Backing a proposal mooted by a state government official, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has suggested banning all private vehicles entering the city in the morning and exiting in the evening on three highways during peak hours. Suggesting this measure on the Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway and Sion Panvel Highway during morning and evening rush-hour traffic, BEST says public transport buses can be used to carry commuters smoothly and faster when these restrictions are in place.
The idea was originally suggested by AS Phadtare, an undersecretary in the women and child development department, in a letter to the Chief Minister, the Transport Minister and the Chief Secretary in February. He claimed it would increase speed of travel, and lead to saving of fuel worth Rs 5 crore daily. “Due to the same office timings of corporate offices, banks and other institutions, there is a huge rush of vehicles on these three highways. It leads to traffic jams and wastage of fuel. It increases air and noise pollution. It takes at least double the time to reach the desired destination in Mumbai,” Phadtare, who was posted earlier in the Energy department, had written.
On September 13, the BEST administration wrote to Phadtare that it agrees with the plan. “Your plan can be an effective solution. Since its only for about three hours each in the morning and evening, it may face less resistance. Its impact will be extremely positive. The BEST administration will follow up with the government for its implementation,” said DM Surve, chief manager (transport), BEST.
Phadtare had suggested a ban on private vehicles entering the city between 8 am and 11 am and exiting between 6 pm and 9 pm on these three highways. “During these timings, BEST services, buses of other civic bodies and state transport buses can ply and they will be able to cover distances in record time. Considering the minimum time required, a large number of passengers will start taking the buses,” Phadtare had said in his letter.
He said car owners would be encouraged to use air conditioned buses and they would save cost on fuel, driver’s expenses, parking charges and repairs. It will also increase the revenue of transport bodies, Phadtare said.
Citing data from the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, he said close to 25,000 light vehicles ply on each highway during peak hours daily. “Considering the numbers, a minimum of Rs 5 crore in fuel is used during peak hours. This scheme will save Rs 5 crore of fuel daily and Rs 1,440 crore of fuel a year. It will reduce air and noise pollution. The space used for parking will be free and there will be no traffic jams. Also, number of deaths in accidents will reduce,” he had said.
“I have written this letter in my personal capacity. It will be an effective option instead of odd-even,” Phadtare, who himself takes public transport to his office in the Mantralaya, had said. Surve said the move would lead to increase regularity of BEST services. “BEST services, which are irregular, will be regular with this plan. Also, we will be able to provide services on time. The state government had sought our remarks and we have given it to them. We are awaiting a response,” added Surve.
However, the transport department said it would not be feasible to impose a ban as there is heavy vehicular traffic on these three highways. “It can’t be imposed without proper solutions. It depends on whether the BEST or other transport bodies have enough vehicles of different types such as AC, non-AC, luxury, and semi-luxury. Besides, the vehicle should reach end to end without any stop. For all this, a survey has to be carried out. The suggestion can work only with solutions,” said Govind Saindane, deputy transport commissioner.
Amitesh Kumar, joint commissioner of traffic, said, “I’m not aware of such a plan. I won’t be able to comment without examining it.” “We can’t bring in restrictions for anybody. But we can bring in facilities for the masses by introducing a well-designed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS),” said Sudhir Badami, a transport expert.
Feeder buses, rationalisation of routes boost BEST earnings
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Trust (BEST) recorded a marginal increase in commuters in the last three months after it introduced many feeder services. Officials said the rationalisation of routes and introduction of short-distance buses helped increase earnings.
“There has been an increase of up to 1 lakh commuters daily, bringing up the total number of people travelling on BEST buses to 29 lakh from 28 lakh. The increase could be attributed to the introduction of more ring routes. The daily average earning of the utility increased to Rs 3.30 crore from Rs 2.25 crores earlier,” said a senior BEST official. “We are happy that better services are being offered to the commuters,” said Anil Kokil,chairperson, BEST.
According to officials, BEST now owes only Rs 386 crore of the Rs 1,600-crore loan it took from the BMC. “The undertaking is borrowing as much as Rs 120 crore on a monthly-basis from banks. By introducing reform measures, the deficit could be reduced,” Kokil added.
(With inputs from ENS)