At an Idea Exchange,DCP Traffic VISHWAS PANDHARE speaks on the failure of the Bus Rapid Transit System,why Punes traffic is getting slower by the day and why this continues to be an unsolved puzzle
AJAY KHAPE: What is the reason behind accidents on BRTS route?
At present,the BRTS route is a mixed traffic route and not a dedicated one. We were insisting on creation of a dedicated route for BRTS. We also do not have a system in place to prevent private vehicles from entering the dedicated track. The Pune Municipal Corporation is creating a separate BRTS cell. So,we will now request them to deploy dedicated staff to stop these vehicles. There is also absence of monitoring. Our officers and staffers are busy in other duties and there is no 24 X 7 monitoring. We have requested the PMC to appoint officers from the security board to ensure that the traffic wardens are there and doing their duty. If they are found not doing their duty,action should be taken against them.
MANOJ MORE: But PMPML has already created a BRTS cell.
They are going to create a dedicated cell for Alandi and Nagar Road.
AJAY KHAPE: What role can the traffic police play in proper implementation of the BRTS?
We can help them with the traffic cops and wardens. But I repeat that there should be a separate system and the PMC should not depend on us. The PMC has created BRTS tracks,PMPML is using these and they are asking us to monitor it. So,for proper functioning,there should be a separate cell with responsibilities shared by all of us.
CHANDAN HAYGUNDE: These are just remedies. But as DCP Traffic dont you think there are some major flaws in the existing BRTS?
When the meeting to plan the new BRTS was held,we had suggested in fact submitted in writing that before the new BRTS is planned,we should focus more on eliminating the flaws,which had drawn public criticism. So that people will have trust in the system and there will be public support. This time too we had categorically said that the BRTS route should be dedicated. And the mistakes made earlier should not be repeated.
AJAY KHAPE: At present,we are talking about only a few roads with BRTS. But they want to create BRTS tracks on all main roads of the city. What will be the scenario then?
BRTS has proved to be a successful model world over. But we must also look at the components that made them successful. There should be dedicated tracks and adequate frequency. The service should be efficient and cost-effective. Now,even then you want to a allow a private vehicle on the road,they should be taxed more. Then there is one-card payment system for all the modes rented cycles,buses,trains. If I stay at Ambegaon and BRTS is available from Katraj,there there should be a system that will take me from my home to the BRTS starting point. If there is no bus and I come by a motorcycle or bicycle,there should be safe parking space. An then there should be surety that I will get the bus to my destination in five to seven minutes. Then the bus should reach there in time. Only then will the BRTS be successful. Same is the USP of the local trains combined with BEST bus system in Mumbai. There is assurance. We have given these suggestions to the PMC.
MANOJ MORE: You have given these suggestions to the PMC. Do they listen to you?
Look,it is the PMCs job to construct BRTS tracks and maintain them,PMPML has the job of looking after the operations. There should also be a dedicated force to man the traffic and stop private vehicles from entering the lane. Now,it is almost five years since the BRTS have been functional. Dont you think there should have been a study to examine how effective has it been? Is there a rise in the number of commuters? Are they satisfied? When it comes to BRTS tracks,have we ever asked why there are so many openings to the tracks? Also,the remaining traffic has been allotted rest of the space on the road. Have we ever asked if that carriage width is enough for the traffic or not? Just because there are funds,new tracks are coming up. What about the planning?
Jedhe Chowk has BRTS. It has a huge number of pedestrians. The buses stops are right at the centre of the junction and people get down there. How will they walk back? How will this work? We gave them a lot of suggestions for the bus route and for pedestrians. We asked the BRTS planners whether it was not common sense to keep these paths separate. Are we going to keep doing the same things for the years to come? They showed us the plan. There will be a bus stand,a Metro station at this place. The number of vehicles and pedestrians will increase multifold in 2050,for example. These planners are still going by the 2008 yardstick. But now they are seeking our opinion before planning. We also interfere if we feel something is going wrong.
MANOJ MORE: This again brings us to the same question. Is there enough coordination between you and the municipal corporations?
There was no such coordination earlier. We felt there is no communication between all these stakeholders. But after February last year,when a meeting was called by the deputy chief minister,we have started holding meetings right from the ward level.
NISHA NAMBIAR: Have you given any proposal to the state government for additional manpower? As of now what is the strength?
We currently have 1,060 traffic constables. Last year,we sent a proposal for 552 more. We need 1,500 more personnel. But these vacancies are going to be filled step by step. Of the 55,000 new cops to be recruited in the next five years,every year 11,000 will be added. So,we will also get our share step by step. Pune city is a priority in this. We are also working on efficient use of the available strength. They do not have training. We have now created a new training facility.
MANOJ MORE: What are the other constraints?
One,we need more walkie talkies. We have 190 now and we need 100 more. These are required for better communication among us. We need a lot of things to make working conditions better. A lot of signals were not working and 80 non-functional ones have now been restarted. PMC and PCMC did not even have the data on which signals are working and which are not. We have now designed a signal policy and started working on signal timings. We have some major changes of signal timings on a few arterial roads as of now. Many signals had severe structure flaws of positioning. It is impossible for cops to manage the traffic if these flaws are not removed. There are a lot of things we have told the PMC. They have not acted on them.
SUNANDA MEHTA: Do you think the Metro will also help the city? What if the same happens with Metro as what happened in the case of BRTS?
Yes of course. Any public transport implemented with conscious planning will help the city.
SUSHANT KULKARNI: Do traffic police have any SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) in cases such as Santosh Mane? Are there any guideline regarding what should be your response in case of a terror attack or a natural calamity?
I can assure you that we are prepared. The first job of the traffic cops in such cases is to safely divert the traffic. We are now capable of making desired diversions within minutes. We did this in the case of the low-intensity serial blasts on Jangli Maharaj Road. We have VIP movements,Ganesh festivals,Palkhi where we get to actually put in practice our diversion plans. We also have to carry out checking of vehicles in many such cases. We now have ready plans on doing nakabandi. So,now if we have to check suspected vehicles from some specific routes,we know where to place check points. We have a system in which we can place nakabandi on all the 21 entry/exit points of the city within minutes. These 21 points will soon be getting CCTV cameras and automatic registration number reading system,so that we can have records of vehicles coming and going.
SUSHANT KULKARNI: A lot of traffic changes have been made? Like making JM and FC roads one way? But there is always criticism about these changes being made without planning?
See for example,in case of JM and FC roads,the then DCP Manoj Patil had given a detailed plan in 2010 on pedestrian crossings with signals,bus stops,parking spaces and footpath along the road. It has not been implemented. We wanted a signal between Roopali and Vaishali restaurants. But the city engineer of PMC says it is not suitable. Now you should ask him the reason.
SHRIKRUSHNA KOLHE: A lot of places have wrongly constructed speed breakers.
Yes. We have told this to the PMC and have also got speedbreakers at 70 spots removed or improved. There are norms on speed breakers. There should be marking,which should be repainted regularly and there should be reflectors and signage boards. A boy and a girl were riding a bike at night and the boy could not see the speed breaker. They fell down and the girl died. This should not be a build and forget work.
NISHA NAMBIAR: Has there been an increase or decrease in the traffic violations?
Before that let me ask you this. When do we say there is a traffic violation? If there is speeding,driving under influence of alcohol,not wearing helmet,going triple seat on a bike,halting on zebra crossing,talking on phone while driving,parking in no-parking zone,not wearing seat belts? Where is the root of all this. Is it not in our mentality. When we say Puneites have no discipline,do we ever ask who should give them lessons on discipline. Dont you think we should be taught traffic discipline at home,schools,colleges and also while issuing licenses? There is no institution which teaches us traffic discipline.We say that in Western countries,people stop at signals even at 2 am,thats because such is the culture.
SUNANDA MEHTA: Also because they know they wont be spared if they break the rules. Thats exactly the kind of fear that is missing in our country. And for this the traffic police is answerable.
I do not agree with you. I believe,if the lesson has to last a lifetime,it has to be inculcated through creating a traffic culture. Tell me what will last longer,the fear of a fine or a traffic culture that will tell you that if you dont wear a helmet and if you speed,your life is at risk? Now about Mumbai. Let us compare. We have an area of 743 sq km and Mumbai has 437. Mumbai has 150 officers,we have 40. Mumbai has 70 towing cranes,we have eight. They have 3,500 staffers,we have recently reached 1,000. In Mumbai of the 1,250 junctions,they have signals at 1,238. We have 1,400 junctions and signals at just 300. Mumbai has vehicle population of 22 lakh and we have 37 lakh. Of 37 lakh,we have 24 lakh two-wheelers,in Mumbai over 75 per cent are cars because public transport is very good. Their signals can be fully manned. So statistically,if someone breaks a rule,chances are he will be caught seven out of 10 times. But in Pune,it is just two out of 10 times. And there is also a different mentality. So as a solution to this problem,we conduct drives. We have also seen people trying overpower traffic cops. But still,you will agree that Pune has less jams than Mumbai. We have less accidents. Pune traffic is flowing and that is my priority.
In Delhi,traffic cops have the authority to set up signals. And they can do it within 15 days after taking the decision. Here,we have no such authority and it takes months to set up signals. Delhi Traffic Police gets funds for creating awareness. There is a statutory committee of all stakeholders to take decisions on traffic issues in Delhi. And here we talk about co-ordination.
In Western countries,there are modern systems of detecting traffic violations and implementation. The fine is deducted from the bank account or at every renewal. Do we even have a system to check that a person is driving despite his license has been cancelled? People get another licence.
SUNANDA MEHTA: But in the last one year,the situation has really worsened. It takes twice the time to reach your destination.
Have the roads widened in proportion to the vehicle population? Has there been an addition to public transport? What have we done in case of major traffic bottlenecks? Look at Bopodi-Khadki traffic. Incoming traffic is coming from six lanes. And then it enters a two-lane road. What else do you expect? What logic is this? Have the roads been widened all over? Another example,Aundh,Baner and Pashan traffic comes to University square. Have we ever argued on the position of the flyovers. When will we look at the traffic as a problem of the flow and not as the one of a point or patch? We asked them to make a subway at Simla office square instead of SG Barve chowk but they did not listen to us.
ANURADHA MASCARENHAS: What about the health of constables?
They have been given masks but it is very difficult to breathe the way we do without masks. I have tried using one. We do organise health check-ups on a regular basis.
AJAY KHAPE: Have you approached the government on introducing traffic rules in school curriculum?
We had given a suggestion for the inclusion of the subject in the syllabus. There has been a discussion within the government. I think some steps are going to be taken by the transport secretary soon.
MANOJ MORE: What about the bus stands of the state transport?
We have the same three bus stands since 1960. Shivajinagar,Pune station and Swargate. Why was there no thought of decentralisation. They are not using even the spaces they have. Why no new bus stands have been built?
SUSHANT KULKARNI: We have printed photos of cars in no-parking zone outside the PMC building. There is criticism that action is not taken against people,especially politicians.
That is not correct. And not that all cars were of politicians,as you are saying. They do not have parking space. We have asked them to make arrangements. We will definitely action. It might have happened because the traffic cop was not present. You know,some people from the PMC were asking for that entire street but we said no.
CHANDAN HAYGUNDE: What is the secret of your built and health?
Regular exercise. It has to be a habit. We all know we should exercise,take enough sleep and eat well. But how may of us do it? I dont find excuses to skip exercise.
(Transcribed by Sushant Kulkarni)