Efforts are on by officers in BrihanMumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking ( BEST) to reduce its losses. As on date, BEST has made two proposals, both centred around increasing the bus fares. The first is increasing the minimum fare from Rs8 to Rs10 and removing concessions being currently offered, discontinuing services of buses heavy on maintenance and not recruiting new staff on retirement of about 1,600 employees this year. Outsourcing staff just to ‘save’ BEST is being pursued.
The second proposal only hikes the minimum fare to Rs12. Both proposals do not look at improving services. The fare hike proposal apparently has been motivated by the thinking that the number of BEST commuters has touched rock bottom, are captive and can afford the hike. There is no vision to improve service in terms of reducing congestion in the buses and waiting periods at bus stops. The objective appears to merely survive and not to grow.
Here is an innovative plan that looks at quality of life and people’s mobility.
BEST historically has been a transport service provider in the first decade of the twentieth century. But electricity generation was a natural corollary to operate the erstwhile horse driven tramcars by using electric motors. Since BEST was purchasing electricity in bulk, it began supplying the surplus to private consumers in Bombay, as it was known then. With the passage of time, the electricity supply section became as important as the transport section. So long as Mumbai remained a public transport-dominated society, BEST’s transport wing was able to operate a self-sustaining transport service.
With the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991 and Maruti and subsequently a host of car manufacturers entering the market, the roads began to get congested. Initially the peak period used to be, as one says it, the peak hour. Today, it is three to four hours. In the evening peak period, it takes about four-and-a-half hours to travel from Churchgate to Borivali, a distance of 43km, averaging a speed of less than 10kmph. During the 110-odd monsoon days, it drops further to about 8kmph.
At such low speeds, bus passengers are subjected to tremendous hardship. Firstly, due to mostly unusable footpaths, walking to even the nearest bus stop is not safe or comfortable. Peak period bus timings would become unpredictable and waiting was long. When the bus did arrive, often it would be packed, resulting in a further wait for a less congested bus.
On Fare Structure – current and suggested herein
The Table below shows the prevailing bus fare (revised on 1 July 2016).
The minimum adult fare is Rs8 for a travel distance of 2km, Rs10 for the up to 4km, Rs14 for trip up to 6km, Rs16 for trip up to 8km and Rs18 for trip up to 10km. Though many routes are long distance, most people probably travel between 3km to 10km. This is evident from the fact that 57% of the population resides within 3km of their place of work, 69% within 5 km and 82% within 10km. The Comprehensive Transport Study Report of 2008 (CTS-2008) of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) also states that 44% of the population does not use any mode of transport and 3% use non-motorised mode.
People find walking in general beyond 1.5km not comfortable and 5km is a reasonable distance for cycling.
It would be reasonable to assume that 10% within the 3km range, 12% in the 3km to 5km range and 13% between 5km to 10km range use motorized road and rail transport, totalling 35%. The remaining 18% would generally comprise rail and private motorized modes, for travels beyond 10kms though some would still be using the road public transport.
If we wish to estimate number of people spending Rs20 per day or less on travel in BEST, one will have to get the actual ticket sales of values of Rs8 and Rs10 per day. However, with the above statistics, it could be 10%x(1/3) + 12%x(0.35) + 13%x(0.25) = 3.33% + 4.2% + 3.25% = 10.78% i.e. 13.5 lakh commuters. It is said that about 65% of BEST commuters are short distance travellers. This comes to about 18 lakh commuters. Currently total BEST commuters number about 28 lakh. This used to be 45 lakh just about four years back. There are several reasons that can be attributed to this fall, some because of extraneous reasons and some due to conservative attitudes of BEST and the Maharashtra Government policy implementation.
It is part of this 18 lakh commuters, provided they do not make an additional bus-boarding, who will be paying more per day if they were to accept an innovative fare structure being suggested here. Will they be gaining out of this fare structure? Will this innovative fare structure benefit all current BEST bus commuters and also attract more? Will BEST benefit? What is this innovative fare structure? This will be discussed in the next part of sdthisarticle.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at email@example.com