The Propaganda of Transport

Propaganda is a very misused, overused and abused word today. Politicians use it all the time to attack each other. In such cases, we should take a closer look at the word Propaganda itself.

Merriam-Webster defines Propaganda as ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.

Of course, we can take the liberty of interpreting Propaganda as a more open nature of promoting oneself or ones interests to an audience.

The most well known example of Propaganda is the 1940 film The Eternal Jew, directed by Fritz Hippler and produced by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels under the Deutsche Film Gesellschaft banner. The film was nowhere near subtle, and portrayed Jews as Uncivilised, Parasitic and worse. However, times have changed and propaganda in its current form is very subtle, often using bias to have its way.

In the recent times, propaganda has managed to make its way into the Transport sector too. When we say Propaganda in the Transport sector, we do not refer to naming stations, airports, roads and bridges after people. Mumbai has one major railway station and its airport named after Chhatrapati Shivaji. Bangalore has its central bus station and airport named after Kempegowda. This is a global phenomenon. New York’s major airport is named after former President John F Kennedy while it’s secondary airport is named after the 99th Mayor Fiorello La Gaurdia.

The propaganda we look at is subtle, and in some cases, not so subtle.

A Nationalistic Bus?

A BMTC Atal Sarige on route AS-6.
A BMTC Atal Sarige on route AS-6. Image copyright Binai K Sankar.

At first glance, the Atal Sarige operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation [BMTC] looks like its livery is is draping the bus with the National Flag. But. It’s wrong. If you take a second look, you’d notice that the colour scheme is White, Green and Saffron/Orange. The party colours of the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. Further, the name itself is a giveaway. Named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP, the bus was meant to serve the poorest of the poor.

Note: If you’re Mumbai, the highest fare is on a bus with its route number starting with AS, and if you’re in Bangalore, it’d be the opposite.

And now, for a little Aesthetics.

A TSRTC Metro Luxury Volvo at Lingampally.
A TSRTC Metro Luxury Volvo at Lingampally. Image copyright LoveOfZ, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

Pink is known to be a very soothing colour. It is often used to calm inmates in prison.

However, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation [TSRTC] bus above did not turn pink to soothe its commuters. Telangana State was formed in 2014, and the party that won a majority in its Assembly Elections was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi [TRS], whose party colour is Pink. Thus, everyone who sees the bus will remember the colour pink and every time there is a campaign by the TRS, people will be calm, because, Hey, Pink is a soothing colour.

Switching Colours

And now, for the most interesting, and perhaps most noteworthy form of Bus-based propaganda.

Welcome to Tamil Nadu, where all the various divisions of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation [TNSTC], the Metropolitan Transport Corporation [MTC] of Chennai and the State Express Transport Corporation [SETC] are like Chamelons. Remember the phrase “गिरगिट की तरह रंग बदलना” (Girgit Ke Tarah Rang Badalna)? That’s what TNSTC/SETC/MTC buses do. Change colours; Every time the government changes. It’s like an unwritten part of the party manifesto.

Here’s a picture of an MTC bus taken in April 2011 below. It’s blue in colour. Blue is also a soothing colour, although I fail to understand why anyone would want to say ‘Feeling Blue’ to refer to Sadness.

A blue coloured MTC Semi Low Floor bus on route number 21G.
A blue coloured MTC Semi Low Floor bus on route number 21G. Image copyright Vinoth Thambidurai/CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

This picture was taken in April 2011, a month before the All India Anna Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam [AIADMK] government won the elections. Colour combinations were aplenty across Tamil Nadu. Some buses bore different shades of blue and yellow, some were white with Red, Yellow and Orange stripes across them, there were many.

Now, they are all uniform. While, I did mention Fragmentation in an earlier post, it would be great if each city had its own identity in terms of colours. Here, Tamil Nadu is one single entity in terms of coloured buses.

All long distance buses, including all SETC buses are now Green in Colour. They’re light green in colour with dark green stripes, or dark green in colour with light green stripes, depending on how you may want to look at them. Local buses, including all MTC buses all sport the same Brown-Beige combination which makes it look like the bus wasn’t washed at all. Perhaps a plan to not wash the buses regularly.

Below, is one such repainted bus, taken in 2013, belonging to TNSTC Coimbatore.

A TNSTC CBE bus at Vadavalli in Coimbatore.
A TNSTC CBE bus at Vadavalli in Coimbatore. Image copyright Faheem9333/CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported/Wikimedia Commons.

See, what did I tell you? Where did this come from? Some people tell me that the colour has to do with what happened before this repainting. Barely three-four months before the buses got this brown colour, they had a different colour.

An MTC bus in the intermediate colour scheme.
An MTC bus in the intermediate colour scheme. Image: The Hindu

Notice the colours? Notice the photo of Jayalalithaa on the windscreen? I know it’s a bit difficult to see it, but can you see it. In the picture, Jaya is seen wearing a saree that is the same colour as the Maroon on the bus. Her complexion matches the beige on the bus. Tada! When the paint jobs were done, all buses sported a huge photo of the Chief Minister on the front windshield on the left hand side.

And now, finally …

Green Leafy Vegetables Buses

They say, greens are good for health. They say Green is a sign of Eco-Friendliness. But, the leaves here don’t exactly say that do they?

An MTC Small Bus [Mini Bus].
An MTC Small Bus [Mini Bus]. Image: The Hindu

 While MTC curiously chose to name these buses as ‘Small Bus’, not ‘Mini Bus’, they also decided to put a few leaves on it. No points for guessing why. The AIADMK’s Party symbol is: Yes, that’s right, Two Leaves! But, wait! You can see four leaves on that bus! Simple: 2+2=4. The more the merrier. Two more leaves is just going to reinforce things into the commuters head.

Now, notice something common among all these Transcos mentioned? They’re all State-level bodies, not Municipal ones. You’ll never see BEST, AMTS, or PMPML like this. Why? Decentralisation of transport management ensures that while Municipal Bodies have the wherewithal to run the Transco, they won’t have the time or resources to go behind such trivial stuff. They’ll have more important stuff such as banners, roads, naming of Chowks to work in their favour.

On an unrelated note: Searching for Purple Faeries on Google leads you to the Tag Purple Faeries. I call this, Purple Propaganda..

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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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#YogaDay special: Yoga and its contribution to Public Transport

Today is International Yoga Day, something that was recognised by the United Nations last year.

Not many people are aware of the immense contributions that Yoga has had on Public Transport.

We often hear negative news about Staff and Employees of Transcos allegedly harassing commuters. Sometimes, we also hear about bus drivers moving down people. While, I don’t want to get into the specifics of all of this, let us look into the root cause of all of this.

All of them have a common cause: Stress.
A bus driver and conductors job is most certainly not the easiest task in the world. It requires a lot of skill and patience. Drivers have to put up with traffic jams, negligent and rash drivers, bad roads, and also passengers who don’t board/disembark through proper doorways or at specific bus stops. This adds to a lot of stress.
A conductor has to deal with people not giving change, rude passengers, passengers boarding/disembarking via the wrong pathways or at bus stops, people not moving to emptier sections of the bus, etc. This, again adds to the stress.
Now, multiply these instance by multiple passengers, number of trips, depot officials asking for fuel reports and fare collections, and you have a perfect recipe for a Nervous Breakdown.

To reduce the load on the staff, several Transcos decided to take up Employee Care measures by introducing Yoga, and Meditions sessions.

MTC has mandatory yoga sessions for staff involved in accidents. They also have sessions to prevent a stress overload, as well as sessions on effective communication and life skills. Similarly, KaSRTC, too has sent its staff to Yoga and rehabilitation to help reduce alcoholism among its staff members.

Others, such as BEST, MSRTC, and BMTC too have had sessions on meditation, anger management, and relaxation to keep staff at ease during long working schedules in order to help reduce stress levels and increase productivity.

Yoga is something we should be proud of. It is pretty much a Soft Power that originated in India. It was earlier laughed off by critics, but today is accepted as an international practice.

Hats off to the government for promoting Yoga as a stress-buster and natural relaxant. If people practiced Yoga on a regular basis, it would help everyone. A stress-free and relaxed person has the ability to keep calm in tense situations, and altercations may be avoided. If everyone is in such a state, imagine the transport scenario will also be one which people would look forward to.

#YogaDay Special: How Yoga is beneficial to Public Transport. Click To Tweet

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Chennai Floods: What do we learn?

Ten years ago, Mumbai was flooded. Rains wreaked havoc on the Financial Capital of India.

Today, ten years later, Chennai faces the same onslaught of water. It seems weird that at a time when farmers are committing suicide in Karnataka and Maharashtra, because of drought faced, people are dying in coastal Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh due to floods. Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Water, water everywhere, every drop is out to kill me. In the last decade, Mumbai has shut down for atleast one day, every year, in June, July or August due to the rains. Chennai has experienced rains in two sets this winter. One was in November, and one, in December. I’m gonna treat these two as separate instances and then draw a conclusion between two two.

November

Rains struck Madras in November 2015. It was heavy, taking the city by shock [I refrain from using the word surprise here]. Nobody expected these kinds of rains. Around 180 people died, the Central Government sanctioned ₹900crore. Chennai Police officers and Chennai Corporation workers worked tirelessly, day-and-night to help ease the situation. Ola, offered boats to those stranded, while UrbanClap announced free pest-control and OYO Rooms offered rooms ar discounted rates to shelter those who were stranded. 200 people lost their lives in this tragic incident.

December

Rains struck Madras on 1st of December. This time, Nature, really came down on the city like hell. 200 people lost their lives. The Army, Navy, Air Force and National Disaster Response Force [NDRF] were deployed in no time. Water levels reached the first floor in several localities, the Adyar and Cooum were overflowing, indundating the Saidapet, while the Palar was inundating the East Coast Road near Kalpakkam. To help the issue, CMRL continued operations of the Chennai Metro throughout the night. Madras Christian College, SRM University, Sathyam Cinema, Forum Mall Velacheri, among others offered shelter to those stranded. People were offering shelter and publicly posted this along with their phone numbers on Twitter and Facebook. The good folks at Twitter India were busy retweeting people who added #ChennaiRains to their tweets. Some good Samaritans like Harshita Murali, compiled a list of whom people could get in touch with if they were in Trouble. My friend and fellow OpenStreetMaps geek Arun Ganesh came up with a Crowd-Sourced Map that enabled people to report which areas were flooded, in order to help coordinate rescue and relief efforts. One Hotelier even offered rooms outside of Madras on a Pay-for-Food basis.

Observations
Media

As always, our national media hasn’t bothered. They’re more bothered about ‘Intolerance’. They’ll cover Paris, but not Madras. As I had stated earlier; for our media:

  • Floods in Madras, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coastal Andhra Pradesh: Don’t care, South India isn’t important.
  • Floods in Bombay: Failure of BJP and Shiv Sena in the MCGM.
  • Floods in an NDA state: Corruption.
  • Floods in a non NDA state: Nature’s Fury.
  • Floods in Delhi: National Calamity.

Of course, the media did eventually cover it, but it was pathetic. The Hindu tried to pass off pictures of a 2013 deluge inside Delhi Airport as Chennai Airport while CNN-IBN reportedly abused the #ChennaiRainsHelp hashtag with their spammy news.

NDTV went a level higher stating that Chennai Airport is doomed to suffer because its runway is built on a river. I don’t know where these retards and morons studied English and Journalism from, because the runway is not ON a river, but a bridge built OVER the Adayar river. Chennai is not the only city in the world to have done this. The taxiway at Mumbai Airport was extended across the Mithi river in the form of a bridge too. This is common abroad as well.

Social Media

Like always, Social Media has always been the most useful. Chennaiites, have helped each other by offering shelter, food, and what not. People are sharing addresses and phone numbers on email to hep each other find shelter and get help.

Government

At the state level, Police, Fire and Municipal officers are doing their level best to coordinate rescue efforts. MTC and CMRL are running services as much as possible. At the central level, the Armed Forces and NDRF have been deployed. Indian Railways has offered all possible help as well. BSNL is offering free local and STD calls, free SMS, additional 100mb free data for Mobile and Landline users, Rent Rebate for 7 days and an extension of billing cycles by a fortnight. The Central government is doing a lot, Karnataka donated ₹5crore, which TN rejected. Apparently AIADMK workers are now stopping relief material entering to stick Amma stickers on them.

Others

Ola, OYO, and other private companies have shown their humanitarian side, while Sathyam Cinemas, Forum Mall, SRM University et al have opened their doors for the stranded. Zomato is offering food packets as well.

Skeptics

I read about a week ago, about a person who was criticising Ola and Uber, calling the Ola boats a publicity stunt. He claimed that if Ola and Uber had operated services during the floods people would not be stranded. He also stated that MTC drivers, should be thanked for continuing thru the downpour. I believe this is a bit harsh. If it rains, smaller cars would would get inundated. Back in 2005, people in Bombay died because their cars were inundated and the ACs spewed toxic fumes or their doors and power windows got jammed. BEST buses, especially Double Deckers were saviours back then.

Some skeptics, including journalist Sagarika Ghose and IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt chose to politicise/communalise the issue with talk of Hindu-Muslim and Cows. I guess unless they are stranded in the rains themselves, they will not learn.

What can you do, if you are stuck, or you can offer support?

  1. Contribute to Arun’s map above if you can.
  2. Coordinate with Harshita [linked above] on Twitter or Medium and share details.
  3. Do not forward images on Whatsapp. Last week, some News Channels were showing images of a flooded city in China, claiming it was Chennai.
  4. Contribute to the Zomato fund, or some other cause. There are people donating Power Banks to Chennaiites.
  5. Stay indoors, stay safe. You do not know what can hit you, bite you, suck you in.
  6. AVOID RUMOUR MONGERING and DO NOT PANIC OR CAUSE PANIC.
  7. If you are on Twitter, and you have something to share, use #ChennaiRains, #ChennaiRainsHelp and tag @TwitterIndia or @The_Hindu in it.
What can we learn from this?
  1. Every city needs to be prepared for such incidents. A strong Disaster Response team needs to be set up at a local level.
  2. Coastal cities, namely Chennai, Mumbai, Mangalore, whole of Goa, Kerala, Vijayawada, Puduchery need to get together and find new ways to pump out storm water.
  3. Interlinking of Rivers must be taken a lot more seriously now.
  4. This must be a wake-up call for illegal, irregular, unathourised constructions. Chennai would not have been affected to this level if it hadn’t been for the screw-ups done by the Corporation of Chennai, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Directorate of Town Planning.
  5. Lakes and river beds must be cleaned, desilted.
  6. Storm water drains need to be redesigned.

Having experienced the Floods of 26th July 2005, I know how it feels to be stuck in the rains. Be brave Chennai, if Mumbai could survive, so can you.

 

Updates


Chennai Floods IndiChange Participant

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Buy the ticket, board the Bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Haryana Roadways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Underrated Daily Pass

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

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

PMPML

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

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

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

MTC and TNSTC

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

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

BMTC and KSRTC

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

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

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

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

TSRTC

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

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

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

BEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MSRTC

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

For pricing, two seasons have been created:

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

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

DTC

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

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

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

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

CTU

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Have you ever used a Daily Pass?
Do leave your feedback below.

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