After much delay, the Nigdi-Dapodi Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) route finally took off within the jurisdiction of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on August 24. On the very first day of the launch, there was utter confusion among commuters and PMPML bus drivers, which led to traffic snarls throughout the 13-km stretch. The situation was no different in the next seven days, leading to criticism of the PCMC and PMPML administrations, as well as the traffic police, for their failure to ensure smooth running of the service.
Lack of coordination
The PCMC failed to coordinate effectively with the PMPML administration, traffic police and Pune Metro project officials. There seemed to be a communication gap among the various agencies. The civic administration, led by Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar, who had promised smooth BRTS service, failed to get traffic police and PMPML officials on board. The absence of Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner R K Padmanabhan compounded the problem as no police official was ready to take the initiative to help the PCMC.
“Before launching the service, PCMC should have ensured that everything was in order. However, everything seemed to go haywire from the very start,” said Amol Deshpande, a commuter and a civic activist. The PCMC, however, claimed that it had informed the transport body about the BRTS launch four months ago, and had sought cooperation from traffic police, which did not materialise.
Misuse of BRTS route
From the day of the launch, private vehicles were seen using the BRTS, which is meant to be a dedicated track for buses. Several PMPML buses, meanwhile, skipped the BRTS route, creating utter confusion among commuters. The transport body failed to inform its drivers about the launch of the route and also failed to activate the key mechanism required for it. As chaos ensued, traffic police remained mere spectators, and inexperienced traffic wardens struggled with the job of managing traffic. Officials of the Pune Metro project also didn’t offer any help.
PMPML caught unprepared
Initially, PMPML officials said they could not inform all the drivers about the launch of the route.Then they said because of too many merge-ins and merge-outs, the drivers were finding it difficult to wade through the maze of traffic and slip into the narrow BRTS lane. Later, it was revealed that many drivers skipped the lane as the bus doors on the right hand side, which were supposed to open automatically, didn’t do so.
The transport body had failed to activate the Range Frequency (RF) tag and the Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS), both key to running PMPML services on BRTS route. While the RF tag ensures automatic opening of the doors, ITMS ensure that the public information system runs smoothly. Of the 273 buses that were supposed to ply on the route, RF tags had not been activated in as many as 100 buses, PMPML officials told The Indian Express.
PMPML Chairperson and Managing Director Nayana Gunde attributed the delay to malfunctioning of buses. Also, of the promised 273 buses, PMPML ran fewer than 200 buses as several buses were not in a condition to ply. Three PMPML buses failed on the route itself, and in one case, stranded other buses for 15 minutes.
Traffic cops watch
For a week, the traffic police have stayed away from the Nigdi-Dapodi BRTS route. Top traffic officials, including Additional Police Commissioner Makrand Ranade and Assistant Commissioner of Police Satish Patil, said they were facing shortage of personnel to manage the entire jurisdiction, which includes far-flung places such as Chakan, Alandi and Talegaon. They promised to provide adequate traffic police personnel once they had enough manpower.
However, traffic police personnel were seen manning traffic signals that operate automatically, prompting local residents and activists to wonder whether being stationed at signals was their primary role. “Are the traffic police not supposed to put in the effort to manage traffic on the roads? The new police commissioner should clarify their role,” said civic activist D G Baliga.
Clueless traffic wardens
Traffic wardens have also been struggling to manage the entire length of the BRTS route. At frequent intervals, they allowed other vehicles to ply through the BRTS route, causing impediments to the movement of PMPML buses. At some spots, unruly motorists and two-wheeler riders targeted the traffic wardens. In one case, two motorcyclists slapped a traffic warden, leading to a police complaint against them. “Traffic wardens have no legal authority to fine violators. The traffic police should have stepped forward to manage the BRTS,” said corporator Geeta Mancharkar.
Where is the track?
In some stretches of the BRTS route, on which the PCMC has spent Rs 27 crore, dedicated tracks are missing. For the majority of the BRTS stretch in Kasarwadi, the track is missing. The PCMC said it has left the space untouched because of proposed Metro work in the same area. However, the civic body could not explain the open space at Chinchwad and Akurdi, where no dedicated track has been laid for almost half-a-kilometre.
Traffic jams at Phugewadi and Kasarwadi
At Phugewadi signal, every day, traffic snarls affect operations on the BRTS service and other vehicular movement. Activists point out that since a new Dapodi bridge has been opened, which offers a left turn for traffic heading to Sangvi and Bopodi, the Phugewadi signal should be closed, as that will offer considerable relief from traffic snarls.
Similarly, at Kasarwadi, the railway gate is causing massive jams, especially in the evening. Activists say the gate should be shut in the evening hours as the PCMC has provided an alternate bridge to reach Kasarwadi area. The PCMC and traffic police said they will consider the suggestions.
Steps to fix the situation
On Wednesday, PMPML CMD Nayana Gunde visited Pimpri-Chinchwad and issued a spate of directives to put the BRTS in order. However, several buses continued to skip the route. While traffic police have imposed a ban on other vehicles from using BRTS, on Saturday, cars and two-wheelers were seen blatantly flouting the rule, with no traffic police in sight to stop them. PCMC has also set up a four-member panel to suggest ways to operate BRTS route smoothly. But till Saturday, the panel had not come up with any concrete steps to manage traffic.
Bombay HC may take final call
In 2013, while responding to a plea by residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad, the Bombay High Court had asked the PCMC to run the BRTS on a trial basis for two months. The PCMC is supposed to submit a report about the safety aspects of the route, conducted by a team from IIT Bombay, before the High Court. Amid the growing demand for scrapping the chaotic BRTS, civic activists warn that if the PCMC does not resolve the many issues plaguing the route, the court may well ask it to shut the system down.