Citizens' Issues
Bengaluru is BEST! BMTC is growing rapidly, while BEST is losing commuters

Mumbai's BEST and Bengaluru's BMTC are both innovating to cope up with growing populations. But while BMTC has been growing fast, BEST seems to be losing commuters mainly to the railway system. BMTC can be proud of its progress if it is also able to become financially profitable

BEST (or Bombay Electric Supply and Transport undertaking) in Mumbai has a bus fleet of 4,700, of which 288 are air-conditioned. These buses not only cover the 437 sq km area managed by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) but also provide services to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) areas, albeit to a limited extent. The bus routes have been planned on the staged service system, with point-to-point travel, allowing commuters to choose a route best suited to the individual concerned. Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport, with its fleet of 226 buses, provides reciprocal services to MCGM areas, in addition to service within NMMC areas. BEST also plies buses to other adjacent municipalities of Mira-Bhayandar and Thane. Thane too has a service to CST, Mumbai, as well as Mira-Bhayandar. In fact, there is one more agency that provides public transport in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and that is the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC). While MSRTC does ply stage service on its inter-city routes like the Eastern and Western Express Highways and the Sion-Panvel Highway, its major service is from state transport (ST) bus stands to ST bus stands within the MMR.

However, to sum-up, it is BEST that commands the public transportation scenario in the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira-Bhayandar urban agglomerate. It carries out a stupendous task, facilitating mobility for about 43 lakh commuters daily, which latest reports suggest has dropped to about 38 lakh.

Innovations are a must if one has to improve efficiency of service, and thereby overall profitability. BEST has the day ticket scheme of Rs25 that enables a commuter to travel by a BEST bus anywhere on its non-AC, non-corridor services. If corridor buses are to be used, one buys a day ticket of Rs40. The equivalent monthly pass amounts are Rs555 and Rs805 respectively. Very recently, BEST has allowed Rs555 monthly pass-holders to travel for the day on corridor buses for a ticket charge of Rs15 and not Rs40. That's innovative pricing.

BEST provides four kinds of services. The ordinary and express routes clubbed as non-AC and non-corridor; the corridor routes which have very limited stops and traverse over flyovers and the Sea-link; the AC routes, which also have limited stops but do not go over flyovers; and AC express routes, which is AC buses run like the corridor routes.

The fact that buses plying on the highways are packed during peak hours, means there is room for improvement through further innovative schemes, like introducing articulated and bi-articulated buses and the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). Introduction of BRTS will enable the bus fare structure to be reformed and made affordable to a larger number of commuters, who otherwise opt for the sub-urban railway system.

Let us shift our attention to Bengaluru. BEST in Bengaluru? The reality is that it is not BEST in Bengaluru but best in Bengaluru. Why do I say that the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is better than BEST! The figures speak for themselves. Since 2006, the number of bus depots have increased from 25 to 35. The fleet size has increased from 4,106 to 6,111. Effective kilometres traversed per day has increased from 8.67 lakh km to 12.55 lakh km and staff strength has increased from about 19,000 to 33,000. In 2001, BMTC employed about 13,000 people, it had a fleet size of 2,264 and carried 26 lakh commuters. Today, it carries 43 lakh passengers every day. How has that come about?

Bengaluru has grown not only vertically, but the urban sprawl is also considerable. People from rural Bengaluru who at one time cycled to the city, now perforce use the public transport as the roads and traffic have become hostile. Changing work culture demands that they put in eight to ten hours on the job. The number of professionals has also increased and many have taken to travelling by their personal vehicles, two- as well as four-wheelers. With the growing population and growing vehicular traffic, road and public transport carrying capacity needed to be augmented.

The JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) funding has come in handy to augment the bus fleet and associated infrastructure. Unlike in Mumbai or for that matter in Hyderabad, Bengaluru has had no rail-based transportation infrastructure. Metro Rail has been conceived and is being projected as an answer to the city's traffic woes. A twin route, one north-south and the other east-west has been planned and is under execution, albeit at an unenviable pace. Meanwhile, the BMTC has been innovative in its services for commuters.

As Bengaluru has grown, its road infrastructure projects in the form of ring roads (outer and inner), flyovers and underpasses, are being implemented vigorously. And BMTC is providing bus services effectively, on these as well as the other roads across the city. In a hierarchical manner, let us see what the bus system is like.

One can put the Vayu Vajra service at the top of the list. It operates Volvo air-conditioned buses to different parts of Bengaluru and far-flung suburbs. These are the ultra-low floor buses that halt at bus stands at the airport in such a way that the floor at the front door is actually just above the pavement at the bus stop, leaving just a 75 mm climb. This facilitates loading luggage easily too, for which adequate luggage racks has also been provided. The buses also have provision for a wheel-chair bound person to board the bus with reasonable ease and clamp-up on board. The same space is dually used for bicycles, which facilitates ride-carry-ride. These buses cover distances in reasonable time, but the traffic congestion affects its functioning too.

These buses adhere to scheduled timing and have some vacant seats to pick up passengers along the route.

Next is the air-conditioned Volvo Vajra service. The buses are similar to the Vayu Vajra service, but they do not have space for a luggage rack, although they can accommodate wheelchairs and cycles. These buses ply on ring roads and some inside roads too. They also cover far-out places. They have the same bus number as ordinary route buses and traverse the same routes, but they are air-conditioned and have limited stops.

Then there are the BIG10, which ply in the far suburbs to the outer core of the city to facilitate a changeover to buses taking you to your destination. This helps avert city congestion delays for commuters from far-out places, enabling them to cover long distances in quick time. The Suvarna and Pushpak are non-AC bus services with better bus suspensions and seating arrangements plying on some of the routes of the ordinary bus routes.

If the bus destination boards are less cluttered, i.e. only in one language like in Mumbai - say Kannada board in the front and English or Devnagari in the rear or side, it would facilitate the growing non-Kannadiga population to quickly gathering the route number and destination information.

BMTC also has the day ticket and monthly pass facility like BEST has. What is lacking in both is the Bus Rapid Transit System. But them the BRTS needs to be planned for a city by its transportation group such as MMRDA for Mumbai and the Urban Land Transport of the Urban Development Department of Karnataka Government. While I do see that ULT/UDD of GoK is seriously considering this facility, MMRDA seems to have gone past that level of seriousness. It is too engrossed with Metro and Monorail. Given the scenario, it is for you to judge which of the two is better or whether they can both learn from each other.

[Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on the Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) technical advisory committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of the Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMMTA). He was a member of the Bombay High Court-appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He has been an active campaigner against noise pollution for over a decade and he is a strong believer in a functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected].]



nagesh kini

5 years ago

I propose going to Bengaluru to see for myself. I'm told the traffic is chaotic.Will report on ascertaining.

Sudhir Badami

5 years ago

Apparently BEST did not count in the pass holders, the daily ticket holders and hence appear to be losing passengers. But the number of train passengers have increased to 74 lacs in 2010 from 64 lacs in 2007 while more or less stagnant around 43 lac for BEST.

nagesh kini

5 years ago

Having lived in New Delhi, and widely travelled in the public transport system at Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, amchi BEST is by far the BEST. It should not be allowed to rot.

Like Bengaluru's Vajra. BEST ought to consider AC buses to and from Sahar, Santa Cruz, CST, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Kurla and Bandra terminals. The Bengaluru has been a success, I've used it to my entire satisfaction. Point to point right stops and tariff. Not only in Mumbai but other metros too.


5 years ago

Dear Sir,

Being a daily user of mass public transport in Mumbai, this question has been troubling me for a long time. Though we have been boasting of a super efficient public transport system, other cities are racing ahead of us. (Delhi with its Metro and AC buses, Bangalore with its AC buses and the planned Metro network etc). Any one using the public transport in Mumbai in the peak hours (which must be the longest in Mumbai compared to any other city in the world), will realise that the conditions are just inhuman.

The number of people that are packed in our buses and trains is difficult to be even imagined by a resident of any other city. Why then, sir, do the relevant authorities not increase the services. The first step is to provide more buses! Why has it been assumed that it is normal for a Mumbaikar to travel in conditions worse than cattle and sheep and reach office for an even harder working day.

Where Mumbai should be having a far greater number of buses (atleast compared to Bangalore) due to its huge population, little seems to be even in progress for us.Also, going by Mumbai's experience in operating buses, it should have had far greater number of AC buses. But with the inferior quality King Long buses, our city seems to have gone in the reverse direction (lack of both quality and quantity).

However, we do realise that if ordinary people like us are aware of these things, then the qualified people for the job - the planners, the people heading the BEST etc - are also aware of the situation.

It does not seem that anyone with the ability to take decisions will ever wake up to the pressing needs of the peple of Mumbai.


5 years ago

The real competition for BEST is NOT BMTC or any other state/city-run bus service but the local trains in Mumbai. Comparing BEST to another bus service is...well....disservice to BEST. As a Mumbaikar who's staying in Bangalore since a year or so - I can easily say that Mumbai is at least 10 years ahead of Bangalore in terms of city development and it would make sense to look at real figures at that time as opposed to now.



In Reply to Pratish 5 years ago

Dear Pratish, Mumbai is 10 years ahead of B'lore ? Ever heard of a aplace called Dharavi ? You fled Mumbai for a job in Bangalore and indulge in this naatak eh? LOL


In Reply to Max 5 years ago

Hey Max,

10 times ahead - speaking in terms of traffic - Mumbai's got far bigger volumes and much lesser area to handle; still does a better job - Dharavi notwithstanding. And coming to Bangalore for a job has nothing to do with traffic, my friend. If traffic were a consideration, I'd be a lala and set up a business below my house ;)



In Reply to Pratish 5 years ago

Well Max, I seems you have not grown out of Dharavi.. LOL, that is why only This place came out of your head. LOL...... as for people jobs are concern Mumbai happens to be the biggest Job giving region, including IT, TCS patni and some other IT companies have Headquarters in mumbai and this means Mumbai By far the finest city in India.

Maruti strike at Manesar plant enters seventh day

The strike at the plant is now threatening to spread to the Gurgaon-Manesar belt, with a panel of workers of various firms in the region warning of a similar stir if the demands of their agitating colleagues at India's largest car-maker are not met

New Delhi: The country's largest car-maker Maruti Suzuki India today said production at its Manesar facility continues to be completely stopped as the workers' strike at the plant entered its 7th day.

"The situation is the same as yesterday," a company spokesperson told PTI.

Around 2,000 workers at the plant have been on strike since Saturday, resulting in a production loss of about 5,400 units till yesterday. The value of the loss is estimated to be around Rs270 crore.

The strike at the plant is now threatening to spread to the Gurgaon-Manesar belt, with a panel of workers of various firms in the region warning of a similar stir if the demands of their agitating colleagues at India's largest car-maker are not met.

The Manesar plant rolls out about 1,200 units every day in two shifts.

The factory produces hatchbacks Swift and A-Star and sedans DZiRE and SX4.

The company's scrip was trading at Rs1,195.75 in noon trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange, down 1.77% from its previous close.




5 years ago

yes it has dented India's image all over the world.that we have militant unions leaders supported by politicians and rivals company,.Indian will never learn good things from Japanese Unions,like work more sincerely,be dedicated and hard case one wnats to protest wear black ribbon and produce more car per extra mile,but we are doubt full people,our Integrity is in question mark.politics and corruptions has already ruined our image all over world.we really do not know when over all picture will improve because people who are in executive power are not willing to bring CHANGE due to vested interest.the congress is main culprit, even bjp or tdp they all are busy fighting them selves.congress taking is time that INDIA shifts in to presidential system like USA so that some changes will bound to take place.the management and workers will have to work together for growth of the organisation which will benefits every one.stake holders,share holders,employees,customers,vendors and govt.negatives person must be thrown out immediately otherwise it will effect entire set up.take care.Deepak Joshi

2G case: Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar move SC seeking bail

The Delhi High Court had on 8th June dismissed the bail pleas of Ms Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, saying they have strong political connections and the possibility of them influencing witnesses cannot be ruled out

New Delhi: Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) Member of Parliament Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, accused in the 2G spectrum case, on Friday moved the Supreme Court of India seeking bail, reports PTI.

Ms Kanimozhi, the 43-year-old daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, and Mr Kumar have challenged the Delhi High Court verdict rejecting their bail.

“We have filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) on behalf of both Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar challenging the high court order,” senior advocate VG Pargasm said.

The high court had on 8th June dismissed the bail pleas of Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar, saying they have strong political connections and the possibility of them influencing witnesses cannot be ruled out.

Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar, named as accused in the second charge-sheet for allegedly taking bribe of Rs200 crore, were arrested on 20th May after the special court dismissed their bail pleas in the case.

Both Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar have 20% stake each in Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd which allegedly received Rs200 crore through a ‘circuitous’ route from Shahid Balwa promoted DB Realty.

The DMK chief’s wife Dayalu Ammal, who has been left out of the list of accused, owns the remaining 60% shares in the television channel.

Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar had moved the high court on 23rd May challenging the trial court’s order which had rejected their bail pleas, saying the offence attributed to them was grave and the possibility of influencing the witnesses cannot be ruled out.

CBI special judge OP Saini had on 20th May rejected the bail pleas of Ms Kanimozhi and Mr Kumar and ordered their ‘forthwith’ arrest. They are currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

Ms Kanimozhi, who sought bail in the special court on the ground of being a woman, had approached the high court seeking relief citing the need to look after her school-going child who is devoid of her care as his father is working abroad.

Justice Bharihoke had on 23rd May dismissed bail pleas of five corporate honchos, including Unitech Group MD Sanjay Chandra and Reliance ADAG MD Gautam Doshi in the case, saying there was a possibility that they may influence the witnesses.




5 years ago

Court did right to refuse bail to Kani as the reasons given by her were frivilous and unteneable, "am a woman and a mother of 10 yr old school going boy". My foot. How many days in a month is he available in Delhi to help the boy in getting ready?

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