10k respond to PMPML public poll on Colour of Buses

The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Manahamandal Limited [PMPML] recently conducted a public poll on the colour of of buses that would operate on the BRTS, and the results were mind-boggling.

Voting was on from 5th October to 12th October to select one among the 3 colour schemes shortlisted.

PMPML's Poll to select the Colours of Buses.
PMPML’s Poll to select the Colours of Buses.

Chief Engineer for Buses, Sunil Burse said that over 10,000 people had responded by giving a missed call to one of the three numbers.

PMPML is procuring 1500 new buses for the various BRTS corridors along Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. It will also operate feeder buses connecting various Rainbow stations across the city to nearby localities.

Now, while this is indeed a shot in the arm for the PMPML, the real victory here goes to the city of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Pune Metropolitan Region, which till a few years ago was infamous for its below-average bus services, is now seeing a major change. For an organisation that was had over a 100 buses off the roads a few years ago because it couldn’t afford to service them, the PMPML has now gone to the extent of getting over 10,000 people to respond to a public poll. That, is the real victory here. Victory that the public cares for proper bus services.

Aesthetics is an important factor in any sphere of life. You choose a product or service on the basis of the feeling it gives you. A badly maintained bus will put you off. A well designed one will make you want to board it. That is one of the reasons why colours also matters. Of course, unless you are in Tamil Nadu, where all buses change colours according to the ruling political party, the fact that PMPML went to the extent of asking the public for its opinion on colours, is the first step towards efficiency.

SO here are the important lessons from this excercise that every transco must keep in mind:

  1. Aesthetics matter. It’s good that the PMPML is acknowledging this and has brought out three different colour combinations.
  2. Public Opinion matters: Garnering public feedback for the services they will pay for is the best thing to do.
  3. Public Interest: Getting 10,000 people to respond in Pune is huge. Pune has otherwise been infamous for pathetic bus services and was the frontrunner in developing a two-wheeler culture, much before Bangalore.
  4. People want better Services: It is wrong to say that in 2016 nobody wants to take a bus and people prefer cars. People still would prefer buses. The sheer number of respondents here proves it.

The Future of Public Transport is indeed the bus.

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Moving along the Rainbow

This is a continuation to a previous post, The Rainbow Across Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Several significant changes have happened since then; notably the following:

  • Bus Number 324 has been renumbered to Vajra 6 from Hinjewadi Phase 3 [Maan Gaon] to Bhosari, running almost entirely along the Wakad Chowk-Nashik Phata Corridor.
  • All buses heading for Hinjewadi use the BRTS corridor from Mankar Chowk to Wakad Chowk, where land is still required to build a bus lane for the last half kilometre.
  • A new BRTS Terminal has been built at Bhosari under the flyover, similar to the one at Kiwale.
Bhosari Bus Terminal
Bhosari Bus Terminal. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Nothing significant has happened on the Nagar Road corridor under PMC and Kalewadi to Empire Estate and Nigdi to Dapodi corridors under PCMC barring the construction of the Nigdi Bhakti Shakti terminal.

However, a lot of new kinks need to be ironed out in this system, and it is crucial that it is done before any damage happens.

The GPS-based Control Unit for the Stop Information System on the Rainbow BRTS.
The GPS-based Control Unit for the Stop Information System on the Rainbow BRTS. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The Major problem is the Mixed-Use BRTS and non BRTS sections, most prominent along the Wakad to Nashik Phata corridor. Vajra 6 runs as a non-BRTS bus from Hinjewadi Phase 3 till Wakad Chowk from where it takes the BRTS till Mankar Chowk. From here, it gets into Kaspate Wasti and then gets on to the BRTS corridor at Kalewadi Phata where it stays till Nashik Phata, after which it runs as a regular service till Bhosari Terminal which is a BRTS terminal. This Regular-BRTS-Regular-BRTS-Regular-BRTS system is confusing, for both the passenger as well the driver. It is dangerous for the latter, as he has to go Left-Right-Left-Right while opening the door. Several buses have opened the BRTS doors in a non BRTS area while in motion.

The system needs a bit of automation, which would ideally be a little tricky at this stage given PMPMLs finances. Along with this, the driver needs to be given a single switch for both the Left side doors, and a one for the Right-side doors. There should be an indicator on the ceiling of the bus that can be a simple LED strip on either side. Depending on which side doors are to open, the corresponding LED strip can glow.

Phule Nagar BRTS Station.
Phule Nagar BRTS Station. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

PMC vs PCMC

On a comparitive level, PMC and PCMC have slightly different bus stations. The former are visually more appealing, have Footbridges and Subways at several stations, and are overall better to be in.

However, the PCMC section is longer, consists of better planned corridors, of which two [Aundh-Ravet and Nigdi-Dapodi] are massive. The two PMC corridors: Nagar Road from Yerwada towards Wagholi, and Sangamwadi to Vishrantiwadi are not connected to each other. One hopes that the PCMC and PMC find a deal with the Kirkee Cantonment Board to build a corridor via Khadi to connect the BRTS corridor from Holkar Bridge to Harris Bridge, which could ideally connect the Sangamwadi and Dapodi corridors.

Vishrantwadi Terminal

BRTS Buses terminating at Vishrantwadi [like Vajra 4] run along the corridor from Sangamwadi to the Wadi terminal. Barring the terminal, all stations use the BRT doors. The terminal on the other hand, is just a series of bus stops on the left side of the service lane with the last two bus shelters reserved for Rainbow buses. This is rather disappointing, as PMC could have done what PCMC did with the Bhosari and Kiwale terminals.

The Bhosari terminal meanwhile, lacks a platform for buses bound to Pune station [via Vishrantwadi], which continue to terminate under the flyover. Both Bhosari and Kiwali need to be provided with a fence to prevent private vehicles from parking next to the BRTS platform.

BRTS Parking

Since most of the stretch from Kokane Chowk to Nashik Phata didn’t exist prior to the the BRTS, the PCMC has ensure that all commercial buildings along the stretch that lie in the vicinity of a BRTS station have allocated a part of their Ground Floors as Parking Space for Buses. This is great, and helps out massively with the ‘Park and Ride’ concept.

Overall

Overall, PMC scores in the design part, but lags in the execution part. It is highly disappointing to see the only major infrastructure development on Nagar Road taking so much time to be complete.

An interesting thing to note is that all buses running along Vajra 6 make use of the Ashok Leyland buses from the Bhosari depot and not Tata buses.

PMPML's Rainbow gets more advanced! Click To Tweet

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The Rainbow across Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad

So the Pune Municipal Corporation [PMC] and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation [PCMC] have finally managed to get part of their Pet Project; the Rainbow BRTS partially operational.

The Aundh-Ravet section of the BRTS is partially open. BRTS buses make an announcement while crossing Aundh Gaon that from the upcoming stations, the BRTS doors will open instead of the regular ones.

So, let me start with a description of the entire project:

Like a standard BRTS project, this project has bus lanes. However, unlike the Katraj-Swargate-Hadapsar line, it is not just bus lanes in the centre of the road with regular bus stops and boarding. Similar to the Ahmedabad Janmarg, it makes use of level centre-boarding, i.e, it uses the doors on the right hand side, which are at the same height as the platforms. The entire system is operated by the PMPML.

Jagtap Dairy Rainbow BRTS Station.
Jagtap Dairy Rainbow BRTS Station. Image Copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International. Image available on the Wikimedia Commons.

On the Pimpri-Chinchwad side, there are five lines:

  1. Aundh – Ravet: This starts at Sangvi Phata and ends at Mukai Chowk in Kiwale, right next to the starting of the Expressway.
  2. Nigdi – Dapodi: This starts at the Bhakti-Shakti terminal and goes upto Dapodi, along the Old Mumbai Pune Highway.
  3. Wakad – Nasik Phata: This starts at Hinjewadi Phata, proceeds to Jagtap Dairy, Kokane Chowk, and then crosses the Nigdi – Dapodi Line at Kasarwadi where it terminates.
  4. Kalewadi Phata- Dehu Alandi Road: This starts from the Aundh Ravet corridor and goes over the Pavana, crosses the tracks and Old Highway at Empire Estate and then goes further.

Currently, the Aundh to Ravet line is operational. As part of this line, two split flyovers, one at Kalewadi Phata and one at Dange Chowk were built, along with a grade separator being built at Sangvi Phata. The BRTS stations, are quite similar to the Ahmedabad Janmarg. Some stations like Kalewadi Phata, and Jagtap Dairy have only one entry/exit, on the side towards to the signal, while some, such as Dange Chowk have exits on both sides. Due to paucity of space, the road goes from 6 to 4 lanes north of Tathwade Chowk station, and stations are split. There are two stations, one for each direction till Kiwale. The Ravet Chowk station is a bit precarious, because of the presence of a speed-breaker at both ends plus its location is at a curve. The Kiwale terminal, is a grand structure, located just off the starting of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. One side of it is for BRTS buses, while the other side is for Feeder buses towards Nigdi, Dehu Road, et al.

Mukai Chowk, Kiwale Terminal BRTS Station.
Mukai Chowk, Kiwale Terminal BRTS Station. Image copyright, Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International. Image available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The routes running along the BRTS are your regular routes that otherwise use the Aundh Ravet Road, such as 115P, 204, 276, 298, Vajra 5, etc. Vajra 5 goes all the way up to the Mukai Chowk Terminal at Kiwale, while others turn off at Kalewadi Phata and Dange Chowk towards Pimpri, Chinchwad, Nigdi and Hinjewadi. The announcement system announces the name of the station, as well as stops along the non BRTS section. At Sangvi Phata and Mukai Chowk, it is also announced that the BRTS ends. After Sangvi Phata towards Aundh Gaon and after Aundh Gaon towards Sangvi Phata, an announcement is also made instructing passengers the other side doors will be used, Right side towards Chinchwad and Left side towards Aundh.

The system so far seems well done, though I wish the announcements would say ”Next Rainbow Station” instead of BRT station. Drivers, however, still need to know exactly when to stop the bus. Both doors have a Red-Yellow strip with stop written on them to indicate to the driver where to stop the bus so that the door sensor is aligned. I’ve noticed drivers and conductors inching forward and backward to align it so that the sliding platform doors can open. Apart from this, the doors on the left side are also being closed, something similar to Bangalore buses, though in some cases, the rear door is latched, so it doesn’t close even if the driver closes it.

The PMPML has four types of BRTS buses with doors on the right hand side:

  1. Red coloured Tata buses.
  2. Red coloured Ashok Leyland buses.
  3. Pink and White Tata Marcopolo buses.
  4. Pink and White Ashok Leyland buses.

Currently, only the first category of buses ply on the BRTS. Other buses are used on other routes, and if they are used on the Aundh-Thergaon route, they run outside the BRTS lanes, like regular buses. These buses are fitted with Hanover LED displays on the outside as well as inside. Some of them don’t have the system working so, they go with a board placed in the front.

The system makes extensive use of GPS. There are displays in each Bus Station listing the arrival of the next four buses and their destinations. However, those buses whose systems aren’t working, are often not shown by the system, and thus you might see a 276 unexpectedly arriving, en route to Warje Malawadi.

There are ticket counters at each station, which are presently not in use. Punched Tickets are still sold on the bus in the old fashioned way. The Kiwale Terminal also has provisions for shops. It has Washrooms for Passengers, along with Dustbins, which are present at several other stations as well.

Overall, I think for a project that is still under construction, and still in trials, the Rainbow BRTS has done a decent job. However, this is the PCMC half of the project, I am yet to see what happens on the PMC section along Nagar Road and Vishrantwadi, where the latter has been operational for a month.

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Buses in Pune: How the PMPML managed to clean up its act

PMPML: Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited, (Pune Metropolitan Transport Corporation Limited) is the Transport unit that serves the twin cities of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. It has been panned by one and all ever since its formation in 2007 for various reasons, from the valid ones like poor quality of buses, to the inane ones like bad looking buses.

My first interaction with buses in Pune began back in 1999 when I visited the city for the first time. Having lived in Bombay for a year, and having travelled in BEST buses then, Pune buses were a bit disappointing, to say the least. It was even more odd because there were buses marked PMT and PCMT. I used to wonder why the same organisation would have different names on their buses.

I soon found out that they were different entities. PMT was Pune Municipal Transport, operated by the Pune Municipal Corporation. It had seven depots, Narveer Tanajiwadi, Kothrud, Hadapsar, Swargate, Katraj, Pune Station, and Market Yard, with it’s head office being located at Swargate, next to the MSRTC Pune Division office. PCMT was the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Transport, operated by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation with three depots at Pimpri, Nigdi and Bhosari.

The two of them operated independently, without entering into each-others territories except in rare routes, such as those to Pune Station and Wakad. Both of them had a track record for bad services, zero punctuality and rickety buses. In 2005, the Supreme Court made a recommendation that the two bodies be merged to provide better services, which the State Government ensured in 2007. Thus, on 15 October 2007, the PMPML was officially formed after it received its Commencement Certificate.

The major advantage of the merger was seen shortly after it happened. Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad were now treated as one large region, the Pune Metropolitan Area. If this move had to be compared, it can be compared to when BEST took over the Bandra Bus Company in 1949.  As a unified body, PMPML had access to funding from both the PMC, as well as the PCMC. The combined population of both cities and their JnNURM eligibility was an added bonus. However, the new body was partly autonomous, like BEST, thus it had to bear its own financial losses and neither Municipal Corporation was liable to bail it out.

It was just before this time that the PMT managed to acquire a few Volvo B7RLE (8400) buses for use on its planned Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). The BRTS, later renamed to as the Rainbow BRTS, was officially launched in 2009 by the PMC and PMPML. Unlike the Ahmedabad Janmarg, the initial line of Rainbow BRTS was merely a set of bus lanes with bus stops on the centre of the road. Basically, a replica of the Delhi BRTS. There was no off board ticket collection, no level boarding, nothing.  The route ran from Katraj to Swargate and then to Hadapsar. Bus lanes were built on Satara Road from the Katraj Octroi Checkpost till Jedhe Chowk at Swargate. This set-up has been partly disrupted due to the Jedhe Chowk flyover and Dhanakwadi flyover. From Swargate to Hadapsar, the BRTS ran along with regular traffic through Pune Camp till Racecourse on Solapur Road where it again got a dedicated lane. Today, enforcement is lax, and all sorts of vehicles enter the bus lanes.

A Volvo used on the Pune Rainbow BRTS by PMPML.
A Volvo used on the Pune Rainbow BRTS by PMPML. Image copyright Rovan Vaz, CC-BY-SA 3.0Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The old Pune BRTS uses Volvo B7RLE/8400 buses that belong to the Katraj Depot. This is the only time that I have seen anyone create openable windows on any Volvo bus. The buses have been badly maintained, are covered with paan stains on both, the inside and the outside.

The PMC and PCMC have been building a new Bus Rapid Transit System, this time, a proper one with Centre-stations, off board ticketing, et al, similar to the Janmarg. The PMC has built this along Nagar Road, connecting parts of Vishrantwadi, Alandi Road, Sangamadi, and Yerwada. The PCMC has built multiple corridors, mainly along the Aundh-Ravet-Kiwale and the Nashik Phata – Hinjewadi Phata routes with intersecting lines at Kalewadi Phata, Empire Estate and one major line along the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway from Nigdi to Dapodi.

A PMPML BRTS bus built by AGCL. These buses have BRTS doors on the right side.
A PMPML BRTS bus built by AGCL. These buses have BRTS doors on the right side. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

 

The PMPML ticketing system has been a rather controversial one. The PMPML started out with an eTicketing system in 2010 with a private firm called Vansh Nimay, which is known for running bus services for the NMPL in Nagpur. The system was similar to the one BEST and MSRTC had implemented with Trimax. However, there was one major flaw in the system that neither PMPML nor Vansh Nimay could do anything about. The system could not back up ticket sales and revenue data, thanks to both a technical glitch as well as a loophole in the agreement. Thus, Vansh Nimay got its commission for each ticket sold and the PMPML had no clue how many tickets were sold and how many conductors were actually pocketing the money. Subsequently, this was scrapped and the punched tickets returned, although this time, they were yellow in colour.

In December 2014, then State Inspector General of Registration and Controller of Stamps, Shrikar Pardeshi, an IAS officer, was given the additional responsibility of Chairman and Managing Director of the PMPML. Pardeshi had earlier managed PMPML in July 2013 where he rationalised all ticket stages to multiples of ₹5 to overcome problems with returning change. This time around, Pardeshi took some major steps towards reform, and managed to get most of the PMPML’s grounded fleet on the roads. The PMPML had 160 odd buses that were lying in depots for want of repairs, but couldn’t be fixed due to lack of funds. He set up a bank account for PMPML to deposit 6% of the daily revenue for purchase of spare parts. In less than 3 months, Pardeshi increased the functional fleet from 60% to 75%, which is a major turnaround. He worked on improving schedules, drivers efficiency, as well as addressing staff concerns, including health checkups for them.  He stated in an interaction about his efforts to tie up with many NGOs and other bodies to set up a new website for the PMPML, and a proposed mobile app. He set goals and targets for revenue collections, passengers in buses, and advertisements. Unfortunately for PMPML, but fortunately for India, Pardeshi was called up to join the Prime Ministers Office as Deputy Secretary in April 2014. One hopes that he will create such a turnaround for the country in his new role.

In 2015, the PMPML announced a tie up with a Delhi based company along with the Central Bank of India to set up a new electronic Ticketing system. The system would be rolled out to conductors of the Pune Station Depot and then to others. These are expected to work similar to the ones in use by BEST in Mumbai.

PMPML, is now a better organisation, though it has miles [or kilometres] to go to reach the levels or efficiency that other Transport undertakings have reached. It needs more land for buses to park, better depots, better facilities for it’s staff.The Katraj Depot is the most profitable. Take a look at the Market Yard Depot and decide for yourself if it is worth calling it a depot.

PMPML buses at the Market Yard Depot. They are so rickety that they fly when they go over a speed breaker, and are called Udaan Khatara.
PMPML buses at the Market Yard Depot. They are so rickety that they fly when they go over a speed breaker, and are called Udaan Khatara. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Among various issues the PMPML still has to work on are; friendlier staff, more buses on schedule, cleaner buses, more buses to the outskirts. Route maps on bus stops, better bus stops, and bus stops with route numbers marked on them are needed.

Overall, I think PMPML has done a good job in the last one year, thanks mainly to he great capabilities of Srikar Pardeshi. With offers pouring in from firms like Asian Concierge to provide AC Volvo buses for free in lieu of advertising rights, similar to BEST, PMPML should seize them and make itself a brand name in the city. The PMPML has already lost a significant chunk of its revenue to MetroZip in the Hinjewadi region.

 

Have something to say about the PMPML? Feel free to post it in the comments below:

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