Amit Paranjape’s Blog

2013 Wish List For Pune

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 31, 2012

Wish you all a happy new year!

I was posting some thoughts on twitter about my new year wish list items for Pune for 2013. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor is it listed in any particular order of priority. I have just copied my ‘tweets’ (with some edits) and converted them into a short blog post here. May add some more points later.

– BRTS expansion is put on hold. (No expansion before the current 5 year old implementation (Satara, Hadapsar Roads) mess is fixed!)

– Turnaround in PMPML Operations, purchase of 500 new buses…Better Buses, Better Routes/Frequencies.

– Traffic Police get some serious resources (man-power, equipment) augmentation. Better enforcement!

– Final approval of a realistic and practical Metro Plan – Plan for an Underground Metro in city area.

– Implementation of mini-buses on congested city routes. Circular routes: Laxmi Rd, Deccan, MG Rd,.. areas with 3-5 min freq

– After addressing critical concerns, work starts on key fly-overs and road projects (too much debate in 2012! 😦 …)

– The new airport site (Chakan, Rajgurunagar, wherever..) is finally fixed and work begins!

– A sustained effort to make the city pedestrians friendly! – crossings, footpaths, etc.

– Clarity in water allocation for city (16 TMC), implementation of water-meters, urgent fix for distribution losses.

– Garbage Segregation is made mandatory (and implemented with strict fine).

– Would like Pune to be the first city to BAN ALL ILLEGAL, POLITICAL FLEX BANNERS!

– Focus on clearing up encroachments across the city – specific focus on the city hills and open spaces!

 

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Wanted! A City Chief Executive

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 19, 2012

[I wrote this article for ‘The Broad Mind – Views from the Takshashila community’. Reproducing it here on my blog. Here is the link to the original article: http://broadmind.nationalinterest.in/2012/12/18/wanted-a-city-chief-executive/ ]

 

The Central and State Governments have a clear, well defined Chief Executive function. However, the picture gets a little unclear when we get down to our cities and towns.

Large cities have a Municipal Commissioner (part of the State Government), elected Corporators and a Mayor. The execution power rests with the Commissioner, who is not a direct people’s representative. The Mayor is (in most cases) a figure head, appointed from the among the Corporators. Corporators have limited power/budgets. The elected body can yield some influence via the Standing Committee, but doesn’t really have too much powers in direct execution. Long term planning activity is also led by the Commissioner.

In the bigger cities and metro areas – the structure can be even more complicated with additional state agencies such as metropolitan authorities, etc. (e.g. MMRDA in Mumbai).

I am not a constitution or law expert, but wondering if it makes sense to alter/simplify this structure – and have a single elected, accountable chief executive for the city? This model is fairly common in many democracies around the world. Look at how Michael Bloomberg is the clear Chief Executive of New York City.

A city chief executive will depend on the State (and Central) Governments for some funds and other help – but will have complete planning and execution control over the city affairs. This chief will also be directly accountable towards the city electorate.

I wonder why India went with the current dual structure of Commissioner/Mayor? I am sure there were good reasons for that…but is it time we revisited this again?

Is It Time For Pune To Pull The Plug On BRTS?

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 16, 2012

Six years and crores of rupees later, the ‘famed’ BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) Project in Pune has achieved nothing … well to be more precise – it has definitely made things a lot worse for all types of traffic.

I think Pune was the first city in India to start the BRTS Project – and what a pathetic role model it has created for others, that are interested in replicating this! Note – I am not against the BRTS concept…the key is proper planning & execution and ongoing implementation. And it here, where things seem to have gone horribly wrong.

This weekend, I was driving to Hadapsar (thankfully, I don’t drive there often) and again witnessed the utter chaos and anarchy surrounding the BRTS. There are no clear lane markings for where the dedicated BRTS lanes start/end. The lanes are not properly marked and barricaded at many spots. I could see absolutely no enforcement on who can and cannot go through the BRTS lanes. As a result – total traffic anarchy persists – many 2/4 wheelers were merrily going through the BRTS – some by intent, and some by the misfortune of not figuring out where the lane started. But there was no one to prosecute them.

Many buses were not using the BRTS lanes. And then there were those poor pedestrians – stuck in the middle, near those BRTS Bus-Stops! They had no proper way to get to and fro, from these bus stops (which are also pretty poorly designed). If you thought the anarchy couldn’t get worse, it does – at the signals! Again, no vehicles seem to have a clear idea of when/where/how to turn. And this scenario gets even more scary at night – with no proper reflectors, signs, etc. I can go on and on about this horrible scene, but I think most Punekars get the picture and have experienced it first hand.

How did we land up in this total mess? I am not an expert, but even a layman can attribute the current state of affairs to bad planning, terrible execution and atrocious ongoing implementation.

The scary thing is that now, PMC wants to expand this bad mistake to other routes. Soon Solapur Road and Satara Road will share their pain and misery with Alandi Road and Nagar Road. And there are plans for the PCMC areas as well.

It (and has been since much before 2007), is amply clear that Pune’s Bus Transport – PMPML is in a poor state. The buses are in a bad state of maintenance. Passenger comfort seems to be least of the concerns. There are frequent breakdowns. The number of routes and buses are grossly inadequate.

Pune is one of the fastest growing metros in the country and has one of the highest number of 2/4 wheelers per person. (higher than Mumbai as well). The need for good public transportation is extremely crucial. What is needed for Pune Public Transportation is: more buses, better bus maintenance, better passenger comfort, better routes, better frequencies, better bus stops and supporting infrastructure. Those many crores that have been poured into the BRTS could have achieved some progress, towards pursuing these simple and basic PMPML needs. Another area where substantial investment is needed is manpower and other resources for Pune Traffic Police.

Given what we have seen over the past 5 years – I think it is time for Punekars to demand some real tough decisions and actions. This mess has to be fixed. First, the expansion of BRTS needs to stop. Second – if in a realistic time frame (say 6 months), the current BRTS implementation is not fixed – then, the entire current BRTS implementation should also be scrapped. Let those badly planned lanes be opened up for the general traffic (including buses). Let us invest whatever budget that is earmarked for BRTS into improving PMPML!

 

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