fragmentation that I am talking about. This is due to the various levels of decentralisation that is prevalent across our country. The fragmentation that I am talking about is what is prevalent within a single Transco, or a single City division/SPV of a State level Transco.

To give an example:

BEST is among the most defragmented Transcos. Every bus used the same ticket machine, every conductor issues the same kind of ticket and every bus or conductor accepts a Smart Card, be it a Pass or a Prepaid Card. The fragmentation arises in matters such as the LED display: Some buses have a full length LED display on the front, some have the tiny one visible in new buses, and irrespective of whether these are functional or not, some still use the old Rolling Cloth system for displaying the route and number.

In the case of BMTC, fragmentation is higher. Not all buses are properly hooked on to the Tracking platform, some buses still use the old Quantum Aeon ticket machines or worse, some still issue the old punched tickets.

Simmilarly, NMMT shows some amount of fragmentation. While earlier, only AC services had Electronic ticketing, now, all have it. But, only AC bus tickets can be booked using an app, while others still have to go through the machine.

Delhi too, is a good example of fragmentation. While regular buses, Cluster Buses and the Blueline buses are all operated by different entities, they essentially operate on the same route. However, buses operated by the DTC still use manual fare collection, with a handful of ticket machines thrown in for good measure in the last few months. The Cluster buses operated by the DIMTS have ticketing machines, can be tracked online, but there is compatibility of their systems with the DTC ticketing process. Blueline/Metro Feeder and other private buses, don’t have any form of connected ticketing.

Now, this brings us to an important point. Common mobility.

More Card: National Common Mobility Card
More Card: National Common Mobility Card

The Government of India had rolled out the More Card in 2012 as a common mobility card. Initially restricted to the Delhi Metro and Route 56 of the DMRC Feeder Bus, it was launched post the failure of the Go Mumbai Smart Card. While Mumbai has gone ahead with its Smart Card System, although extremely fragmented [one card each for BEST, Metro, Monorail and the Suburban Rail], it has managed to make cashless travel in almost all forms of transit. Autos and taxis are not covered, although Ahmedabad has gone ahead with such a proposal. I haven’t seen the More Card anywhere in Delhi in the last two years, and I have seen all Metro Feeder buses issue regular paper tickets.

In 2015, the Ministry of Urban Development came up with another proposal for a National Common Mobility platform with collaboration from the National Informatics Centre [NIC], Centre For Development of Advanced Computing [C-DAC], Bureau of Indian Standards [BIS], and the National Payments Corporation of India [NPCI]. The new system is proposed to use Europay, MasterCard and Visa [EMV] Open Loop system with a stored value system. It also took into account the deficiencies with cards in Singapore. It took the Octopus Card from Hong Kong as a base for its working, in order to support Passes as well; a crucial feature of BEST’s RFID Cards. While C-DAC will develop standards for existing Metro Rail systems, the problem will arise with other modes of transport. Ferries in India don’t use eTicketing. They still use the old fashioned ticketing. Barring Mumbai and Kerala, no other area of India has a proper water transit system or anything resembling one in place. Similarly, with Tolls, will this be accepted at toll plazas operated by other bodies except the National Highways Authority of India [NHAI]? Will it be compatible with FASTag? With each Transco using different ticketing machines [BEST uses Balaji, BMTC uses Verifone, both supplied by Trimax], will the entire system be compatible with each other?

Further, with vehicle tracking. A National Mobility platform will require the Vehicle Tracking System in place. BEST uses a GPS device fitted onto a bus, BMTC and DIMTS use the location from the ticketing machines. All this results in a jumble that nobody would seem to understand.

Let us hope that provisions are made to ensure backward compatibility of systems so that money is not wasted in procuring new technology.

Moral of the story: The odds of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump winning are the same as the odds of getting into a BMTC bus and getting either a printed ticket, or the regular ticket.

 

 

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Corrupt Babus from the Stone Age are Impeding Better Transport

Many ‘futurists’ and a significant number of urban local government officials and policymakers I’ve met and/or interacted with hold the following view – ‘Internet, faster communication and changing social attitudes will soon make large urban agglomerations i.e cities in the form of cities irrelevant. We will be participants in an era of small, compact cities with innovators, job creators and seekers moving to such cities from megacities to make their fortunes’.

This view is often represented as a fact in many conferences, seminars and ‘talks’ by organized by the intelligentsia which in turn has transformed the view into conventional wisdom. They are wrong. The internet or any other faster means of communication (except  teleporting perhaps’ will never be able to match  This view combined with the very Indian tendency to ‘equalize’ development of different regions has led to some perverse policy prescriptions but that is a matter for another day. In this post, I will discuss a little on why the ‘compact future city’ view is incorrect and touch upon what we need to improve transportation outcomes..

In his book- The Rise and Fall of Nations, Ruchir Sharma writes:

‘In recent years it became fashionable to argue that location no longer matters, because the internet makes it possible to provide services from anywhere. But physical goods still make up the bulk of global trade flows, and location still matters for companies that want to be close to their customers and suppliers.’

Some of you may argue that physical goods will not constitute a majority of trade flows in the near future where trade will mostly constitute IT based service sector transactions; and that’s when we will see intelligent people leaving cities along with their businesses for small towns. You would then be wrong. Again. Later in the book, Ruchir Sharma writes this:

‘Today the internet is making geography irrelevant neither for manufacturing industries nor for service industries. People still meet face to face in order to manage and build service companies that provide everything from internet search engines to cargo logistics, and new companies in these industries typically set up in the same town to tap the same expert talent pool. The result is the rise of cities with a cluster of companies and talent in a specific service niche.’
‘In South Korea, Busan continues to thrive as the nation’s leading port and as a regional hub for logistics service companies. In the Philippines, Manila has been rising for some time as as a major global provider of back office services, and now that business is spilling over to its satellite cities, including Quezon and Caloocan. Dubai continues to build on its dual role as a major port moving oil and other goods and as a service hub for the Middle East.’

To the above list, I would add- Bangalore continues to thrive as India’s leading education hub and as a hub for R&D, IT-BPO companies; Mumbai continues to thrive as the city whose professionals arrange financing for mega projects across India and Kolkata for producing intellectuals who fill our history textbooks with crap.

In short, cities will NOT become small. Businesses and intelligent people will NOT move to compact cities. Most of India’s megacities will keep getting bigger. (I’m not saying that there is no future for second cities and therefore we should ignore them. They are a very integral part of the modern economy and need to be accorded that status. That discussion is for another post). Our planners and urban administrators need to imbibe this very basic fact when they are managing our cities. In my opinion, amongst these planners and urban administrators, the ones that need to learn this lesson the most are – public transport officials.

A few months ago, St Srikanth of Depot (Srikanth) and I had a chance to interact with officials of BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited) and BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation). Almost every second conversation we had with a management level employee revealed their deep discomfort about private operated public transport facilities. Before these conversations, I admit to having hoped that public transport officials would recognize that government ownership of public transport infrastructure and the legal monopoly over these operations would increasingly lead to very bad transportation outcomes. Those hopes were dashed after the above mentioned conversation. I realized that these buggers are going to sit on their arses, wait for their retirement and meanwhile prevent and/or harass tech enabled transportation systems like Uber, Ola and ZipGo and oppose private entry into the business in the traditional forms.

Before continuing that rant, I will emphasise the need for an efficient public transportation system in every city. As mentioned before, every city is essentially a concentrated labor market. Businesses – low tech, high tech, service sector, manufacturing like to set themselves up in cities as these cities offer them access to a large pool of labor in short distance. This in combination with the fact that most of their suppliers and customers too do the same lead to something known as agglomeration benefits. All the above depends upon the efficiency of the transportation system and the density of urban living. The higher the efficiency of transportation networks and the density of urban living, the greater the agglomeration benefits and therefore higher incomes.

Let me illustrate this with an example from our National Capital Region. Say Srikanth decides to shift from Bengaluru [He is desperate to] to the wretched hellhole that is NCR and rents a place in Dharuhera (About 45kms from Gurugram). He is forced to rent here because he has a taste for luxury and but his bank account isn’t all that good enough to enable him to live in Gurugram. It takes about an hour to travel between Gurugram and Dharuhera as he travels through public transport, Uber and Ola aren’t available in Dharuhera and the nearest metro is HUDA city center which is about 40kms away.  What are the chances of him accepting a job paying ₹60k per month near Rajiv Chowk i.e. Connaught Place, New Delhi over a job paying ₹55k in Gurugram ? (It takes about 2.5 hrs to travel from Dharuhera to Connaught Place). Very low. He most probably will take the ₹55k job as it saves him 3 hours of travelling everyday. The company in Connaught Place will probably have to do with lower quality labor or increase the offer and thus incur higher labor cost.

Haryana Roadways is one of the worst state road transportation companies (SRTCs) with only about 100 buses in operation in Gurugram on about 15 routes. If one attempts to go via public transport from Dharuhera to Gurugram, he or she is forced to take the very rickety illegal buses as the Haryana Roadways buses on the route are very infrequent. The private ones that operate are harassed and sometimes seized if they use the Haryana Roadways logo to escape harassment. If private bus operators existed and the construction on the highway is completed, the route will take about half an hour. Srikanth might take up a job a little further away from Gurgaon say at Hauz Khas @ ₹58k.

Now, back to my rant on BMTC and BMRCL. The old geezers in BMTC and their parent PSU- KSRTC will NEVER give up their legal monopoly. The ones in BMRCL will take another 10 years to realize that Majestic and MG Road no longer are the locus of business activity in Bengaluru city and that the locus has shifted to suburbs like Whitefield and Sarjapur. If Karnataka and other states stop harassing tech based taxi and bus aggregators like Ola, Uber, ZipGo and ends the legal monopoly of SRTCs and their subsidiaries, the transportation outcomes in our cities will vastly improve and believe me and the years of Urban Economics research- the resultant increase in agglomeration benefits will make everyone richer off.

Why aren't those in power giving us better transport? Click To Tweet

This article was later republished on Swarajya.

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Transport in Chandigarh- Exploring the CTU

The Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU], a division of the Chandigarh Union Territory Administration, that comes directly under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, operates buses in and around the Tricity area.  It also operates a few long distance routes to neighbouring regions in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh as well as Jammu and Kashmir.

The CTU came into existence in 1966 with a fleet of 30 buses. Today it has 468, with 329 of them operating as city buses and the remaining on long distance routes. Interestingly, it had 517 buses till 2011-2012.

The CTU operates two Inter State Bus Terminals [ISBTs]:

  • The ISBT at Sector 17 caters to local buses, as well as buses catering to Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The ISBT at Sector 43 caters to local buses [AC buses included] and to those catering to Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

The CTU has four depots, one near Powergrid, where its head office is also present, one in Sector 28, one in Sector 25, and the fourth one at the Sector 43 ISBT.

Chandigarh is a fairly active city, mainly due to the presence of Mohali [Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar/SAS Nagar] in Punjab and Panchkula in Haryana that are contiguous with it. Services operated by the CTU also extend to these two towns along with other areas in the region.

Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU]'s Corona bus on Route 38 at the Mohali terminal of the airport.
Chandigarh Transport Undertaking [CTU]’s Corona HVAC bus on Route 38 at the Mohali terminal of the airport. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 3.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons

While an exact count of CTU’s AC and non-AC fleet isn’t available, CTU does have a sizable fleet strength in AC buses as well. The fleet colour is the same as Delhi, Green for non-AC and Maroon for AC. The Corona fleet that connects the two ISBTs to the new Mohali terminal of the airport is Red in colour. Among the buses that CTU has, it has AC and non AC Tata Marcopolos. It also has minibuses, both AC and non-AC, which follow the same colouring scheme. However, unlike the Delhi counterparts, these buses are not powered by CNG, instead being Diesel buses and thus efficient, along with good, functional air-conditioning units.

A CTU non-AC Tata Marcopolo.
A CTU non-AC Tata Marcopolo. Image copyright HFRET, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The CTU has passes for its commuters, with a regular Monthly Pass priced at ₹720 for AC and ₹470 for non-AC buses. A ₹30 Smart Card is issued for a pass, although ticketing is not electronic. Daily Passes are also available, priced at ₹30 for non-AC and ₹40 for AC buses. These passes are valid on the respective buses within the Municipal Limits of the Tricity. Thus, if I am on a bus to Landran, the pass is valid only upto Sohana where the Municipal limits of the Mohali Municipal Corporation ends. For journeys beyond Sohana, I’d have to buy a ticket. Not bad, I guess.

All this seems to work well with the CTU’s plan to focus more on the entire Tricity Area and not just the Union Territory of Chandigarh alone. AC fares were also slashed back in 2015 to encourage Public Transport.

Fares are on the lower side, similar to Delhi. DTC and DIMTS charge ₹5, 10, 15 for non-AC and ₹10, 15, 20, 25 for AC buses. CTU charges ₹5, 10, 15 for non-AC and ₹10, 15, 20 for AC buses.

However, the major issue with the CTU is lack of services in several areas outside of the Union Territory.

Take for instance, Mohali. Phase V in Mohali has no CTU bus, inspite of having numerous bus stops everywhere. The closest place from where you can get a bus is Phase VII, which is a good kilometre away. Further, only Landran bound buses operate on this route, with the last bus leaving at around 7.30-8pm.

Similarly, Panchkula too has its fair share of problems. The CTU route list doesn’t list out too many buses heading out to Mohali, Panchkula, Zirakpur, Manasdevi, et al. In fact, while Mohali does have a few buses, Panchkula seems to have fewer.

As far as ticketing and passes are concerned, the CTU uses the traditional punched ticket system that we Mumbaikars are used to seeing. Of course, the tickets are in multiple colours [pink and yellow] like PMPML, and double the size of a standard PMPML ticket. Interestingly, the ID Card for Monthly Passes is a Smart Card, which leads one to believe that the CTU is going to implement an Electronic Ticketing System soon.

The CTU has a lot to learn from other STUs, namely BEST [for operating services outside its administrative boundary as well as Electronic Ticketing], KSRTC-MCTD [for its ITS] and TSRTC-Hyderabad [for taking feedback from Commuters in running newer services]. Similarly, other STUs need to learn from the CTU, like DTC [operating buses beyond the boundaries], DIMTS [for privatising bus routes], and of course, BMTC [to learn how to run buses in the first place]. The CTU model can be adopted in any area where city buses cross state borders. Municipal borders for buses owned by a Corporation can also be taken into consideration.

Overall, I think the CTU has done a good job for the city of Chandigarh. It is the Greater Chandigarh/Chandigarh Tricity Area/Chandigarh Capital Region that needs better services.

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The Extra Tax on AC Buses needs to go

Recently, the Government of India decided, in order to expand its Tax Base, to implement an additional Sales Tax on Air Conditioned Stage Coaches. According to notification, a service tax of 15% is applicable on 40% of all revenues collected from AC bus services. This works out to roughly a 6% increase in ticket fares.

While BEST has reduced its fares, leading us to believe that the new fare structure incorporates this 6% increase, others have hiked fares. TSRTC Hyderabad and BMTC have increased the cost of a Daily Pass from ₹150 and ₹140 to ₹160 and ₹150 respectively, BEST has reduced it from ₹200 to ₹150. MSRTC charges a rupee extra for its Shivneri/Ashwamedh services, though this has been there from somewhere in April, thus making it probably unrelated.

While I am for government measures to increase the tax base, this is most certainly not the right way. Let the government start taxing rich farmers instead. The reasons I’m opposed to this tax are:

BEST – We all know the story behind BEST and its Purple Faeries. Barring a few buses from the Oshiwara Depot, these buses are pathetically underpowered, have terribly low-powered airconditioning. They struggle to climb simple slopes. Their Volvo fleet is in good shape however. However, in light of the recent fare reduction, I guess we can give BEST a breather in this section.

BMTC – The first to implement the new Tax, the BMTC had a very interesting thing to do. They used to issue the regular ticket with the ETMS, but charge the Tax with the old Punched tickets. Thus, I used to get a ₹20 printed ticket and a ₹1 punched ticket. BMTC finally managed to incorporate this tax on the ETMs, but now I have pay ₹22 because the Tax amount is rounded off to the next rupee irrespective of how much it is. However, this move is unwarranted because BMTC buses are bad. The older FA series of Volvo buses are rickety, pollute a lot and water leaks in thru the emergency exits. The Corona fleet have buses where the airconditioning just does not work. The newer 57F series Volvos rarely come to the Public because they spend most of their time on Corporate trips for the ORRCA or Manyata Embassy Tech Park.

MTC – Possibly among the worst Volvo fleet, MTC has 100 odd buses which are in horrendous conditions. Buses creak, and reapairs carried out are not what one you’d expect in a Volvo. Damages sections of the exterior and interior are usually patched up with Substandard Aluminium that is used in the regular buses instead of Volvo’s standard Steel or Glass. If this is the condition of the exterior, you can imagine how the Engine or AC might be. However, knowing TN, they might have not implemented this tax as it goes against the populist nature of the state.

DTC – The worst AC bus fleet that I have seen, DTCs Ashok Leyland buses and Tata Marcopolo buses at times do what no other Transco’s buses do. The BEST Cerita AC struggles while climbing a slope. The BMTC Corona AC struggles when the bus is in heavy traffic. The DTC AshLey and Marco AC struggles when the bus is on regular traffic, and even on minor downward slopes! With the maximum fare on an AC bus set to ₹25, this tax is most certainly a welcome move. Delhi is used to subsidies and cheap stuff and it is high time that AC bus fares were increased in the capital.

TSRTC – TSRTC has also increased its fares, but I am confused on which side to take. TSRTC has among the best Volvo fleets in the country, atleast in Hyderabad. The buses are maintained well, operate on good routes and frequencies, and are in general above expectations. However, the fares are already on the higher side, and thus the extra bit is a little unwarranted.

On the whole, I think this Additional Tax needs to be rolled back. It’s a bad idea to tax the Middle Class more. The upper class doesn’t take the bus, the lower class doesn’t take an AC bus. As always, increasing the Tax Base comes and burns the Middle Class pocket.

Dear @ArunJaitley, the extra tax on AC Stage Carriages needs to go ASAP! Click To Tweet

What is your take on this?

 

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Decentralising Transit

Decentralisation: Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people or things away from a central location or authority.

English: Graphical comparison of centralized (A) and decentralized (B) system.
English: Graphical comparison of centralized (A) and decentralized (B) system. Image copyright Kes47, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Now, transport, especially public transport is a very crucial matter in the lives of most people. People need to travel from home to work, or home to school/college, or to meet someone, or whatever. Transit thus becomes a core component of daily life, and in most cases in Urban India, it single-handedly manages to become the most time consuming part of the day.

It is important to look at how transit is handled by the government and how Who Controls What makes a big difference.

Transport in India is usually under the purview of all three levels of government: Centre, State, and City. In many cases, the first may not apply, and in most cases, the third does not apply. Among these, it is almost impossible for the State Government to not be part of local transport since all State Transport Undertakings [STUs] are under the respective State governments.

Let us take a few examples here:

Mumbai, is possibly the only city in India right now where all three levels of government handle transit. The Suburban Rail, operated by Western and Central Railway comes under the Government of India. Metro Rail, Monorail, and MSRTC [ST] come under the Government of Maharashtra, while BEST comes under the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM. Other transcos, such as TMT, NMMT, VVMT, MBMT, KDMT, all come under their respective Municipal Corporations.

Chennai and Hyderabad, both come under the category of zero local government in public transport. The Chennai Suburban Rail and Hyderabad Multi Modal Transit System [MMTS], both come under Southern and South Central Railway, therefore under the Government of India. Metro Rail, as always comes under the State Government, while MTC/TNSTC/TSRTC also come under the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

Pune is an interesting case. Barring a few ST routes connecting Swargate or Pimpri-Chinchwad to nearby towns in the district, all routes are handled by the PMPML, while the Suburban Rail is handled by Central Railway, thus reducing the role of the State Government to almost nothing.

Surat and Coimbatore are polar opposites. In the former, the Surat City Bus and Surat Citilink BRTS are handled by the Surat Municipal Corporation while in the latter, TNSTC – Coimbatore operates buses as a State-level body.

Delhi, again is different. DTC and DIMTS are operated by the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, while the Delhi Metro comes under both Centre and State.

Other cities, such as Bangalore, Mysore, Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, et al come under similar arrangements of Centre-State-City.

Now, before going further, I’d suggest a quick pre-read: The Escape Velocity of JnNURM Buses, which talks about legal definitions of Transport Bodies, Special Purpose Vehicles and Para-Statal Organisations.

Now, what is the problem if a Central or State-level body operates a transco?

Barring Delhi, which is a city-state and the National Capital, the major problem when one of the two upper levels operate transport is bureaucracy and red-tapism.

Take the case of Mumbai. Any improvements in the Suburban Rail has to go all the way to Delhi where it has to be approved. The previous Railway Ministers, from Bihar and Bengal, never bothered. Under Suresh Prabhu, things are certainly changing with Railway Divisions being granted more autonomy.

Similarly, is the case of a Coimbatore. While routes, planning, repairs, etc. are carried out by the Coimbatore division, fare revisions and new buses both come under the Transport Ministry, but is mostly under Chief Minister’s office! This means, whether you are in Coimbatore [under TNSTC Coimbatore] or Madurai [under TNSTC Madurai], fares and new buses are dependent on the Chief Minister’s mood.

The question is clear: Why should someone sitting in New Delhi be in charge of a person going from CBD Belapur to Andheri? Or for that matter, why should a person sitting Bangalore be in a decision making capacity for someone who wants to take a bus from Hubli Airport to Hubli Railway Station?

The issue is not so bad in cities where the state government has a dedicated transport body, such as Jaipur City Transport Services Limited [JCTSL], BMTC and MTC, however, all three are Capital cities. In the case of Mysore, where the MCTD operates, it is similar to BTMC’s set up, however, still controlled by Bangalore. However, it is worthwhile to note that KaSRTC gives more autonomy to its divisions than TNSTC.

Indian Railways has set up Special-Purpose Vehicles [SPVs] for certain projects with state governments, key being the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation [MRVC] which is a 51-49 JV between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra. MRVC does not operate any services, but is responsible for development and upgradation of the Mumbai Suburban Railway Network.

It is interesting to note, that the three Union Territories: NCT Delhi, Puducherry and Chandigarh have a similar, yet different model. DTC, PRTC, and the CTU, all come under the Union Territory Administration, but the DTC and PRTC are corporations that come under the elected Territorial Government, while the CTU is an undertaking which comes under the Central Government.

So, what should be the ideal situation:

For cities with multiple Municipal bodies in the vicinity, and depending on their sizes, let the Municipal Bodies handle operations. Mumbai has got it right, with its 7 Transport Undertakings, each handling their vast territories, and also running a few services into their neighbouring territories. For railway, an SPV should be set-up between the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and all the Municipal Corporations covered. If needed, neighbouring Pune’s model can be adopted, where the PMPML was formed by merger of the erstwhile PMT and PCMT to serve a larger metropolitan area.

For areas separated by state borders such as the Tricity Area consisting of Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula, or the core NCR of Delhi-Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ghaziabad-Noida, a slightly different model needs to be explored. Since Municipally operated services may not be able to cross into another state, each entity must ideally have a State-Operated Transport body solely to serve the region, with a organisational board consisting of board members from the city itself.
For cities like Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, a separate Corporation under either State or Municipal control with board members from the city must be set up. The Transco should have a jurisdiction of upto 100km from the City Centre.
The Central Government should move out of Local Transit entirely and let local bodies handle it. Similarly, the state should also try and localise transit.
The same principles can be applied to other matters, such as:
  • Water Supply
  • Power Supply
  • Roads
  • Other Utlities

Transit should be with the local government, not with the territorial ones. Click To Tweet

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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!

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Delhi and its Bus Melee

Delhi -The National Capital Territory of India, has a serious problem with buses.
Before getting into details, let us just list out modes of transport within the city.

  • Delhi Suburban Railway: EMUs and MEMUs connecting Delhi to nearby cities such as Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gurgaon.
  • Delhi Ring Railway: A 35km long railway running parallel to Ring Road, with 7 services clockwise and 7 anticlockwise with a peak hour frequency of 60-90 minutes.
  • Delhi Metro: A 213km long Rapid Transit system consisting of a mix of Underground, Elevated and At Grade tracks and stations.
  • Buses: Buses, like every other city in India.
  • Auto rickshaws: Autorickshaws with GPS-enabled Meters who rarely charge by the fare meter.

Now, coming to Buses.

Delhi has three kinds of buses that operate on its street, all by different operators. Yes. Three of them.

  • DTC Buses
  • Cluster Buses
  • Metro Feeder Buses

DTC Buses

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

The DTC operates two distinct services in the city. Green coloured non-AC buses and Maroon coloured AC buses. Barring a few old buses which are pre-2000 buses, all the buses are low-floor, rear-engined CNG buses. Buses are either Ashok Leyland or Tata Marcopolo models, in both variants. Daily Passes for both regular and AC services are sold on board the bus like most other cities. Monthly passes are available at 30+ odd centres across the NCT. Barring the Jheel centre, all are computerised. Passes are supremely cheap, with the non AC pass costing ₹800 and AC pass costing ₹1000 a month. Minimum fares are ₹5 for the Green bus and ₹10 for the Maroon counterparts. Similar to what Western and Central Railways did in the Mumbai Suburban Railway and what PMPML did in Pune, fare stages are in increments of ₹5. The highest fare in a non AC bus is ₹15!

Feeder Buses

Delhi Metro Feeder Bus
Delhi Metro Feeder Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Operated by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation [DMRC], these are minibuses with the aim of linking Metro stations to localities around them. The funny part is that similar to Bangalore’s Metro Feeder buses, they travel long distances too. For example, at Saket Station, you can see Feeder buses going upto Badarpur. They follow the same fare structure of the regular DTC bus.

Cluster Buses

A DIMTS Cluster Bus.
A DIMTS Cluster Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

And now, for the long part of this article. Cluster Buses. The orange-coloured buses in Delhi, were introduced in 2011 to compensate for the shortage of buses since the Blueline fleet had been eliminated. Delhi’s buses have always had a huge percentage of private players in it, and with the cluster buses, they have been corporatised with under the Banner of Delhi Transit, run by the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd. [DIMTS]. These buses use the same fare stages as the regular DTC buses, except that Daily Passes are not valid on them, and tickets are issued digitally.

Now how does the Cluster Service pan out?

Delhi has always had a mix of private and public buses on its streets.

A Blue Line bus in Delhi.
A Blue Line bus in Delhi. Image copyright stevekc, CC-BY-SA 2.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Till 2010-2011, the private sector was composed of Licenced Stage Carriers, known as Blue Line buses. They were individual buses, operating under no fixed rules, and thus could take any route they wished to. This caused a major issue, since most operators chose only the profitable routes and in order to maximise profits, overloaded the buses as well as drove negligently to make more trips. This often put passengers at risk, and on an average, 100 people died in a year, both inside and outside the bus. In 2008-2010, the then Sheila Dikshit-led government decided to discontinue these buses in favour of the new Corporatisation scheme. Accordingly, permits to operate these buses were withdrawn and new permits were no longer issued. In 2011, the first set of Cluster Buses were launched.

So, what formed the basis for these Cluster Buses and why are they called so?

The DIMTS, a joint venture of the Government of NCT Delhi [GNCTD] and the IDFC Foundation, did a analysis of the 650-odd bus routes in Delhi and grouped them into 17 clusters. A list of the clusters as well their constituent bus routes is available on the GNCTD website. Within these clusters, 40% of the buses were to be run by DTC and the remaining 60% by DIMTS. DIMTS, meanwhile is just a Government Body, which among other things, maintains GPS data of every auto-rickshaw in the NCT, which is fitted with a GPS-enabled Fare Meter. The buses themselves are operated by Private Parties. Unlike the erstwhile Blue Lines, they are operated by large corporate bodies. Cluster buses today form the 60% Private share in the 17 clusters, though Private Stage Carriers with the Blue Line livery are slowly making a come back under the current government.

Each Cluster Bus is GPS-enabled with the position being relayed to the Public Information Website [http://businfo.dimts.in/businfo/] which shows the ETA of the buses, similar to what BEST does. Touch-screen Verifone Ticket Machines are utilised on these buses. Since there are only 3 fare stages, the driver only has to press the fare, ₹5, ₹10 or ₹15, and the location is automatically picked up via GPS. Similar to BEST, data is automatically sent to the server, thus eliminating a lot of issues.

A DIMTS Cluster Bus Ticket Machine.
A DIMTS Cluster Bus Ticket Machine. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

So what exactly is the issue here?

Now, there are several issues here, with all the buses in question:

  • Fares: Fares in Delhi are too low. With a minimum fare of ₹10 on AC services and fare stages of ₹5, ₹10 and ₹15 only in non AC services, fares are too cheap for both DTC and private operators to sustain themselves, even with low taxes and cheap CNG. It costs ₹15 in a bus from Okhla to Old Delhi Railway Station. The same journey costs ₹19 in a Metro from Okhla to Chandni Chowk. The only city where a bus ride is cheaper than a train.
  • ETMs: The Orange Faeries have GPS-based ETMs that instantly transmit data but have no purpose other than these two. BEST ETMs can sell passes and validate them. There should be a plan to sell Daily Passes with these machines and validate prepaid cards.
  • Passes: Daily Passes, even of AC buses are not valid on DIMTS buses, which form 3/5 of the buses on the road. They are also not valid on Feeder buses.
  • Feeder buses: Since the feeder buses are out on a contract basis with private carriers, they end up acting like Blueline minibuses.
  • Delhi BRTS: The Delhi BRTS is another case of Bus Lanes masquerading as as BRTS. It is similar to the original Swargate-Katraj BRT line in Pune. All sorts of vehicles enter bus lanes, there are no barricades at some place, bus stops are confusing. The funny part of the BRTS is that there are two layers of bus stops, parallel to each other at a junction, resulting in a mini pile-up.

Overall, Delhi’s transport system leaves a lot of space for improvement. DTC also operates buses to neighbouring cities in the NCR, such as NOIDA and Gurgaon. Passes are not valid on these buses. DIMTS doesn’t cross the border. All buses going away from Delhi terminate at the border. DTC also operates a shuttle bus service between Terminal 3 and 1 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, as well buses to Lahore, Pakistan and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Delhi’s bus problem is that buses try to be direct competition to the Metro. Operations need to be streamlined into a single integrated system, along with some fare hikes to make it sustainable.

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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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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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