City Volvos — modern Mumbai Suburban trains on Indian roads?

I am sure most in Indian metropolitan cities have been fascinated by the “Volvo travel” and most would have read in media / heard the general perception of how comfortable a volvo city ride is. There are groups / transit companies which promote use the public transit (through bus days etc) and all of them cite Volvo travel and its confortness asking personal vehicle owners to switch to public transit. Things on the ground has to change a lot.The greener pastures alone are being projected.

Most people now talk about frequency, time table / GPS updates to gauge the reliability of the service and even transit companies in some way or other try to improve the service around this with GPS info systems at bus stops (MTC started in chennai and BMTC in Bangalore has been running a pilot for quite a while now) and MTC also makes the GPS info public in the site www.alert.net.in/eta (which hardly 10 people know of and works only on Internet Explorer). So at least transit companies are trying to make an minuscule effort in a positive direction though they need to travel a long way in making things passenger friendly.

Ride comfortness :-

Okay, not everybody gets a seat. But overcrowding the bus and charging premium luxury fares is sheer exploitation. I happened to fight with the MTC crew yesterday (588B – TN01-8609) particularly when the driver was stopping at each stop and asking the people standing by to hop in and the bus would be empty in next couple of stops when it was clearly not the case. Unlike the normal buses, Volvo buses are closed door air conditioned buses. Having 100 people in glass case is not a luxury travel(not even average level of comfort) and getting in and out is like experiencing overcrowding in Mumbai Suburban trains. Overcrowding in closed buses will lead to suffocation as there are no windows and no one cares about safety.It would create a stampede if the bus door gets jammed after an accident. Just because people have the money to pay for the ticket doesn’t mean you have to exploit them. The crew in most cases are greedy.Corporations too. We will get back to reasons / solutions later in the post.

What further surprised me was there was no mention of “capacity” inside the bus. Normal city bus has a capacity of 48+25 and have them written on the front on the bus behind the name board. A B7RLE made by Volvo India has a seating capacity of 40. I today got another shock when i saw 40 straps hanging on the 335E Volvo in Bangalore, which indirectly says the corporation wants 40 people to stand and travel. This is the true face of “comfortable Volvo travel” in India. We as straphangers need to make sure that Volvos are not mumbai suburban trains of our cities.

Reaons for overcrowding:-

1. Demand Supply management

Lack of enough fleets is one major cause. Chennai city alone is well short of some 2000 buses and when it comes to Volvo segment, it hardly has 100 fleets which is too less and when distributed across routes(for social reasons) the number of fleets on a particular route is handful and cannot cater the demand.When i argued with the conductor about overcrowding, he thrown me this point. Passengers are waiting for buses for long time, and hence they board even crowded buses.Valid but overcrowding the buses will not improve the face of public transit. Why is it so difficult to operate fleets based on demand, now that reports out of ticketing machines can clearly help visualize the demand.Are the authorities doing anything here? Bangalore through its capacity has some how overcome this reason of lack of buses, but not on all routes. The city needs more buses too.335E is not overcrowded on weekdays since the frequency is around 7 minutes, but during weekends / festive seasons it simply cant handle the load of outstation passengers reaching majestic.

2. Inefficient Route management

Route planning needs to be proper. Lack of depots make the Volvos run more idle trips causing bleeding losses. For instance 335E on mornings run jam packed to ITPL but around 10-11 am one see some 20 Volvos returning back to KBS with 2 or 3 passengers. 588B/588C in Chennai ws also the same. Just to cater the tourist demand in the evenings around 10-15 Volvos travel more or less empty to Mahabalipuram.

3. Greedy Crew / Corporations

Part of the crew’s share of wage comes from the revenue they collect and this makes them over crowd. Again due to idle running trips, crew try to double the revenue on the crowded trip and overcrowd. How many times have you heard “Holagade hogi” / “Thalli Ulla ponga”. Corporations also remain silent on this since half the trips run on loss. Ideal way for corporations is to make money through travel passes instead of selling tickets and delink the collection incentive for the crew and standardize their salary.

I will be doing some more study on this shortly and probably reach out to the corporations. Lets not make our volvos as mumbai suburban trains! As a start there should be display of what is the capacity of the bus inside it.

For Bangalore related city commute please follow http://praja.in

For Chennai related city commute and straphanger issues like these, please follow @straphanger_in http://straphanger.wordpress.com/ and articles by Ajai Sreevatsan on The Hindu

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