We spend thousands of crores on building complex, multilayered flyover systems, rapid transit channels, metro rail projects, and roads with multiple lanes. All this to accommodate the perennially growing traffic load.
Instead, what if we spend a part of this astronomical amount on buying a few thousand high-quality buses and building the appropriate infrastructure to maintain them? What if a tiny fraction is spent on redrawing bus routes and setting up comfortable, robust bus stops on all city roads? What if we spend an even tinier fraction on promoting our top-notch, superconvenient and reliable metropolitan bus service? In fact, what if we allocate a sum to maintain our roads?
Flyovers in Pune have become a joke. Today, a flyover in Hadapsar needs a traffic signal. Could there be a bigger insult to a flyover? The University Circle flyover was brought down within 12 years of construction, just because it was not originally built keeping the long-term view in mind. What could be a grosser misuse of public money?
We also know what happened to the BRTS in the city. It proved to be a disaster and a massive waste of public money.
Has anyone ever calculated the return on investment for the BRTS? Howmuch the taxpayer lost?
Let’s talk about the Metro project. It has not progressed an inch since it was inaugurated in March 2022. A year has passed by, and yet, Metro’s practical use remains in doubt. The project is mired in a connectivity and parking quagmire.
In my view, a good bus network can erase the need for all these complicated and money-munching projects.
Imagine if you had direct buses to all parts of the city, and to catch a bus, you needed to walk not more than five minutes. Imagine a bus service that is comfortable, convenient and reliable. Who will not choose buses then?
Of course, people will still buy vehicles; there is an aspirational sentiment associated with owning a car. But how many times will it be taken out if there is a good city transit system in place? The car will then be used for trips out of town, vacations, late-night travel, etc. Travel within the city will become better, more organised and dependable.
Once the traffic situation improves, cases of road rage too will abate. That will help bring down anxiety levels among motorists and commuters. There will be fewer accidents. The city could even get quieter. The elderly will be able to cross roads.
We, therefore, must pay more attention to the most crucial transit system — our bus service. Even today, lakhs of commuters depend on the city bus service. This means it needs to be fixed on priority. In fact, our bus service should be our top priority now.