Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Journey Called PMT !

“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” …  Erol Ozan.

Erol Ozan is an associate professor at East Carolina University's Department of Technology Systems. And yes the words he used about the public transport shows his wisdom about systems especially like public transport. Since tangaw i.e. a horse driven cart used for transportation, days have gone from our Pune city, the legendary PMPML i.e. Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited but popularly known as PMT i.e. Pune Municipal Transport has been more famous for the wrong reasons than good ones. PMPML was created following a merger between the Pune Municipal Transport (PMT) and Pimpri-Chichwad Municipal Transport (PCMT). Formerly, PMT was responsible for public bus operations in the Pune city limits and PCMT ran buses in the neighboring sister city of Pimpri-Chinchwad.

In February 2008, the Union urban development ministry cleared a proposal to provide funds for purchasing 650 public transport buses for Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The funds have been issued under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Of the total, 200 were supposed to be semi-low floor buses. The number of buses sanctioned for Pune is 500, while that for Pimpri-Chinchwad is 150.
At present, the PMPML has a fleet of nearly 2000 buses, transporting about 800 thousand commuters daily. The organization runs buses in 376 routes across the Pune metropolitan limits, and has 10 bus depots and 20 major bus stations. PMPML has a staff of 8610 personnel.

For the sake of familiarity I will be using the term PMT only here. Every day Punekar citizens unless don’t read something about PMT they feel something is missing from the news paper. The city has expanded like a Metro in last twenty years but no city can be complete or get developed in real sense unless it has a sustainable public transport system. As per one of the latest statistics Pune has approximately 39 lacs of vehicles, out of which nearly 30 lacs are two wheelers & rest accommodates four wheelers.

For a city with population of sixty lacs nearly (combinely with Pune & Pimpri Chinchwad), having two third numbers of vehicles in proportion to its population is horrific fact! And considering population under age of 16 i.e. those who can’t drive any vehicle; it means every person of this city has a vehicle of his own & depends on private transportation than public transport. And in compare to private transportation number of buses is hardly some 2000 odd, making it nearly just one bus for 3000 people! I am no master of transportation technology but as a common citizen & as an engineer this seems pretty less ratio!

Now let’s see what’s scene on the roads, with PMT is the only official public transport provider to the citizens of Pune. Not long ago PMT has taken up a drive to make more people travel by PMT & the funniest part is , somebody at top there had come up with a tag line 'Wat pahin pan PMT nech jain" means even if I have to wait but will travel by PMT only! Wow, never came across so transparent advertizing by any organization as in the tag line itself they are accepting that you will have to wait for indefinite time if you want to travel by a PMT! No I am not criticizing the poor organization as for that there are enough loudspeakers & ink in this city. I am just trying to analyze the condition of PMT from the eyes of a common citizen & then I don’t have any moral right to blame PMT as I rarely travel by PMT. I have travelled by PMT quite a lot in my college days & with all due respect to hours spent at bus stops giving no shelter from rains or sun, yet PMT was the only affordable option for me then to commute to & fro in the city; and so it is still, for millions of people in this city.  I will always like to know how many of the people who criticize its service actually travels by PMT & regularly.

I think the major failure of the PMT is on three fronts, one is about the routes, another is poor maintenance of commuters’ infrastructure & third & the most important is it has no Godfather!

About first two fronts lot has been wrote as basically no one knows how the routes are designed of the PMT & connectivity of them with each other. For e.g. take my own example, I reside in patwardhan baug & if I want to go to baner where my most work sites are on, I don’t have a single route to go there. This I can understand as with spread of nearly 600 sq km of the city as a region, one can’t expect end to end destination covering single route but then what about connecting routes? I don’t mind changing busses but what about their frequencies as well the timings, so one can interchange the bus easily to reach the destinations in time. Agreed it’s a difficult job as like western cities or even eastern cities like Singapore or Seoul, where work districts & residential areas are well separated, here its easer to plan the proper routes of public transport. But in city like Pune where growth is in pockets & no defined work districts or down town like concept, to define the numbers & directions of peoples commuting from residence to work & back is really difficult task. But at the same time let’s understand because of this non availability of connecting service to the destination many people are forced to use private vehicles in this city! We need to find out a way like ring road circular route peripheral basis & connect this with routes starting from center of the city & for that we may have to make more than three or four city centers!

Another is infrastructure of the PMT; here we are speaking about two types of infrastructure, one is for the commuters & another is for the system itself. A lot can be done, needs to be done for the commuters & about which every NGO as well traffic expert is screaming through the media. So I won’t comment much on that just right from the bus stops too map of the routes, the fare details as well condition of the busses itself, a lot needs to be improve. Most important is data i.e. information to the commuter about the service & here we are lacking poorly. I can travel in an align city like Singapore or even not in English friendly Paris, by their public transport without need to ask anyone but here in my own city I just am clueless about which bus will arrive when & will go where? With the technology giving me information about where I can get best Thai or Italian food in Pune & allows me to book my table at that joint via my cell or laptop on one click, that’s power of information! So why there can’t be an app giving all information about routes, maps, fares of PMT so any commuter especially the higher classes of the society can use this service?

Similarly infrastructure for the employees seems to be very poor as they don’t have proper depots or good cabins as well technology support like GPS available at all bus stops types things. Have you ever noticed the faces of any of the PMT employees? Never saw a smiling face of a bus driver or the conductor, always stressed & irritated are their looks; seems burdened with expectations from the public & poor support from the system! How we can expect commuter friendly treatment from them with such staff? There is a need of constant training as well counseling to majority of the staff as with the state the busses are in & the condition of the traffic on city roads, to drive them on roads is a nightmare for any driver! Need of the time is to boost the morale of the staff or else we can buy machinery with money but not good people, who are the actual force behind any system, if it needs to succeed!

Apart from above two fronts, it’s the third front where I will like to highlight something which we are neglecting about PMT. Any public transport is property of Public means indirectly the reperesentives of the people whom we have elected who owns this system. Speaking about PMT i.e. PMPML, all the elected members of PMC & PCMC are like guardian of the public bus service along with the MP’s & MLS’s whom the city has elected as their representives. So their role regarding PMT is very much important but what we see in reality? These very representives of the public who are showing us dreams about things like BRTS or Monorail or Metro, gives a damn to the existing PMT which can be the best solution to the city traffic! Even the prominent ministers of State including Chief Minister himself are busy in hurrying project like Metro, which may be a white elephant for the city is not showing any interest in giving some time for PMT! Metro is important but just one or two routes of Metro are not going to solve the traffic issue of the city spread over nearly 600 sq kms! It’s the PMT which only can do that job. In short the poor PMT don’t have any Godfather, who will back her up, promote her & takes care of her needs so she can grow well! Not a single person from the rulers comes ahead & accepts PMT as their child & takes her responsibility is the major cause of PMT’s present deteriorated condition. Bothe the municipal corporations just denies their role in making PMT strong but what we see is even for paying the salaries of PMT staff PMC & PCMC are reluctant! As representatives of the public how many of them travel even once a day by PMT is a question we should ask them! Why can’t they appeal residents in their wards to use PMT for travelling & make efforts to strengthen the infrastructure in their wards of PMT! For e.g. taking up a drive of making the residents adopt a bus stop or adopt a PMT bus type drive!

Finally what real estate has to do with PMT is a question people will ask! Well, take any good city in the world & it has been backed up with a good public transport, as private vehicles not only increases cost of living but at the same time they burden the city roads with all sorts of stressful things like traffic congestion, creating pollution as well accidents i.e. unsafe life!  So if we really want a city where residents will be at peace & more & more people should migrate, which are the back bone of any real estate then a good public transport is a must for the city. And if no elected members is going to become Godfather for the PMT then its job of the developers of the city as well every resident of the city to become one for the PMT or else as the quote says today its PMT which is in dying condition, tomorrow it will be entire city under the burden of millions of vehicles & then there will be no Godfather to save us!


Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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