Government pampers motorists, humiliates bus, train riders

best bus mumbai

Everyone should feel deeply concerned over this report in the Times of India by Somit Sen today  about the  serious crisis in the  BEST  bus undertaking in Mumbai, its fleet is shrinking instead of  growing to meet  a rising demand.  Even  those who are rich and are never likely to travel by bus should feel concerned because  this has long term impact on the city.

Buses are very important for reducing congestion on the road, but the government is neglecting them and  doing everything to add to the congestion by  hugely promoting  high rise constructions and increasing  motor vehicles on the road.

    The BEST is the lifeline  of the city, daily carrying nearly 35 lakh commuters while the suburban railways, central and western, carry a total of 75 lakh people.  Yet this is the very sector that is being discriminated against, neglected.

      The government deserves he strongest criticism for  utter neglect of  the bus lifeline. At the same time it is  splurging  thousands of crores on  the Metro railway whose  ridership is extremely poor. The authorities stand condemned, daily skeletons are coming out , the mismanagement of the Metro  can no longer be hidden despite  all the  spending of money and spreading   false reports through the media.

   Against this background it important to note that  experts suggested several low cost , constructive suggestions  yesterday  at a meeting convened by  Ashok Datar, transport expert, and his colleagues in the  Mumbai mobility forum.

  Mr Mohan Paranjape, who has constructed big projects  abroad  in the last forty years, said there was great scope to raise thousands of crores of rupees annually  by charging for  car parking  in public spaces. That can be used for  spending on public transport.  A win win situation. Ideally experts feel  car use must be discouraged  in the overall interest of the metropolis.

  There was strong criticism of   car-centric, anti people projects  being pushed by the authorities.  Ashok Datar said  after all the money spent on the  Bandra Worli sea link,  the number of vehicles using  it was far  below capacity.

  The MMRDA is now lamenting   the congestion in the Bandra Kurla complex. This situation would not have arisen if the  bus rapid transit system   had continued. The scheme  launched with his initiative had yielded excellent results but was discontinued, Datar said.

Alan Abraham, public spirited architect and designer,  said  that though pedestrians constituted a vast majority,  the  expenditure  on footpaths and other  amenities  per person  was extremely low.  It needs to be sharply increased. The design of buildings and footpaths was very faulty with the result   walking had become very  hazardous.

  A huge amount was being spent by the municipal corporation  on the coastal road which will be used by comparatively very few people, motorists. It will be very difficult to recover  the cost even if the toll was charged.

 Ashok Datar said a toll must be levied on motorists using the coastal road. There was also need to increase taxes on cars . Strangely,   buses were being charged five times more tax than cars. He was also highly critical of the  car parking authority created by the municipal corporation. Crores were spent  including Rs. 2 crore on staff salaries in the last five years without  delivering  any result.  Many  young architects including those trained abroad were hired. Nothing has been delivered so far.

   The  proposal to sell the  land of BEST  bus depots was strongly opposed by Ajit Shenoy and others.   The   commercial redevelopment of some depots  had  robbed the city of   public space and money.  Builders had  failed to pay  their dues of crores of rupees.

Chetan  Bordawekar, activist, said shockingly parking  for cars was free even  on  prime roads  including P.M. road near  Hutatma Chowk. There was a strong case for high parking fees.

 Experts pointed out  that  the policies of the authorities are increasing  congestion and pollution, not reducing them.   Traffic jams are now occurring even in  lanes and bylanes which did not happen earlier. And things are going to be much worse.

The reason is that  the authorities are using a completely wrong American car-dominated anti public transport model rather than the European one  regarding  transport and traffic.  American thinking on various issues is faulty.Steven Nadler, professor of  philosophy,  has  said  so many obviously intelligent and well-educated Americans claim that global warming is a “hoax”; when we seem obsessed with vilifying an entire, fourteen centuries-old religious tradition simply because of recent heinous actions of terrorists who profess to act in its name; when, nearly a century after the Scopes Trial, there is still significant public resistance to the theory of evolution, with one recent poll revealing that 34% of the population rejects evolution — over one third of the country! — and when voters elect a man so obviously unprepared and unfit to be president, I begin seriously to worry that we Americans are exhibiting greater and greater stupidity, the professor said ( as quoted in Time magazine)

Vidyadha Date is a senior journalist and author  of  a book  seeking priority for  public transport

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