Saturday, 3 November 2012

Pune Bus Day (1 Nov 2012)

Paud Road @8:30pm [Imagine!]
Sakal Times, Pune, launched an initiative Pune Bus Day [PBD] to convince commuters to use the PMPML bus services to prove that public transport would reduce traffic and that the logistics were possible.

Pune Station

Bajirao Road
On 1-Nov-2012 a good number of residents of Pune ignored the fact and set out on their privately owned vehicles or cabs or shuttles which did not help highlight the advantages. Many judgmentally decided that the website and Android mobile application did not help them and hence did not try to diligently explore the options.

Swargate [Seriously, no Jokes.]
I took the bus early 1-Nov-2012 and found the conductors to be most accommodating and helpful. Each bus I took had seats available to travel comfortably. This was largely possible thanks to an additional 1,500 buses being added to the standard fleet. Hinjewadi, which is where I commute to daily, did not have a remarked difference in Traffic. However other crowded places like Swargate Depot, JM Road had a remarked change in the traffic for almost all day.

The verdict is that Pune Bus Day was a success in terms of residents who wanted to use it and reduce the pains of using their own private vehicle.
  1. Bus Routes could be looked up on Google, except following Google's instructions entirely took you to places that did not have Bus Stops - so this needs some work.
  2. The Application is only a wrapper to the Website that merely gives you Bus Numbers and served no purpose when it was overloaded.
  3. People seldom attempted to ask another person as to how to head to particular destination - a social malady amongst the new White-collar folk in town. Instead, on the first sign of failure they switched quickly to cabs and other forms of transport to reach their destination. Despite these stranded people who gazed at their maps without asking others who knew how to get to the destination, it was a success.
  4. My Boss's Boss came to Office by Bus and was happy he could dispense off with his early morning e-mail while sitting in the bus (considering he is a Senior Vice President and spends all his time in Decision Making and Inputs toward that.) He admitted that he did some diligent understanding of the logistics before he tried it to avoid getting stranded.

The cons of the exercise were not actually too visible unless someone asked the hard questions:
  1. Thursday is a holiday for many of the Industrial complexes especially those that comprise MIDC and other Industrial areas. Hence the bulk of the bus commuters were on leave.
  2. The users of bus-services (the casual citizen/resident) was not educated (through newspapers, emails) thoroughly, that we all found shortcomings in the directions received. This was a huge discouragement.
  3. We were told that members of the BJP, RSS would volunteer to help private vehicle commuters to get back home and then choose the correct route. This would have been welcome if they had waited at each bus stop and assisted people. Despite this being a behemoth of an effort, that would have landed us in total success.
  4. It was a shame to see so many residents of Pune plying in their private vehicles as early as 6:45am when this was announced for the entire last month as Pune Bus Day. If people do not take any initiative, they have no moral standing in talking about bad-governance, corruption as they couldn't just participate in an initiative. 

This is wonderful, and I hope that each community, city and civic group will try initiatives on their own and not depend on governmental grants/funding/approvals to perform such exercises for a better tomorrow.

Yes, there was a lot of glitz, glam and Sakal advertisement/sponsorship on show, but that was outweighed by the community contribution it brought in.

Considering that mass commuters who use PMPML were on leave for Thursday (the weekly Industrial Holiday,) celebrations are too early. Another effort on a day when they too are commuting will test the infrastructure. Worse yet, by evening too many private vehicles entered the foray and almost spoiled the experiment especially in Hinjewadi where Company Buses also ply. This is part of another debate as to why a good number of Software Engineers have a tendency to give up when they believe there's not a single bus plying their route or it is too much time versus their two-wheeler driving capabilities.

Alike Chennai as my friend Annamalai Subramanian pointed out, it is possible to have a city's commute infrastructure working without the aid of "Local trains" or "Metros" if diligent planning is done. Ultimately it would still be a 'Mass Transit System" like an MRT that can solve the problem for a long-term. But these steps ought to be taken.

PS: The photographs were published on Facebook and were not taken by me. The copyright for these photographs stays with whomsoever took these photographs and agreed to share them with the "Pune Bus Day" Facebook page.