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 improve..as 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.

 

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!

 

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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