Pune Bus Day

1st of November, wrote a new chapter in to the history of Pune. Punekars celebrated the ‘Pune Bus Day’ wherein they chose to travel by buses instead of using their private vehicles. The initiative taken by the PMPML city bus services in collaboration with the ‘Sakal Media Group’, was appreciated by one and all. Though it has been five days past that event, I knew I had to write about this day. It was something that impressed me a lot. The one day event was a huge success, something, to be frank, I had not expected to happen. So, what was the ‘Pune Bus Day’ (PBD) all about?

Well, Pune is a major IT and Educational hub. So it attracts a large number of visitors who move in to the city, every year. Even I am not basically from Pune, and had come to the city four years ago to pursue my graduation. According to Pune RTO, as of October 2012, there were 23.13 lakh vehicles registered in Pune. And this does not even include the number of vehicles the new Puneites from outside bring with them. Moreover, 500 new vehicles get added everyday. All of this results in to the huge traffic congestion problem causing every day chaos on the city streets. PBD was an effort to demonstrate, how the use of public transport instead of  private vehicles will help solve the traffic snarls. It was an initiative to promote the use of buses at least for a day, and see what all changes can be experienced. It was an attempt to prove, how an optimum number of buses with high frequency can actually reduce the traffic congestion in the city. Moreover apart from solving the problem of congestion, it will help to check the pollution levels in the city (Pune is one of the India’s most polluted cities), and also help to limit the fuel use. (No comments on fuel prices in India!) And the results were phenomenal indeed.

Some 1000 more vehicles were rented from across the state to supplement the PMPML’s fleet of about 1500 buses, for a day. A lot of privately owned buses too joined the cause and ferried across the city giving transportation services to the citizens. The initiative was vastly publicized to make sure more and more people are aware of PBD. And this indeed bore fruits. Large number of punekars chose to travel by bus for a day, to support the noble cause. The results were as follows;

  • Lesser traffic congestion:

Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) India team conducted technical surveys to gauge the existing traffic condition on major roads at peak traffic hours at ten different locations on October 31, a day before the PBD. The same exercise was repeated on November 1, 2012 to compare the changes after introduction of high frequency of PMPML buses on roads on PBD. The differences were indeed remarkable.

  • Lesser noise pollution:

The noise levels in Pune dipped by 15% on November 1, said Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officials.

  • Lesser fuel use:

Petrol: Normal daily consumption: 8.25 lakh liters | PBD consumption: 5.45 lakh liters | Saved: 2.80 lakh liters.
Diesel:Normal daily consumption: 6.31 lakh liters PBD consumption: 5.07 lakh liters Saved: 1.24 lakh liters.
(Source: Petrol Dealer’s association of Pune.)

The one day exercise proved that, provided there are an optimum number of buses available (PMPML are short of some 500 buses), and more importantly given that people do use them, it can be a solution to a lot of problems which have been plaguing the city for a while now. The city administration has promised to demand for more funds to be granted to the city in order to buy new buses, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The event was a huge success, as it is obvious from the stats given above. And I did my bit too, to contribute to it.

I had my GRE classes that day, and I chose to go by a bus rather than on my bike. To be frank, I have not traveled much in Pune buses  in last four years I’ve been here. So I thought why not give it a try. Just to experience the fun of it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was indeed fun. I took a bus from Anandnagar, where I live with my friends, to Swargate. I had no idea from where should I catch a bus to Deccan, from Swargate or Dandekar bridge? I asked one of my co-passengers, and he readily helped me out. An elderly lady who over heard our conversation too explained me in-very-detail the route I need to go by and the buses I need to take. So sweet of her! It was obvious I wasn’t a regular traveler, and thanks to PBD, there were many more just like me, who had absolutely no idea about the bus routes. I reached Swargate, from where I had to take a bus to Deccan. Over there I got to experience the true enthusiasm of PBD. There were volunteers over there helping people out to get the right buses. Buses were decorated. There was a group performing a street play to promote the message of the day. Felt like a one big celebration. With help from a few, I got in to a bus which would take me to Deccan. Throughout I saw many banners been put up all across the city to urge people to use the bus. Via Tilak road, reached Deccan, got down at Goodluck chowk, FC road, walked across to JM road, and I was in the class 15 minutes early. I even took a bus back home. Got in to one at Deccan Gymkhana bus stand, got down at Dandekar bridge, took another to Anandnagar, and I was back! I really enjoyed my journey.

Though PBD was indeed an appreciable effort to promote the use of public transport, but the tremendous response it got was just a one day thing, even the organizers are aware of it. From the very next day every one (including me) were back on their two wheelers and four wheelers, forgetting everything about the day earlier when they boasted about their bus travels on their Facebooks and Twitters. Everyone knew it was gonna happen. It’s easy to gather people’s support for a day, but to make them use public transport on a daily basis, they have to be provided with a really good service. No one likes to spend their bucks on fuel. No one wishes to be stuck in traffic every single day on their way to and way back from their works and schools and colleges. No one likes it. But then why don’t they use public transport? Because they even don’t like to wait for too long to get in to a bus. They even don’t like to travel in a vehicle which is in such a bad condition as our buses are as of now. They want a comfortable ride. They don’t like to travel in a crowded bus. To make them opt for buses over their vehicles, they should be given what they ask for. The number and frequency of buses should be increased. The quality of travel in buses need to be improved. No one’s asking for a Volvo experience, but at least some amount of comfort they do deserve. Provided that this happens, citizens would be glad to use the buses. Now that PBD has proved that use of public transport can be an answer to lot of the city’s worries,  the administration should take some steps in the near future to make sure the initiative reaches its ultimate goal of making more and more people to use buses on a daily basis.

As rightly quoted by the mayor of Bogotá, “A developed country is not where poor have cars. But is where rich use public transportation!” Pune Bus Day was indeed an attempt to prove him right. An attempt which was successful indeed, thanks to the efforts of one and all.  This was one of the rare occasions when, every single political party, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police force,  corporates, journalists, social groups, activists and the common man, all came together for a noble cause. It was indeed an initiative worth appreciating, and I sincerely hope it proves to be a catalyst for a big revolution in the transport services of the city, and also sets a good example for other cities too!

P.S. : The statistical data that I provided, have been taken from facebook.com/punebusdaypbd.sakaaltimes.com.
Their accuracy is something I can’t guarantee!

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