[Satire] BEST Buses To Stop At Bus Stops For Two Minutes

BEST today announced that henceforth all buses would stop at bus stops for atleast two minutes irrespective of whether passengers boarded or disembarked.
This announcement came following the speech by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha where he quoted British economist John Maynard Keynes and said “In the long run we are all dead” yesterday.

A boy running to catch a bus (Representative).
A boy running to catch a bus (Representative). Image copyright Fengalon. Image in Public Domain.

When contacted, BEST chairman Mohan Ramchandra Mithbaokar was unavailable to comment. We were told by his assistant that the new move was to give commuters ample time to reach the bus stop. “If people run to catch a bus, it could be dangerous, they might die,” we were told. “Hence, the order was issued that all buses would stop for a few minutes to allow those running to slow down and walk to the bus. We are also planning to insure people who buy tickets in case the long run kills them,” he added.

Meanwhile, when contacted, NMMT chairman Saboo Daniel was visibly angry. “BEST thinks they can outdo us? No way! We will beat them to this. We will show that we care more for the passenger than they do. We will prevent their buses from stopping in Navi Mumbai just like we prevented their buses from entering our depots. Why, we’ll even stop our buses everywhere so that people do not have to run or walk at all! That way, nobody will die in the long run!”, he fumed. When asked if NMMT had any insurance plans like BEST, he said, “It is only needed if people run right?”

We just hope that whenever these happen, nobody will die in the long run.

BEST to take additional measures to prevent people from dying in the long run! Click To Tweet

Note: All content in this article is fictitious, and must not be taken seriously. This article is satire, and should ideally be treated as such.

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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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Stories behind a Ticket

By now, you know me well. I’ve written earlier about why I am fascinated by buses.  You also know that I collect bus tickets. But there is something about these tickets that is not well known to most people.

I often write notes and story ideas on the back of my bus ticket. It can be anything. Most of the time it has everything to do with the journey itself.

So, below are a few such tickets with my stories on them.

Behind a BEST ticket.

A story written on the back of a ticket on Bus. 56. We met. Our Eyes Met. Our Smiles Met. Our Hearts Met. 56 - Yay .... JS - 27 - 05
A story written on the back of a ticket on Bus. 56

Behind a BEST Daily Pass.

A story written behind a BEST Daily Pass. Kid blows bubbles on the street. Sees two men playing Uno in a Cafe. Sees two women playing Chinese Checkers next to them. Is there a Mystery?
A story written behind a BEST Daily Pass.

Behind an MSRTC [ST] Shivneri Ticket.

A story behind an MSRTC Shivneri ticket. My twin and I were returning to Pune from Mumbai. I'm lucky to have a twin. She's not the evil one though. I am. You'll see.. Someday..
A story behind an MSRTC Shivneri ticket. My twin and I were returning to Pune from Mumbai. The evil bit refers to my pranks.

Behind an NMMT ticket.

It was pouring in Bombay when I took this bus. I was lost in an alternate reality where the rain caused an apocalyptic flood. Stormy Night Here. Would I be the Hero of my own Story?
It was pouring in Bombay when I took this bus. I was lost in an alternate reality where the rain caused an apocalyptic flood.

Behind a BMTC ticket.

My boss and I have for long agreed that the Silk Board junction was never a problem. What if the traffic at Silk Board was really a Screening Mechanism to deem who is worthy of entering HSR Layout first?
My boss and I have for long agreed that the Silk Board junction was never a problem.

Behind a Delhi Cluster Bus ticket.

I was sick after inhaling a bit of Delhi's polluted air in Azadpur. Is Delhi's pollution all a plan to systematically force people to move out? A la Tughlaq?
I was sick after inhaling a bit of Delhi’s polluted air in Azadpur.

Two PMPML tickets, both from June 2014, have gone missing. One was referring to a story about an alien visiting Earth that I had written when I was 12: A Visitor From Xyralite, and the other was an outline for a story that I wrote two months later on a Nuclear Apocalypse: Silence. I will find these someday and post them here. Till then… *salutes*

 

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Saving the BEST: A look back

Saving the BEST, a wonderful article by Rajendra Aklekar, journalist and author of the highly acclaimed book ‘Halt Station India’, appeared on Sunday’s edition of The Hindu. I’m going to attempt to reinterpret his article with a little bit of my own thoughts in the process.

Mumbai has traditionally been dependent on its railway lines for commuting. This dependency has been justified by their reach, optimal efficiency, and reliability. This makes them more than just a Rail Network. It makes it a lifeline, because it brings together the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The story with the road is similar. BEST buses have been on the roads for quite a while now. Motor Buses were to make their first appearance in 1913, operated by the Bombay Electricity Supply and Tramways Company Limited [BES &T Co. Ltd] which was set up in 1907, but didn’t turn up till 1926 because of World War I. Prior to this, the Bombay Tramway Company Limited operated horse-drawn trams in Bombay from 1873 with Electric Trams appearing on the scene in 1906 after BES&T took over the BTC. Today, BEST’s ubiquitious red buses form the last mile [or kilometre] connectivity for millions of passengers from both the city itself, as well as its suburbs and satellite towns.

However, things are changing. BEST is already in knee-deep trouble, getting passengers, especially for its lacklusture AC services that have been beaten by NMMT and TMT, although BEST is seemingly gaining a steady foothold after the recent fare revision. Further, app-based aggregators, including Ola, Uber, ZipGo, Shuttl, rBus, are all eating into BESTs revenue. To add to this, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority [MMRTA] is now allowing private buses to ply point to point within the city without a permit.

The fault here lies in not only the competition, but also BEST. Corruption, Politics, Unions, all have made the Red Bus seemingly irrelevant in today’s life.

To put it in figures, BESTs Transport Deficit is -₹858.02crore. Its Electricity Surplus of ₹925.41crore is what is keeping it floating, along with some cash flowing in from the MCGM.

While it common to understand that Public Transport, being considered Public Service is bound to go thru losses, why are BESTs coffers in such a precarious state?

As Mr. Aklekar puts it, it all has to do with the management of BEST. It has an Administrative Wing and a Committee that is a Political Body. The two often overstep their boundaries, since it is blurred, and cause skirmishes, which leads to losses.

Along with this, it is also BESTs lack of keeping pace. NMMT and TMT went the BMTC way by procuring high-end Volvo buses while BEST remained with their scam-tainted Punjab-made Cerita fleet that were procured under the name of ‘Kinglong’ buses. This, along with the fact that BEST had abysmally high fares for their dilapidated buses just made things worse. BEST’s ITS was a total failure, because it required users to send an SMS and was full of bugs. Later on, it got shut down. Of course, let us not forget BEST’s tryst with Electronic Ticketing, which for a Municipal Level Transco, is a commendable effort, one worthy of a case study.

While BEST doesn’t provide WiFi on buses, something the Mumbai Metro does, I have seen a bus with a White Box behind the Driver saying WiFi. Maybe this was a one-off trial.

While Mr. Aklekar points out that BEST didn’t have a public time-table, I did find out that BEST did indeed have one, visible on its website when searching for a route, and also visible on the Mobile app m-Indicator. Of course, the increased traffic on the city’s roads have practically rendered timetables useless. Last September, the day after Anant Chaturdashi, I ended up catching the 9.30 AS4 from NSCI to Backbay at 10.15 thanks to the traffic.

When Delhi can track its Cluster buses and Autos, why can’t BEST? 3500 buses aren’t hard to track. BEST can set up a system on a Public-Private Partnership and licence its API for others to use if they’re unable to give it out for free.

He also talks of bus stops using electricity for advertising. The power can also be used to light it up for the safety of commuters, as well as a Public Information system for arrivals. I believe this should be easy, atleast within town limits, given that BEST supplies power there. BEST can also explore the possibility of solar powered bus stops.

Why can’t BEST go the Ola-Uber way and tap into the Google Maps API to show where a bus is? Get an app, track buses, guide commuters to the nearest bus stop. Let them buy a ticket with the app! Paper tickets are great. Make them greater. Print some ads on them. BEST used to do so with their earlier punched tickets. Why not now? Print a WiFi password on it as well, so that commuters with a ticket can use it. Passholders can probably have it using an app!

While I had earlier stated that I would be favour of participation from the private sector to keep the city’s transport in shape, the case with BEST is peculiar. The decentralised nature of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region allows each Municipal Corporation to run their own buses. Why can’t BEST, NMMT and TMT coordinate their bus services? Why do they have their toxic competition?

BEST represents the city of Mumbai in many ways. It is a Heritage structure in itself. If not for anything else, BEST, its red buses, their bell pulls, the Double Deckers, makes the Undertaking unique in India. Even the Purple Faeries make them unique.

BEST needs to get its act together. Or else India’s Oldest Transport Body, a crucial part of Mumbai’s Heritage, Culture and History would be lost to the annals of time.

 

Click here to read Rajendra Aklekar’s article Saving the BEST.

Click here to buy Rajendra Aklekar’s Halt Station India

 

 

 

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BEST slashed its AC fares by half. What happened then is obvious!

BEST recently slashed its AC fares by 50%. The results of this, while obvious, are quite shocking.

BEST also introduced several new routes: AS-71, AS-72, AS-318, AS-415.

Earlier, NMMT and TMT AC buses would always run full while BEST buses were like Chauffeur services, with one or two passengers in some of them. The reasons were clear: BEST used its Purple Faeries while the other two use Volvos, and further, BEST charged one and a half [1.5x] times what the other two charged.

But not any more. BEST’s minimum AC fares have come down from ₹30 to ₹15 while NMMT and TMT charge ₹20.

The Net Result?

BEST’s AC buses are seeing a higher patronage. BEST, whose ridership had fallen from 43lakh to 30lakh, is now trying to get it to 45lakh.

Take a look below and see how two AC buses are performing.

AS-318

This is AS-318 at Bandra Bus Station [East] towards the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Bandra Kurla Complex.

As you can see in the picture, the bus is quite full.

BEST bus AS-310.
BEST bus AS-310. Image copyright Coolguyz.

AS-415

This is AS-415 from Agarkar Chowk to SEEPZ. As you can see, the bus is full of passengers.

BEST bus AS-415.
BEST bus AS-415. Image Copyright Coolguyz.

When was the last time you saw a BEST AC bus full of passengers? 2009? 2010.

With BEST getting the new Tata Starbus Hybrid fleet soon, things are just going to improve.

Of course, as stated earlier, BEST needs to get rid of the Cerita fleet soon and go for more powerful Ashok Leyland, Corona, Scania and Volvo buses to sustain this increase in passengers.

BEST slashed its AC fares by half. What happened then will NOT blow your mind! Click To Tweet

Images courtesy Coolguyz from Skyscrapercity.

Go ahead. Share this article. Share the joys of traveling in India’s Oldest Public Transport Company.

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BEST Announces Revised Fare Structure

Two months after BEST announced its intentions to rationalise fares, BEST has kept its promise and revised them.

BEST has already started the new AC routes [AS310, AS415, AS71, AS72]  proposed, and as of 1st July 2016, the new fares are in operation..

The new BEST committee headed by the BJP has done well in giving BEST the necessary shot in the arm.

The new rates are close to half of the earlier ones.

Here are the rates:

BEST Fare structure July 2016
BEST Fare structure July 2016

The usual conditions, such as 15 paise nutrition surcharge, concessional fares for children below 12, flat fare of ₹2 for visually-impaired passengers, additional charge of ₹1/₹5 for non-AC/AC buses beyond MCGM limits and luggage rates are applicable.

Passes and Happy Hours

For passes, monthly and quarterly rates have been reduced. For Daily Passes, the rates for the non-AC passes are the same. The AC Magic Day Pass now costs ₹150, as was the case before the April 2015 fare revision.

A separate fare structure exists for Children, which costs roughly half the regular adult fare.

The concept of Happy Hours has been introduced, between 1100hrs and 1700hrs [11am to 5pm]. During Happy Hours, all passes are sold at the rate of Child Passes.

For the full fare revision; please click here.

A friend reported that post the fare revision, a ₹105 trip from the JVLR/Jay Coach Junction to Airoli in an AS524 now costs ₹65.

This would mean that a trip from Thane Station [East] to Borivali Station [East] on AS700 would cost around ₹75-80 instead of ₹120, bringing it on par with TMT AC65 and NMMT AC131.

Similarly, Agarkar Chowk to Mulund Check Naka Bus Station on As422 should cost ₹60 instead of ₹100.

All this brings BEST on par with NMMT and TMT in terms of fares. Interestingly, while NMMT/TMT have hiked their fares in view of the recent introduction of a 6% Luxury Tax by the Government of India, similar to BMTC and TSRTC, BEST has reduced the fares. One would have to assume that the new reduced fares are inclusive of this surcharge.

Now, with the new fare structure in place, BEST needs to work on a few things, mostly dealing with its AC fleet. They are:

  • Fix the Cerita fleet. Get them in working order as long as they are around. Some of them have been converted into non-AC buses to replace the Starbus fleet that has been taken off the roads.
  • Get those 46 Volvos from Asian Concierge. Crucial for BEST to remain in the competition.
  • Reintroduce routes such as AS422, AS4, AS1 on Sundays.
  • Reintroduce discontinued routes such as AS505 to take on NMMT’s AC105.

BEST is certainly moving in the right direction. With a few more steps, it can soon recover its losses and be a role model for other Transcos.

 

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[Satire] BEST announces BEST Dish Of The Day

In a move to boost employee morale and get more publicity, BEST has come up with a new programme.

Capitalising on Masterchef’s Best Dish of the Day concept, BEST officials decided that the new program will help boost publicity and the morale of staff and their families.

A BEST staff member from the Colaba Depot excitedly announced that, the Spouses of BEST employees would be cooking under this new scheme. The dish which manages to satisfy the judge or judges the most will be awarded BEST Dish of the Day and will then be sold in BEST’s Mobile Food House [Phirte Upahar Grih/फिरते उपहार गृह ] to tourists who use BEST’s Mumbai Darshan service. It will have a big banner with BEST Dish of the Day, and बेस्ट डिश ऑफ़ दि डे , written on it.

BEST's Phirte Upahar Grih, Mobile Food Van, Canteen On Wheels.
BEST’s Phirte Upahar Grih, Mobile Food Van, Canteen On Wheels. Image copyright Neeraj Pattath, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

According to sources, negotiations are underway to rope in Akshay Kumar, who hosted the first season of Master Chef in India as the judge for the program. Sanjeev Kapoor is also rumoured to have been contacted. One staffer even suggested that the Undertaking should try and rope in British food writer and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson to increase BESTs visibility to the world.

When contacted, BEST General Manger Jagdish Patil’s assistant responded by saying that his boss had gone for a food tasting. He said, “BEST has a brand name, and we must capitalise on this. Boss was joking about how Navi Mumbai cannot have an NMMT Dish of the Day, because it sounds stupid. He did say that TMT could capitalise on its brand name because its buses were falling apart like a bunch of rusted, loosely held TMT rods. This is one area where they cannot copy us, or outperform us.”

When contacted, NMMT General Manager Shirish Aradwad seemed a little irate. “They cannot focus on buses, now they are focusing on food also? We’ll make sure their food doesn’t enter our Depots just like we stopped AS-505 from entering the CBD Belapur Bus Stand. They say they’ll sell the dish made by spouses on the Mobile Catering Van, right? Well, we’ll get every employee of ours, to cook food and sell it on every bus. We’ll provide every bus with a stove running on the bus CNG tank and a chimney so that conductors can cook in between stages and drivers can cook while waiting at signals. We’ll even rewire the Bell Pull to stir the food when the conductor is selling tickets.”, he retorted.

One hopes that whatever happens, happens soon, and all of us have our tummies full.

BEST decides to award the BEST Dish of the Day! Click To Tweet

Note: All content in this article is fictitious, and must not be taken seriously. This article is satire, and should ideally be treated as such.

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New Innings for BEST

In another revolutionary move, BEST has decided to focus on becoming more public-transport centric and turn itself from a loss making body to a profitable one. In other words, BEST has decided to become the BEST, by taking on NMMT and TMT head-on.

Update: BEST has announced reduced bus fares and passes from 01-07-16. AC passes are back to ₹150, with a new Child rate for children under 12. Happy Hours have been introduced as well. More details here: BEST Fare Revision 2016

BEST has decided a reshuffle of its AC routes, cancelling two, reconsidering a few and proposing a few more!

Now, the interesting thing is that BEST is reconsidering two routes via T2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. BEST earlier ran dedicated AC express routes from the airport such as A1Express from T2 to CBD Belapur Bus Station and A14Express to Cadbury Junction. Among the routes being canceled are A76Express from Gorai Depot to NSCI Worli via the Bandra Worli Sea Link and AS592 from Kopar Khairane to NSCI Worli. Routes that almost got scrapped include:

  • AS9 from Ghatkopar Depot to Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee Chowk
  • A74Express from Oshiwara Depot to NSCI Worli
  • A75Express from Hirandani Powai to NSCI Worli
  • A77Express from Gorai Depot to BKC Telephone Exchange

Routes that are being proposed include:

  • AS71 from Fishermen Colony, Mahim to Mira Road East, via CSIA T2
  • AS72 from Rani Laxmi Chowk, Sion to Bhayendar East, via CSIA T2
  • As415 from Agarkar Chowk to SEEPZ via Marol Depot
A lit of canceled, proposed BEST AC Routes
A list of canceled, proposed BEST AC Routes

Apart from this, 50 routes across the 27 depots are slated to be cancelled.

What started all this?

A simple change in the BEST committee in the MCGM. After close to a decade, the BJP took over the committee from the Shiv Sena. Rather ironic, given that the Sena is anti-Toll while the BJP is pro-Toll. If you recall, it was the Sena that hiked the fares of BEST in 2015, first in February and then in April in 2015.

A quick recap would show that the BJP has always been adept at providing good transport wherever it has been, be it in the form of the Mumbai-Pune or Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressways, the BRTS corridors in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Bhopal and Indore, BMTC and KSRTC which showed a massive turnaround under R Ashoka, the erstwhile Transport Minister of Karnataka.

Back in 2005, BEST, had introduced the Smart Card system with Kaizen Automation, in the form of the Go Mumbai smart card, which was a common mobility smart card for both BEST buses as well as trains on the Suburban Railway. These were subsequently phased out in favour of the present Trimax system that BEST uses.

Rebranding

BEST, which officially turns 70 in its current form next year, and currently has a debt burden of ₹2,250 crore, plans to change its logo as well the colour of the buses in a major move to rebrand itself.

BEST has written to the Sir JJ Insititute of Applied Arts, one of the city’s premier art institutes to guide it in the process. The colour change is part of an exercise to make BEST more acceptable among customers.

The Mumbai Monorail, operated by the MMRDA, got the National Institute of Design [NID], Ahmedabad to design its coaches. One hopes that BEST too, would reach out to NID, or maybe even the Centre for Enviornment, Planning and Technology [CEPT], Ahmedabad for some ideas in design and operations.

Passes

Among other changes, are the rates of passes, monthly, as well as daily passes.

While the Major changes are the the reduction of the Monthly AC bus pass from ₹4800 to ₹3300, a significant change is the reduction of the Magic Daily Passes:

  • Magic AC: ₹200 to ₹150.
  • Magic Non-AC: ₹70 to ₹51.
  • Suburban Pass: ₹50 to ₹36.
  • Island City/Town: ₹40 to ₹29.

However, these are valid only during the Happy Hour period of 11am to 5pm.

The question here is, if the pass is cheaper post 11am, nobody would buy a pass before that. An alternative explanation is that passes purchased between 11am and 5pm are not valid during the rest of the day, which is an inconvenience to those who might purchase a pass after 11am, but may need to use it at 9pm. I guess, an official explanation from BEST would be the best thing to wait for.

While, BEST currently has good integration with the Suburban Rail, what is desired it better integration with the Metro, Monorail, and MSRTC services.

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BKC gets a Gold Coin

Bandra Kurla Complex, known to most people as BKC, the new financial hub of Mumbai,and also the site of the Make in India Centre recently, has got a bonus Gold Coin in terms of transport.

Tata Starbus has bagged an order for its new Diesel-Electric Hybrid AC bus from the MMRDA. These buses will be operated by BEST as part of their fleet, thus complementing their existing AC fleet.

Tata Motors becomes the first Indian manufacturer to bag the single largest order for 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Electric Hybrid Bus from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The route connects Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to Sion, Bandra and Kurla railway stations supporting millions of commuters every day. This city bus is economically viable & eco-friendly - certified by ARAI.
Tata Motors bags order for 25 Tata Starbus Diesel Electric Hybrid Bus from the MMRDA. Image copyright Tata Motors.

As per a notification on MMRDA’s website, these buses will be owned by MMRDA, maintained by Tata Motors for a period of five years and operated by BEST. Further, they will operate in dedicated bus lanes within BKC, connecting the District to Bandra Railway Station, Kurla Railway Station and Sion Railway Station.

These buses are set to be a game changer. The reasons being:

Now coming to Kurla and Sion Stations.

Sion station is set to get a massive makeover. The road bridge connecting Dharavi /LBS Marg to Rani Laxmi Chowk that houses the entrance to the station is set to be demolished to make way for the Fifth and Sixth railway lines connecting Ghatkopar to CST. This means that the station entrance will be shifted, and is good news in the long run.

Kurla Station [West] is the proposed site for MMRDA for the Station Area Transit Improvement Scheme [SATIS], which will see an elevated platform for buses and autos, similar to the structure at Thane Station West.

The new buses will mostly be housed at BEST’s newest depot, the Kala Killa Depot [KK] which was earlier an empty plot adjacent to the Dharavi Depot where buses of the Kurla Depot were parked during its reconstruction. The depot became operational on 31st January 2016.

Another major project for BKC is a ropeway. After CIDCO proposed a ropeway between Vashi and Kopar Khairane and Vashi and Ghatkopar, the MMRDA has now proposed a new ropeway connecting Kurla and BKC. The ropeway has been considered on this route given the congestion and taking land availability as well.

Another update on this stretch is from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited [MMRCL].

Amidst all controversy and outrage from Environmentalists and the National Green Tribunal [NGT], the latter of which has failed to do its duty and rakes up controversy needlessly, the MMRCL has silently been doing a good job in acquiring land for the underground Metro which will connect Colaba, Cuffee Parade, BKC Mumbai International Airport and SEEPZ.


With all these updates, the city’s newest Business District is all set to be given the premium connectivity it deserves.

BEST is going one level beyond with Hybrid buses for BKC Click To Tweet

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From #MakeInIndia to Made in India

The #MakeInIndia week at Mumbai has been quite an eventful one. A lot has been learned here, and I have understood a lot about various things.

Barring an unfortunate incident involving a fire at the Maharashtra Night cultural program at Girgaum Chowpatty, the event has been a largely successful one.

Among the various exhibits and tidbits I managed to gather over the last two days while covering the event, here are some:

Amitabh Kant, Secretary of Industrial Policy and Promotion stressed on the need to not only Manufacture in India, but also Invent, Innovate and Design in India.

Scania and Volvo had got their new buses.

The Scania was the same bus that had been given to the Nagpur Mahanagar Parivahan Limited. It is India’s first bio-fuel bus, and it’s components are mostly sourced from India itself.

The Volvo was a Hybrid B7RLE/8400 model that NMMT had ordered. Of course, this does mean that BEST’s AC services are going to take a hit, but that is a different story altogether.

Ministers and industrialists spoke about road connectivity, rail connectivity, and inland water transport. While the former two were with regard to connecting ports, the latter was to decongest ports and roads. Now, if one can equate Passenger and Cargo traffic, you could come to the conclusion that a set-up for Freight should ideally work for a Set-up for Passengers as well, with minor modifications. This needs to be explored big time. The ship-building industry has a vast potential in India, and this needs to be explored big time by major cities, especially Mumbai, Surat, Chennai, Kolkata, and Mangalore. Connecting Ports to Hinterland with Rail, Road, and Inland Waterways will be a big boon for people living in the vicinity. It will encourage healthy competition [not the BEST vs NMMT kind, which is toxic] among different modes, and boost trade and productivity.

Amitabh Kant stressed on the need to manufacture more in India. While Services may form bulk of our economy, manufacturing is a must for it to be sustainable. This works in case of transport too. Buses need to be manufactured, trains need to be manufactured. With FDI is the rail sector, especially, high-speed rail, things are certainly set to change. He also mentioned that “Good quality Frugal Eningeering and Smartness must be combined to develop an Indian ability to manufacture”, which is true. One cannot directly apply global standards to India. India has different constraints, as well as requirements, and this must be taken care of.

Overall, I was part of several brilliant sessions, with various ministers, as well as Industrialists being part of there. I also, saw a lot of the exhibitions in vicinity.

Now, for other things:

The Fire

The fire that broke out at the Stage during the Maharashtra Night cultural programme at Girgaum Chowpatti was a rather unfortunate one. It was a stray firework and of course, the event company must be penalised. It was an unfortunate event and the ever-awesome Mumbai Fire Brigade rushed to the spot in no time and had the fire under control with no casualties. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis himself stayed back till the end of the rescue operation to ensure that all had been led to safety. What peeves me off is that while not only did political parties try and gain political mileage out of this, but certain people went to the extent of calling it “Fake In India”, mocking the entire event, and making fun of a calamity, by way of which, they insulted the work done by the Firemen, as well as the Organisers of the entire event [not just the Cultural Programme].

The Auto Strike

Auto-Walas chose the wrong week to strike. Auto drivers across the city decided to strike  on Monday 15th February in a protest against cab aggregators and illegal buses in the city as well as raised fares for issuing auto permits. However, BEST saved the day. BEST ran close to 90 extra services, ferrying 12 million people more on that day than the previous, and earning ₹5.2crore, which is ₹73lakh more than normal on that single day. However, BEST should have been running extra services to BKC, both Double-Deckers as well as special AC buses on that day, keeping the Make In India program in mind. Along with this, AC services should have been running on an hourly basis in and around BKC for the week. The strike didn’t impact NMMT or TMT much however, as it was within Mumbai city limits.

Other Observations

Nagpur Mahanagar Parivahan Limited [NMPL]'s Scania biofuel bus.
Nagpur Mahanagar Parivahan Limited [NMPL]’s Scania biofuel bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The Scania Citybus that NMPL recieved in 2014 was present. The bus runs on an Ethanol based blend and is both eco-friendly as well as fuel efficient. The bus went to Nagpur because the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari hails from Nagpur. One hopes that with MSRTC inducting Scanias into its fleet, BEST too would get this.

NMMT's Volvo Hybrid Bus.
NMMT’s Volvo Hybrid Bus. Image Copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC BY SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The new Volvo Hybrid bus that has been launched on the 8400 platform was on display. NMMT has purchased 5 of these buses that run on Diesel-CNG and this is definitely going to take a toll on BEST.

An airconditioned minivan built by Force Motors.
An airconditioned minivan built by Force Motors. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC BY SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Force Motors had on display, a minivan. This minivan seemed very comfortable, and reasonable luxurious. Personally, I believe it can be used as a Feeder service to the Metro.

Bajaj Qute.
Bajaj Qute. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC BY SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Bajaj’s Quadricycle, the Qute was also present there. The Qute can actually be used as an alternative for auto-rickshaws, or maybe be the Kaali-Peeli vs Cool Cab type.

And, the bonus:

BEML 205 Ton Dumper.
BEML 205 Ton Dumper. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC BY SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The mammoth 205-ton dumper that Bharat Earth Movers Limited [BEML] built for mining purposes was also there.

Other observations and quotes:

  • In the food court, Falafels was using a Balaji Ticketing machine that Trimax uses for BEST and MSRTC.
  • Sadhguruji of the Isha Yoga Foundation was present, and made a few inspiring statements:
  1. True design unlocks better thinking, better insights, better products & better humans.
  2. Design should be used for promoting & leveraging towards sustainable growth for one and all.
  • Amitabh Kant of the Niti Aayog, too had a lot of motivating statements:
  1. Design is important in manufacturing & improving products. India will be providing solutions. to 6-7 billion people in the world with design.
  2. Challenge is to make urbanization sustainable. Compact cities, connectivity, sanitation, safety depends on design & innovation.
  3. India must be ready for smart, frugal innovation.

Overall, #MakeInIndia week was brilliant. It was a brilliant experience, and one that would last a lifetime.

Here is a Robot that was programmed to pick up objects:

Robotics #MakeInIndia

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

 

For those interested:

I’m a freelance Digital Media Marketing consultant. I was hired to cover the #MakeInIndia week on Social Media, and prior to this, I was part of CII’s Partnership Summit in Visakhapatnam in January 2016. Should you want to engage with me and my associates, please drop in a line at  bestpedia[at]gmail[dot]com.

If you are sharing this post on Twitter, please do consider Retweeting the tweet below; it was RT’ed by Amitabh Kant himself.

 

Highlights of the Transport sector from #MakeInIndia week. Click To Tweet

 

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