Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Improved Bus System is Pune’s best (and only?) Public Transit option for the Short/Medium term

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on January 18, 2013

Pune is adding close to 1,000 vehicles every single day. That is nearly 400,000 vehicles per year on the already cramped Pune roads. And this number is increasing every single day. At the current rate of the growth of the city, I won’t be surprised if Pune starts adding 1,500 or 2,000 vehicles per day, before 2018. These are scary numbers, from the point of view of the city traffic.
The only way for the city traffic to sustain itself in the medium term, is by encouraging more commuters to use public transit and reduce the reliance on private vehicles. Today, only 10-20% of Pune’s population relies on public transport. This needs to change. But in order the facilitate this change, the public transit system needs to soon as possible. The 2-wheeler rider has to have a credible alternative.
Planners talk about the BRTS, Metro, Mono-Rail – but these are long term measures. In the best case scenario, the first corridor of the Metro is at least 5-7 years away. What is needed urgently is an effective short/med term plan. Something that can be executed in under 12 months and put into implementation mode. Ideally, we should consider and act on both the short/med and long term plans simultaneously. One reason for the short term crisis is due to poor long term planning 10/20/30 years back. We cannot repeat that mistake.
I believe that the right short and medium term (next 5-10 years) solution for efficient public transportation in Pune is an improved regular bus transit system. We need many more routes, with higher frequencies, and well maintained buses. We need mini-buses to enable good routes to crowded areas in the city center.  High frequency mini-buses are also needed because the relatively short distances that people cover can, otherwise, be done by private vehicles. The bus service needs to operate with well-designed point-to-point, circular and hub-and-spoke routes. We also need long range buses that have less stops for the longer routes (e.g. Deccan to Hinjavdi).
Pune has a circular geography (like London, Delhi … and unlike Mumbai, New York City). Hence I think high capacity mass transit corridors (like 1-2 Metro Lines or 2-3 BRTS corridors) will not help majority of the population. They are needed..yes…but not at all adequate. Given Pune’s geography, a ring road will definitely help. Circular ring-road bus routes can connect with local routes.
Note, if we really wanted to serve such a circular geography with the Metro, we may end up needing 7-8 Lines (like in London or Berlin) and we know that this is clearly infeasible in the next 15-20 years.
Also, worth noting that many of the bus transit related improvements can be done for a fraction of the cost of the Metro Line and BRTS Corridors, and can be done fairly  quickly, unlike the Metro. Even BRTS has taken more than 5 years and we are far from any decent implementation.
Take the example of the Hinjavdi IT Hub. 5 years from now, we may have 300,000 people working and commuting from there. And yet, there is no Metro route even in the planning stage for that area! What Hinjavdi needs right away is a series of comfortable (AC) buses operating there, from 10-15 different locations in the city. Today, barely 10% of Hinjavdi commuters use public transit. That number needs to rise up to over 50%. Public transit buses can be so much better than the company buses, if run effectively.
I am not against the Metro/BRTS – they are are also necessary, from the point of view of the long term transportation needs of  the city. Do note, the existing BRTS needs to be fixed for all its problems before implementing any expanded version (my thoughts here)  Even in the long term, when we have the Metro/BRTS/etc, given the circular geography and cross connectivity requirements, an efficient bus system will continue to be a critical need.
Essentially to summarize, what I am saying is that we need two active plans and projects to address the public transit needs. And a higher priority needs to be given to the short-medium term needs…and should be addressed on an urgent basis. Remember, to the 1,000 vehicles being added every day, we don’t have the luxury of not doing anything for the short term.
As I commented today on twitter – if we don’t address the next 5-10 years issues…we will all be in the dumps! Then we might as well forget the long term planning of a ‘vibrant metropolis’.
Lastly I will add some point about traffic management. The bus service improvements have to go hand in hand with a significant improvement in our management of traffic flows, traffic law enforcement and parking zones. This is a big topic in itself and I will discuss it in a separate blog post.



24 Responses

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  1. Sumita Kale said, on January 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    The point about circular geography is key here to traffic planning in Pune! How do we get the authorities to implement this is the question now, because I am sure there is no opposition to the need to increases bus numbers, routes and frequencies!

  2. Amit Paranjape said, on January 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Sumita, Thanks for the comments and overall feedback! Yes, there may be no strong opposition to improving the current bus service, but clearly this doesn’t seem to be a top priority either! The key is to make this THE MOST IMPORTANT priority, before all other long term options.

  3. Jaideep Deodhar said, on January 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Much of the traffic in Pune is short-haul – say from Deccan to Swargate. This is less than 5 KMs. This traffic mixes with medium-haul on the same road, say from Deccan to Hadapsar, which is about 10 KM. Long haul, say deccan to Loni (20 KMs) is also on the same road. Real short-haul trips (Tilak smarak to Nehru stadium) share the same route. The needs of all the 4 type of commuters are different, priorities are different, willingness to spend are different, and the mode of transport is also different. Yet we have the same road (Tilak road). Unless these 4 are separated physically, no public transport will work. BRTS is a lousy idea because it interferes with the very short-haul routes. And these (real short haul trips) are not going away given the dense housing pattern in most parts of the city (and most cities in India). Therefore, the only option is to go vertical – elevated roads, elevated buses, elevated / underground metros, anything which delinks the long trips from micro-chaos of very short trips. So if anyone has to travel > 5 KMs, the nearest elevated point (an entry to a road, or overhead bus, monorail, metro, etc) should not be more than 500 Mts away (by walk). Unless we achieve this level of density of reach (of elevated / underground) modes, I do not think people will abandon their personal transport, especially the car owners. If you take an areal view of any choked road, you will find that the culprits are not 2-wheelers (they are like amoeba – they morph to find their own way out of a mess), but larger vehicles with lesser degrees of freedom. Of the larger vehicles, transport vehicles (lorries, trucks, tempos) will need to stay on ground. Which means that the only group who need to go upstairs (or underground) are the cars, mini buses, regular buses, etc.

    I do not think 200 KMs each of elevated roads, elevated / underground metros @ Rs. 200 crores per KM (to be amortized over 30 years) is beyond the reach of Pune city, with its high per capita GDP. Can the city not raise Rs. 80000 crores (for a useful life of 30 years)? Lets not look at Mumbai (Mantralaya) or Delhi (Lok sabha), and beg for funds (and therefore justify inaction by saying that funds were not made available). Lets look within (all industries within Pune metropolitan area) and work out a non-charity, commercially viable, profitable, participatory program.

    Coming to the immediate crisis on hand, I do not think there is any answer, forget an easy/difficult answer. As I mentioned above, any answer (more buses, better buses, better planned bus-routes, better executed bus service, etc) within the boundary conditions of existing road-infrastructure and road-usage is doomed.

  4. Raghu Menon said, on January 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I am fully in agreement with Amit. While more routes and more buses are essential, it is also necessary and important to improve the quality of the buses, if more middle class commuters are to be attracted. I have seen the difference made in Delhi, when new and state-of-the-art air-conditioned and non-airconditioned buses were introduced during the (much maligned) Commonwelath Games. These buses have very comfortable seats, plenty of aisle space for standees, low steps (which is a boon for elderly and handicapped people) and much better engines (which reduces driver fatigue quite significantly). The result was that large numbers of two wheeler commuters switched to buses and reduced the pressure on the roads. The same thing happened with the Delhi Metro. Buses can make a huge difference in improving Pune’s traffic chaos, if an imaginative plan is implemented in a time bound and transparent manner.

  5. Akshay Damle said, on January 19, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Good points. Yes, I agree that we need to start thinking of short term solutions. We need to look at the improving the bus quality and their frequency. As you rightly pointed out, there has to be a major incentive for folks from Hinjewadi to take the bus (Maybe, just maybe BRT if done well might do the trick ;))

    Ideally in the long term, we need to have the following implemented quickly :
    1) Definition of a core area and then applying a congestion charge there.
    2) Having a ring road.
    3) A Metro system with atleast 2 lines started simultaneously
    4) The river side road (Yes I actually believe its worth it)
    5) Not sure of the mono rail, but tram services from Shivajinagar to Corporation to Swargate might be a good idea.

  6. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Jaideep, Thanks for your comments. Elevated roads need a separate discussion … but no way these can built (even if feasible) in a short period of time! (Even if budget permitting). Hence they cannot really be feasible short term options.

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for the comments, Raghu.

  8. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Akshay, Thanks for your comments.

  9. Markus Hegi-Nagavkar said, on January 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Yes, this is one of the most important problem for Pune – and as you say: there is not one single solution to it.

    One more element for this solution could be an S-Train system: A Suburban train. And this solution is very effective, and even short term! If Pune would decide today, the first S-Trains could run in one year. You have the tracks, you just need to build additional stations and purchase the trains.

    Look at the current rail lines of Pune in google maps: You could easily build stations in Koregaon Park, close to Magarpatta / Amanora. On the other line, you would have one in Gorpadi, in Sopan Baug, St Patrik Town etc – you could add a few stops further out, where housing is cheaper. You would then have every 10 minutes or so an S-train from Chinchwad, to Pune station, Koregaon Park, Magarpatta, Amanora etc.

    Not all areas of Pune are close to Railtracks – but it will solve part of the problem by at least give a fast transport system along the current railroad lines. And if it serves well, you could think of adding tracks later too

  10. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Markus, Thanks for your comments. Yes, I agree..have been tweeting about this! Pune needs to fully utilize its existing rail-corridor (add more stations/platforms) before embarking on newer metro lines. The existing corridor will not solve the entire transportation problem – but it is a relatively ‘low hanging fruit’ compared to the 1000s of Crores that are needed for the Metro. The Loni-Urali-Hadapsar-Ghorpadi-Koregaon Park-S’nagar-Khadki-PCMC-Talegaon-Lonavala is already a busy corridor and can benefit from a high frequency suburban rail service (unlike the current low frequency of 1 hour!)

  11. Dhananjay Nene said, on January 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    The 2-wheeler rider has to have a credible alternative.

    I daresay the 2 wheeler riders are lesser demanding on pune roads than the 4-wheeler drivers. It is important to combine a good bus system with a steep increase in roadtax for four wheelers (eg. some substantially high amount for a daily pass). Many countries are facing deep congestion issues despite low population densities. With the population density of India being what it is, I think four wheelers should be considered (at least for intra city commutes) to be a very expensive luxury. Such a large number of people using four wheelers extensively is simply not sustainable as ownership penetration for cars increases.

    So – yes while lack of good transportation is a part of a problem fixing that alone will not fix it. Clamp down on the four wheelers. They tax our roads much more than their fair share in this high population density environment. TAX THEM BACK.

  12. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Dhananjay, Thanks for your comments. Yes, I agree – congestion charges need to be considered as a serious option for the med/long term. But first, we need to provide all private vehicles mode of transport with some credible alternative (better bus public transport – especially in the busy congested areas of the city).

  13. Dhananjay Nene said, on January 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I differ. That is only pampering the rich. Get people off their cars onto 2 wheelers first (or at least get them to car pool first). This can be implemented using just an legislative/executive order without any investment (and will actually add to the exchequer). And will a) immediately alleviate the problem and b) increase the pressures on the municipal corporation to provide credible alternatives since now the rich will start adding more pressure for the same as well 🙂

  14. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Dhananjay – Fair point. Some of the congestion taxes (one form could be significantly higher parking charges) need to be implemented as soon as possible.

  15. akkiman said, on January 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    @Dhananjay , @Amit – A congestion charge for driving cars into the core areas in the city is a must in Pune as well as other Indian cities. I just hope that the amount is proportional to cost price of the car (say 3-5% of total car cost per year). If we end up charging a nominal amount as a congestion charge (say 1000 – 5000 rupees p.a.), it will just end up being like the 3 rupees that we pay for plastic bags at a Supermarket. A similar model should also be imposed on a diesel cars, but then that is a separate topic.

    Because of this cost proportional congestion charge, a person with a 80lakh car may end up paying 3-4 lakhs p.a. as congestion charge whereas a person with a Tata Nano may end up paying 6000 rupees p.a. This collected congestion charge must be utilized in building effective public transportation infrastructure. I guess this idea sounds a bit radical. I still feel that getting funds this way is better than the proposal of doubling FSI along the metro corridors.

  16. Dhananjay Nene said, on January 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I just hope that the amount is proportional to cost price of the car

    @akkiman Congestion is really a function of the area occupied by the car not its cost. So it could be a function of the length of the car (ignoring the width for purposes of simplicity). So just have 3-5 slabs. eg. Large SUVs and innova at the highest end and 800s, nanos, micras etc. at the lowest with others in between. (I am not sure how the treatment for minibuses and buses should be since when occupied they ease not increase congestion). Else we will confuse dealing with congestion with socialism (which don’t necessarily work well). ie. Tax what hurts – not who has the capacity to pay.

  17. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Dhananjay – Agree with you. Ideally, the congestion tax should be proportional to the traffic impact created (area occupied by a private car/SUV)…not its price.

  18. Siddarth Gore said, on January 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    First order of the day can be to understand what _exactly_ what is wrong with PMPML. Then..
    1. Can our understanding and data be improved by putting a small GPS-GPRS module on each bus. (I know it will be stolen, broken, etc.) But smart people like us should be able to solve those issues. 🙂
    2. Can incentive structure of the drivers/conductors be modified such that they become great at following traffic rules. Like stopping behind white line, not speeding, lane discipline (where ever possible). This might look like a simple thing, but will have HUGE impact on congestion, especially in core areas.

  19. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Siddarth, Thanks for the comments.

  20. sujitjp45 said, on January 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    A well written article. One may also add that hand in hand with radically improved bus system, if the city designs its streets for safe cycling, the city will be transformed (for the better) and we will see radical improvement in mobility.

  21. Jayant Joshi said, on January 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Very well articulated, Amit! In addition, any bus service improvement needs to be supplemented by improvements to non-motorised transport – particularly pedestrian facilities – as most of the bus passengers need to walk between the bus stops and their source/destination. This improvement needs major investment from PMC and that means that a large percentage of budget needs to be spent towards this than “you-know-what”!

  22. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Sujit, Thanks for the feedback and comments.

  23. Amit Paranjape said, on January 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Jayant – Thanks for the comments.

  24. […] Paranjape’s blog post on this issue calls for “an improved regular bus transit system. We need many more routes, […]

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