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Which city has the coolest bus service and website?

December 21, 2007

After checking out the websites of our city transport corporations I realised several things:

1. That several of our cities have fully functioning websites and some are pretty good! :) Information on bus routes and fares is given in detail on most of them.
2. That Kolkata, Guwahati and Jammu/Srinagar and even beautiful Chandigarh and hi-tech Hyderabad (city bus services) don’t have have their own website, or at least I could not locate them.
3. That some of the sites are awfully misleading.
4. That some of them are plain dull.

I have written a short note on each site and service here but by no means is it comprehensive. Each city has various bus operators and I certainly have not covered all of them. In fact this post does not claim to be a comprehensive review of the various websites, public transport or even of the different bus services. It’s a quick glimpse into some of the different transport services of some major cities and their websites. If anyone wants to add anything on any other city bus service and it’s website, they are welcome to do so.

Take a look, and if you want to check the site itself, click on the screen shot of the site.

Mumbai
The first one is of the BEST Undertaking, which runs the Mumbai Public Bus Services. The site is plain and cluttered. And some pages are slow to load. Though there is information on bus routes, I couldn’t satisfy my curiosity about it’s fleet. From the wiki I did manage to find out that the BEST has “3,400 buses, ferrying 4.5 million passengers over 340 routes, and has a workforce strength of 38,000, which includes 22,000 bus drivers and conductors (this comes to an average of 11.2 employees per bus).

About the service, from my own and my friends’ experiences of the BEST, they do a good job. There are been some cases of rash driving of late, although the BEST is taking preventive measures. One of these measures is calling upon it’s “1,053 men in it’s nearly 10,000-strong team of drivers who haven’t been involved in a single accident in more than 20 years of service…to share their experiences with their colleagues so that they, too, can work towards a spotless stint as BEST drivers.”

Chennai
Next is the website of the MTC (Metropolitan Transport Corporation Chennai). The Chief Minister is on the front page although for the life of me I cannot figure out why! :) The site isn’t fancy, but it’s very easy to navigate and that’s a big plus. Interestingly, in addition to info on bus routes and fares, the site has detailed information on ‘performance’ indicators like the number of buses, their average age, the number of kms they cover, the number of passengers per day (38.18 lakhs this year) and even absenteeism! And all this information is given from the year 2001. Impressive.
According to the website it has a fleet of 2914 buses and 2754 scheduled services.

You can read a review of the bus service here. Some air-conditioned buses were introduced recently.

Delhi
DTC’s (Delhi Transport Corporation) website is plain and although there is info on bus routes and fares, there are no statistics given. However I found them on a Delhi government transport site and it says that the DTC has 31589 employees. Oddly, no information is given on the number of buses. Surprising for the capital city of India. The information wasn’t available on the Wiki either so I wonder if it is available anywhere at all. Blueline Transport Corporation, which runs a private service in Delhi doesn’t have a website.

DTC buses are known to be difficult to use, and as as the wiki describes, the buses “can be overcrowded, requiring agility, grit and determination on part of the traveller to catch and hold on to a side-railing while the bus is in motion.” As for the Blueline buses, they are known as the killers on the road, infamous for their rash drivers.

Bangalore
The website below is that of the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) and is it surprising that this city, famous for IT, would have a really good website? It looks clean, it’s easy to use and it’s attractive as well, with pretty pictures of the bus stations. Plenty of information is available on the site too. Detailed information on buses depot-wise! The workforce is 20473 and out of these 7489 are drivers. They have a fleet of 4812 buses which make 65121 trips, travel 10.38 lakh Service kilometers and carry 37.00 lakh passengers. Information on BMTC’s Volvo buses can be found on the site but you can get some more information on the Volvo services and the fare chart here.

You can read a review of the BMTC here. The bus service is thought to be quite good.

Pune
Now we come to a very misleading site. That of the PMT (Pune Municipal Transport). The pictures show fancy buses but in reality you will rarely come across these type of buses in Pune. The site has pretty pictures which do not reflect reality.
Statistics on the site say that PMT has a fleet of about 1000 buses transporting nearly 5.50 lakh passengers in a day, a staff of about six and a half thousand, six depots, eighteen main bus stations and about 200 routes…” For a population of 4,485,000 in 2005, I guess this isn’t enough. A review of the site is given here.

PMT’s service is woefully inadequate and cannot service the population of Pune. It’s a city with no metro or train service for the public either. And that is the reason for the proliferation of two-wheelers. The buses are infrequent and unreliable. This again from personal knowledge.

Ahmedabad
This website was launched about a year ago and I quite liked the design. It has the helpline button right in your face and one can search for a bus route by the number of the bus, by the name of the stand, or with all the details. However when I clicked on the button ‘Facilities,’ a 5 mb file started to download!

Indore
The best of the lot to my mind is the next one, the bus service of Indore, and not surprisingly, it’s not run by the government! I won’t give any statistics here as this site is worth checking out if you are interested in this success story.

And the amazing success of this bus service has been written about by Gurcharan Das in this article. He writes:

Indore has a fleet of 98 modern, low-floor buses with computerised ticket-vending. Electronic signboards at bus stops announce when the next bus is due based on satellite data. Investment in the system has risen to Rs 40 crore, all done privately. The city has made a profit since inception; so have its six private partners who run the buses. Soon, it will have 500 buses. Indore is now quoted (with Bogota) as having the best bus service in the world.

He says Delhi has a lot of learn from Indore’s success. I say the whole of India does.

(All the pictures are screen shots of the website and linked to the sites)

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2007 10:20 am

    Nita, I think Bombay has one of the coolest bus services hands down. Those AC buses are also quite nice. The last time I sat in one of them was around 4 years back…so they must have improved, I’m sure :)

    I was in Pune for 3 years and the state of public transport system shocked me. Those buses are literally crumbling and need to be replaced with newer models ASAP. People who don’t have scooties/bikes or can’t afford autos to go everywhere surely face a very bad time.

  2. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    December 21, 2007 11:05 am

    An important factor that determines how efficiently public transport works in a city is geography. In this respect, among all Indian cities, Mumbai has a distinct advantage because of its basically linear arrangement. Which is why, although the local trains are overcrowded, they do get you from A to B without too many unpleasant surprises in the matter of punctuality. Mumbai is perhaps the only big city in India where you can plan a trip for an appointment 30-40 km away, arriving at your destination within ten minutes minus or plus of the appointed time.

    The BEST bus services complement the trains for shorter distance travel in the E-W direction. With upgradation of infrastructure these services are bound to improve. If they are made attractive enough for people to prefer them over personalised transport, it will go a long way towards improving the overall traffic situation.

    With the spread of Navi Mumbai, new rail and road corridors are being built to cater to the east-west spread of Mumbai. Waterborne transport has also been considered off and on, and the fact that it has not taken off on a significant scale is NOT so much due to technical reasons.

    An important consideration, which town planners and urban policymakers are aware of but hesitate to implement, is that the density of building permissible in any city (FSI or Floor Space Index) has to be more finely modulated, with higher densities along major traffic arteries and lower along secondary and tertiary level arteries.

    Finally, with the unprecedented increase in vehicular traffic, especially of personalised transport, it must be made mandatory for every property to incorporate enough on-site parking to accommodate the traffic it generates. Parking along public rights of way must be progressively reduced.

    Some of these solutions are admittedly difficult to implement, but not impossible if there is political and administrative will to make them happen.

  3. December 21, 2007 11:13 am

    Bangalore do have some volvo’s as city buses. that’s a good initiative.. U get stuck up in traffic anyway ,but then in the comfort of a Volvo. :)

    Nita could you inlcude the links to these websites aswell?

  4. December 21, 2007 11:43 am

    Ruhi, thanks. Mumbai actually is getting more crowded day by day and traffic conditions are also deteriorating. I just hope they get the metro project off the ground soon!

    Vivek, thanks for that very informative and detailed comment.

    Xylene, the Volvo website is the company website and not of a particular city. In fact information on Volvo buses is given on the BMTC site. But as you requested I have given another link as well which gives some more details. Thanks.

  5. December 21, 2007 12:22 pm

    @ Nita: Interesting post. In addition to the variable standards, I am curious about inter-city bus services too.

    In the UK, buses are always far cheaper than trains – a bus ride from Heathrow to Cambridge can be £20 return sometimes (if booked ahead) whereas the train ride will easily set people back twice that sum. Both take rougly the same time and buses, once you board them are less hassle.

    To add to Vivek’s note on policy issues: there is also a not-inconsiderable element of lobbying by the auto sector, which I am sure is now in play in India. In the US, auto manufacturers’s lobbying had a great influence of how public transport systems developed – in most cases, not – across the country. The card is particularly easy to play in India in current boom times.

    I also hear from a friend visiting Bangalore that MG Road is dug up for the Metro. The sausage-making process is never pretty to watch, and can test the will of the taxpayer considerably even if politicians can hold their nerves..

    Experientially, I daresay that in my years of living in the 4 corners of India, I only ever used buses in Bombay. (Yes, I somehow managed never to use buses in Calcutta, which looked awful although the same Bengali person behaves/ behaved with almost a reverence towards the Metro; in Delhi where women are basically live-bait for a whole bunch of weirdos, from all the stories I hear from my Delhiite friends; in Bangalore where I gave much business to autos, or in any of the B-towns I lived or studied in. Now as I write, I wonder how…)

    During my MBA-summer I lived with family in Anushaktinagar, which was a terminus for buses heading to Haji Ali (so I had a great social life all summer what with friends staying in Wilson College hostels etc) and from where buses also originated for Chembur where my “office” bus would take me to Vikhroli.

    The bus rides were pleasant and if I recall correctly, the buses were frequent and punctual. Of course, using “online” timetables was not even in layman’s vocabulary in early-1990s :-)

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    December 21, 2007 1:10 pm

    Shefaly:

    // To add to Vivek’s note on policy issues: there is also a not-inconsiderable element of lobbying by the auto sector, which I am sure is now in play in India. In the US, auto manufacturers’s lobbying had a great influence of how public transport systems developed – in most cases, not – across the country. The card is particularly easy to play in India in current boom times. //

    I avoided making this point as I have no hard data or reliable information. My intuitive feeling is that it is a bit premature for the auto manufacturers to indulge in such lobbying. As you are probably aware, there are also vociferous pro-public transport (mainly bus rapid transport) citizens’ lobbies emerging which are getting heard and beginning to yield results in some cities.

    The historical role of the US auto industry in b*gg**ing up both cities and the railway system is well known, and now probably irreversible, barring an economic crisis of epic proportions. Should such trends emerge in India, there will of course be a sizeable mass of those who believe in “India Shining” eager to lap up the idea and back it. Already a certain Lucknow-based Bengali-headed corporate has got away with rape of some fine countryside in some pockets all over the country. But I expect (shall I say hope?) this initiative will collapse before it acquires the critical mass to influence regional transport policy.

    What is more worrying is what route the various SEZ initiatives will take, and how that will influence transport infrastructure policy at both the urban and the regional scales.

    This has been a very tunnel-visioned comment, I realise, and there are many other developmental issues which need to be included to bring a more holistic perspective. But that would be far beyond the scope of this post.

    On the whole, while I do share the dream of an India where differences between the haves and the have-nots will not be as great as they are, while they exist that is the greatest safeguard we have against the long-term success of any self-destructive
    “developmental” interventions.

  7. December 21, 2007 1:40 pm

    Nita: Delhi Web site is completely out-dated. Even the phone numbers for ISBTs/complaint cells/officers have not been updated. You can not even rely on the routes listed on the Web site. In fact, it is a search box that does not elicit routes for some common route numbers. It is most ignored and under-used web site we have.

    Most important, I could not find a contact us or comment section where I could add my feedback.

  8. December 21, 2007 2:21 pm

    Nita, a detailed review. I’m sure lot of effort was put in preparing these content.

    Bangalore’s BMTC will soon be going public with IPO…

  9. December 21, 2007 2:28 pm

    @ Vivek: Your point about SEZ nudges me to write a post that combines many things twirling in my brain. I hope to complete it today.. :-)

  10. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    December 21, 2007 3:54 pm

    Shefaly: Will look forward to it. This blog or yours?

  11. December 21, 2007 5:41 pm

    Shefaly, a lively and detailed response. Thanks.

    Poonam, thanks for that update!

    Shrinidhi,
    hi. Yes this took a lot of time and I had to stop myself from doing more cities! But I enjoyed myself!

    Vivek
    , the post is on her blog.

  12. December 21, 2007 5:51 pm

    Nita and Vivek:

    Thank you both respectively for starting and enabling the conversation, and for contributing the points that pulled together many threads encountered and relevant to today and this time of the year…

  13. December 21, 2007 6:25 pm

    Nita. Metro is the future mode of commuting in Delhi. By 2010 most of Delhi and NCR will be covered by Metro. The bus service is also expected to improve by then. Shiela Dixit is putting a lot of effort to improve the DTC bus service but it is not an easy task.

  14. wishtobeanon... permalink
    December 21, 2007 9:38 pm

    I looked at the Indore bus service website and it does not look cluttered or messy when compared to some of the other websites. I am guessing the buses are locally manufactured too (?) as opposed to the Volvo buses in Bangalore.
    I hope these bus services serve as a model for the rest of the country. I wish the roads, traffic and service would also look as good as these buses!

  15. December 21, 2007 10:02 pm

    Shefaly, you are welcome.

    Prerna, I have heard about how good the Delhi Metro is…well, I hope the bus service doesn’t get second class treatment!

    wishtobeanon, you raised a very good point. Frankly I too cannot understand why we have to go for the expensive Volvo buses when we are perfectly capable of making buses ourselves. And from I understood from the Indore site, the buses are not imported. But it didn’t say anything about this.

  16. Ravi permalink
    December 21, 2007 11:25 pm

    Hi Nita

    I just saw your comment popped up on coolest bus service in CNN IBN ….blog. I thought APSRTC might interest people who blog here. I found some info on it in wikipedia.org and from its websites. I m posting the links here.

    wikipedia APSRTC

    aspsrtc.gov.in

    Actually there is directory of all the employees available on this website but it was secured. Unlike some other RTC’s the buses in hyd or in AP look as they are in the website. One could find all the info from its website or wikipedia.

    Thanks

  17. December 22, 2007 8:34 am

    @ Ravi:

    Thanks. Ofcourse, this is a state transport service website, not a city one. In fact I think I must have come upon it because that was why I did not include Hyderabad on my list. I inadvertently left it out of the list of cities which did not have a city bus service site, but now I have included it in the list. But frankly Ravi, I am very very surprised that Hyderabad does not have a site. I think Hyderabadis should write to their government and demand one!

  18. Ravi permalink
    December 22, 2007 9:39 am

    Nita

    There is a lot more than just hyderabad in AP. The revenue generated in whatever sectors is a lot less from hyderabad relative to AP and bus services aren’t different from this. APSRTC, Cellular services, National banks, shopping malls concentrate more on AP not just hyderabad which is pretty cool.

  19. December 22, 2007 10:35 am

    Bangalore has SMS based location alert service for volvo. But their website has no info regarding this service. and also timetable is not available for most of the routes.

  20. inder permalink
    December 22, 2007 12:35 pm

    Hi Nita – if you look at the screen grab of the pune bus service in your post you will notice that somebody has hacked into it and posted some wierd note on it. (bottom left corner)

    i clicked the link from the post and the website still has that comment on it.

    really disgusting…

  21. December 22, 2007 12:44 pm

    @ inder:

    Hey thanks! I saw that weird line there but didn’t think about it! I guess these PMT people still don’t know about it!!

  22. December 22, 2007 6:27 pm

    Hi Nita, I am fine. I have shifted to Pune as I am working here. What abt you ?

    I’m fine too. : Goa to Pune is a big change and I guess going from your student days to working life is another big change too! – Nita.

  23. Neale permalink
    December 24, 2007 5:11 pm

    The Indore site looks interesting but…..
    Info is all english and no Hindi. OTOH, map is all Hindi and no English.

  24. Anand permalink
    December 25, 2007 7:28 pm

    Nita, I actually think BEST has a cool service for finding the route nos. Given that for a city like Mumbai, knowing the route and the buses that can take you there can be a nightmare, I found their service pretty cool as an outsider to the city

    http://www.bestundertaking.com/transport/index.htm

  25. December 26, 2007 8:31 am

    @ Anand:

    Thanks for the input. I guess an outsider is always the best one to evaluate a service!

  26. Janak permalink
    December 26, 2007 11:25 pm

    Mumbai Navigator:
    pretty cool !
    http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/navigator/index.html

  27. December 27, 2007 7:09 am

    @ Janak:

    Thanks! I liked this site so much that I added it to my front page under ‘Mumbai Help.’

  28. Shyamal permalink
    January 26, 2008 11:23 pm

    I had lived in Bombay in late 1970’s for 2 years. Commuting was an awful experience. The fastest mode of travel — the local trains were extremely overcrowded. You could barely breathe. 80% of people traveled by train. So, BEST that carries a miniscule percentage of people is of no significance.
    My home city Kolkata was also overcrowded then. But now things have changed for the better. Overcrowding in Kolkata buses has reduced as the city has expanded eastwards and many more buses were introduced. In addition, there is the underground Metro and numerous auto-rickshaws and taxis. Besides, many middle class people now have their own car or two wheeler.
    The biggest advantage for the middle class is that, compared to Mumbai, they can live much closer to the city center because of relatively economical real estate price.
    Although Kolkatans still gripe about traffic, I have found the situation much better whenever I visit the city every 2-3 years.

  29. Sunil permalink
    March 10, 2008 1:42 pm

    Well i feel that Bangalore(Bengaluru) has one of the Coolest Bus Service in India.Thanks to BMTC.
    Reasons:
    1) They are economical and offer value for money.From the BMTC-Vajra(Volvo) to the Aam-admi friendly (Pass Bus),they have a range for all.
    3)They make profits and ensure that the Government doesnt have to shell out heavily for subsidising them.

    But all their efforts are masked by City Planers who have failed to ensure a Dedicated Bus corridor.

  30. May 6, 2008 8:13 pm

    Where to find the option of locating volvo (vajra) buses thru SMS

  31. vivek mittal permalink
    May 8, 2008 1:54 pm

    Now Delhi should be out of discussions about buses……….. more than 5 years are over now and the city boasts of a world class metro which is among the best in the world and carries daily lakhs of people and is the most preferred among Delhites……..
    .
    We can have comparisons among Delhi, London and New york metros

  32. October 20, 2008 3:21 pm

    I am from Indore, born and brought up, but staying outside since last 6 years…. so when my mom told me about this new “BUS SERVICE”.. i thought it would be a mini-bus of sorts, which would fade away… but my illusions were to be done away with… on my next trip home, my sister and me had a blast traveling… done away with the Scooty and the Indica… the spacious interiors, mannered drivers and conductors..Man!! it was relief…. and surprisingly, the usual unruly people behaved themselves too…

    I haven’t had a chance to explore other City Bus Services, But out of Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune, Indore, Ahmedabad:

    Mumbai is certainly the most efficient and people worthy….

Trackbacks

  1. On commuting, public transport and jobs « La Vie Quotidienne
  2. Is BEST the best? | DesiPundit

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