Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A fairy named PMPML !

It’s really pity for the city more than the citizens when ever we have a look at the news paper & the front page always screaming about some issue which even a most common man could also understand but not the authorities or our all so called city God Fathers ! For instance see this latest in thing i.e. PMPML allies Pune Mahanagar Pariwahan Mahamandal Limited or something :)

Each day every NGO is shouting about reducing the number of vehicles on roads about the tons of gasses/fumes getting generated by the burning of fuel, the road traffic jams, the heat islands getting crated because of exhausts of so many vehicles & getting increased with each passing day! We all know the solution is simple & that is to improve the public transport!

Here I remember one story from Akbar Birbal... One day Akbar asked in the Darbar, that how many blind men are there in Delhi? Every one got surprised & tried guessing with different numbers but not Birbal. He said Badshah, I will tell u tomorrow evening, exact figure. Next day morning Birbal sat in midway of busiest road of Chnadani Chowk & started repairing a Khat ( cot with ropes) with note pad along.Soon the news filtered till the Darbar & even the Akbar got curious & went to see what’s up! When he saw Birbal repairing the Khat in mid road, he asked " Birbal what are u doing"? Immediately Birbal entered his name in list in the note book. Akbar asked '" What’s that u entered my name in?" The sheepishly Birbal replied, respected sir, u have asked me to tell u the numbers of blind men, here is the figure till now & sorry to say even your name is in the list, as just one man asked since morning that " Birbal, why are u repairing the Khat in mid way?" rest al asked Birbal what are u doing? So u know...... Akbar realized what Birbal wanted to say, that even with having eyes how many people really see what they see?

The greatness of such stories is they prevailed in today’s times too!

Now look at the scenario about the Public Transport System in our city which at least right now present in only form of the Bus service! Agreed lots of dreams have been shown ,are being shown about Metro,Monorail,Ring Road, Elevated road etc but what about strengthening of what we have at hand! This is where I feel the Akbar -Birbal story prevails now also. Look at the way the city has grown & the way bus service too has grown but towards the new depths on account of giving service! When we call a city as a developing &competing to the future demands, ten it’s not just water, power, drainage, gardens but most important is how the city communicates within the city.

We are Detroit of East but at the same time we beat any city of our size in private owned vehicles per head of the population. This may on one side makes the vehicle manufacturers happy & may indicate our financial per capita strength but it’s surely an unhealthy thing for the environment within & around the city. Also like all the cities which has a long history, the old part of the city unless taken some drastic steps of of rebuilding the entire old city, the roads are not going to improve is a fact. As now most of the city roads are 40'-50' wide & they are just unable to take up so many vehicles load, leave apart the issue of parking in city. Each day it’s a punishment for the commuters to cross these roads which they can’t avoid!

We have all the talks of one HCMTR i.e. High Capacity Mass Transport Route, which was planned in late 80' & part of DP but till today not a single patch has been ever build up. And this HCMTR was supposed to divert all the traffic which has to take city route to go from one end to other. Now the situation is even the HCMTR itself has come in the city & we are busy in Planning another Ring road! We haven’t finalized the DP of extended boundaries of PMC, so we can’t acquire the roads in that fringe area & so again except main routes like Baner Road, Sinhagad Road, Nagar Road, Karve Road the Municipal Transportation cant have the net work interconnecting these suburbs. Making the commuters to travel few kilometers just to reach to bus stop. Agreed we can’t have everything at platter but what we are doing with what we have on platter!

Now look at the scene of existing bus service in our Metropolitan cities of Pune & Pimpari Chinchwad... First, nobody knows who really run the show! As first we have to define a single point responsibility taking figure & then we can expect results. Right now its a baby who is in worst condition than an orphan as the orphan at least knew it has to survive on its own, here there are more than one parent making it easy to play pass the buck game :)

Earlier it was PMT & PCMT & then with the good thinking that as many routes as well commuters are common it will be beneficial to have a combined body for public transport & so the present PMPML has been formed with joint governing. But the affect reverted like boom rang as neither PMC nor PCMC seems interested in upbringing of the same, rather the news inn the recent papers is making the common man think whether both the municipal bodies really want to run any public transport system for the city or not! Because right from the BRT to purchase of the new busses everything which was supposed to amicably solved is being fought like opposition. The BRT may be a success for few commuters but the chao it’s making for other traffic is unbearable as when nearly 60% part of the existing road is taken by BRT, then just 40% is remaining for all other vehicles, that too traveling in both the directions! No doubt about the BRT purpose but it’s the execution & planning which needs to be improved.

About the existing busses & routes, no one knows who decided the routes & how? No central information is available, so a new comer can't be dependent on the public transport. The condition of busses is not up the mark & similar is the bus stops. Imagine in such summer people waiting at bus stops without any proper sun shed or in monsoons! You can’t expect any sane person will make public transport as his / her’s first choice with such infrastructure.

Three years back I was in Singapore for a seminar on Environment & the officer over there was sharing his experiences about Singapore Bus service, which is rated one of the best in world. He said we are also facing problem in attracting commuters, as they wear Rolex watches, have latest cell phones, designer clothes, so they don’t like to wait at bus stops even for few minutes! So now we are thinking of building waiting lounges for major bus stops where snacks & drinks will be served & it will be air conditioned place to wait.

Look at the level people can go to serve the public & how we are placed? We don’t have even the basic infrastructure like proper waiting area, demarcated bus standing place, time table & route the bus on the particular bus stop is going to cover & the list goes on. I think why we can’t take one route to model such things & furnish it with all such necessities which commuter will aspect & then see the difference in revenue & the display it as a role model.

At one of our projects which was a township & we expected lots of commuters traveling to the end destination, we had made a tie up with the PMT assuring a minimum revenue for year & have deposited the sum with the body & made a contract that if the revenue generated is more than our deposit then we will get it back & it did. Now there are at least 10 busses running on the dsk Vishva route at Sinhgad road! Such public participation schemes can be worked out. A thought can be given to adopt a bus /bus stop sort of contract with various garages/near by commercial developments at the bus stop.

All in all what we need is to wipe out the blame on this city that we may be best on many fronts but surely not on the Public Transport front!

-- Sanjay Deshpande
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