Attended an excellent lecture by Shrikar Pardeshi (IAS, 2001. Outgoing head of PMPML) this afternoon. This program was organized PMP Pravasi Manch and Sajag Nagrik Manch.
After the lecture, Pardeshi was felicitated by dozens of citizens groups. Pardeshi has achieved a near ‘rock star’ like status among his fans (many citizens of Pune)…A long line of people were queuing up to thank him! This is not something you would see happen very often, especially when it comes to a bureaucrat! Clearly, the work he has delivered in his various roles (PCMC Commissioner, Revenue Dept,….in addition to the short stint with PMPML) has been impressive.
For far too long, the PMPML has been in a pathetic condition. It was created in 2007, after the merger of PMT and PCMT. Even before 2007, the PMT was not exactly a great public transport service, compared to services in other cities, such as Mumbai’s BEST. In this context, it is important to understand the good improvements Pardeshi was able to deliver within his short tenure (just 114 days) as the head of PMPML (Pune’s public bus transit service). More importantly, he has initiated some excellent changes that should hopefully have a longer term impact.
Pardeshi is moving to Delhi to join the PMO, and I am sure this is great news for him as far as his career is concerned. I am sure he will continue having a great impact in his new position.
Pardeshi’s entire talk was full of facts and figures, root cause analyses, and descriptions of various process improvement initiatives. He comes across as a very data driven and details oriented person. He has also demonstrated an excellent consensus building ability across the multiple stakeholders (citizens, NGOs, local/state authorities, etc.) I have tried to capture some of the points from his lecture below.
For a long time, PMPML could barely manage to run 60% of its buses on the road. Many of the buses were not in a roadworthy condition due to lack of spares and other technical issues. Pardeshi was able to deliver a quick turnaround here in a short span of 4 months. Presently, this percentage has improved to 75%. This was achieved through better processes, prioritization and funds allocation.
A big issue for PMPML has been the financial support from its major shareholders – PMC and PCMC. Pardeshi was able to get the two municipal corporations to release adequate funds for PMPML.
According to Pardeshi, one of the big fundamental issues for PMPML is lack of parking spaces at depots. As a result, a majority of the buses are parked on the roads. This makes repair/maintenance difficult. It also results in theft and other problems. PMPML today has just 43 acres of land across its depots. One acre can hold 20 buses. Thus basic maths shows that PMPML is woefully out of capacity for its 2100 buses. PMPML ideally needs a minimum 140 acres. Some progress happening on this front with some of the Octroi Check-Posts land being allocated to PMPML. However, Pardeshi has also urged PMC and PCMC to consider further land allocations to PMPML. In land starved Mumbai, BEST still has adequate space to park their 4500 buses. Bangalore’s bus transit authority has over 1000 acres of space for their bus depots!
Pardeshi mentioned that BRT has had many issues, but we may see one (or two) corridors starting in 3 months. The main issue of ‘Intelligent Traffic Management System’ (ITMS) is being addressed. This is key requirement for the launch of BRTS.
Pardeshi mentioned that the Metro-Rail is essential; but it is worth noting that even by 2030, the Pune Metro is expected to support around 6-8 lakh passengers. PMPML today is already supporting 12 lakh passengers, and this number can easily go up to 24 lakh in 5-6 years. Just 10% of the funds that being allocated for the metro (Rs 12,000 crores) will be sufficient to significantly scale up and improve PMPML. Rs 1,200 crores can be used to add 2000 more buses (Rs 800 crores) and significant structural improvements in the depots and systems. I agree! Metro is necessary..but not sufficient.
Today, the population of the Pune region (that is supported by PMPML..) is around 68 Lakh. And this is being supported by just 2100 buses. Bangalore, with a population of 90 Lakh has more than 6000 buses!
It was good to hear that today, 60% of PMPML buses run on CNG and the other 40% on Diesel. I hope the CNG percentage improves.. fast!
Pardeshi talked a lot about the efforts being undertaken for route rationalization, better scheduling of drivers and buses. He also talked about the urgent need for improving IT systems in PMPML.
Pardeshi highlighted how he was able to get help from various NGOs/Citizens Groups to develop a new up to date website (should be launched soon) and mobile apps.
Pardeshi highlighted that private sub-contractors are not running their routes as efficiently. He mentioned that the Katraj depot was the most profitable in running their services.
Overall, it was interesting to note the cooperation he was able to obtain from various NGOs/Citizens Groups in jointly tackling some of the tough problems regarding PMPML. There were disagreements on some issues (e.g. pricing of tickets)..but he was able to keep disagreement issues aside and focus on the ones where there was consensus.
It was good to note the focus on drivers’ health, and other safety issues. In this short period, Pardeshi was able to launch multiple health checkups, treatment plans, etc.
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!
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!