Millennium Post

Reliable public transport, please

Most employees at Noida Sector 16 A, a media hub in Noida and popularly called ‘Film City’, return to their homes in Delhi on cabs returning after ferrying IT sector employees to their offices situated in Noida. Most of these cabs charge Rs 15 to 20 per passenger to take them to places like Lajpat Nagar, South Extension, AIIMS. They are fairly regular, comfortable and of course fast.

On the other side, they are employed by private vendors working independently with IT companies in Noida and are fairly anonymous, without facilities like GPS or GPRS. They are not even allowed, legally, to ferry people for a payment. They are not covered under any public transport laws. Basically, they would be fairly anonymous if they commit a crime on their passengers.

However, even with such glaring issues, it is not rocket science to find out why these travellers, mostly media employees, use them to reach home every day. The metro station, which is a Rs 30 rickshaw ride away, follows a convoluted path and takes a long time to reach most areas in Delhi. Absence of a bus stop leaves it completely on the discretion of the driver to halt the bus at a makeshift one in the sector. Severe shortage of buses makes sure passengers are unable to get in even if a driver is benevolent.

It is appalling to see that a city, which just a year ago saw a brutal rape of a young girl because she could not find a way to reach home and boarded a private bus, treats a basic aspect of safety – safe and convenient public transport – almost as a non-entity. While the metro has indeed given a big boost to the problem of availability of transport, it still does not solve the problem of last mile connectivity.

For many, it is also not affordable for daily use. Private vehicles, including buses and cabs can be seen plying on the roads, filling this gap. The brutal rape of Jyoti Singh took place in such a private bus last year. Ubiquity of private buses on Delhi roads is such that sometimes they are the only mode of transport to places like Mahipalpur and some parts of Palam. This is the reason why Singh did not think twice before boarding one to go home.

It was indeed heartening to see that while every institution of the city was criticised for not preventing the brutal incident, the public transport department was not criticised for failing to provide a safe means of transport to its people at as early at 9 pm. It wasn’t criticised for not weeding off private buses on the roads. It wasn’t criticised for lack of annual appraisal of the number of buses in the city. It wasn’t criticised for not making sure that people come to rely on the public transport system of the city to reach home at any point in time, safely.

And this is not just about Delhi, which might be notorious for lack of women’s safety, every other city in the country is facing an acute shortage of public transport that works. You don’t have to go far, cities like Lucknow, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, basically most of the major and upcoming cities can be tied through this one single thread and that is, of poor public transport.
Coming back to the Delhi scenario, one of the indicators for this apathy towards buses is the lack of any methodology of calculating the number of buses required by passengers actually commuting on a particular route (Ever wondered why the buses are always overflowing? Yes. That).

An RTI request revealed that while most bus depots are not aware that they need such a methodology, others base their requirement of buses on the vague data of the number of bus tickets sold on a route. This is flawed as regular passengers carry passes so they do not actually buy tickets. Hence, the ticket sale on any route does not indicate the number of passengers.

Delhi transport corporation (DTC) complaint redressal numbers are forever busy. They are also not provided at bus stops for passengers to call in case a bus does not come on time. And buses mostly do not come on time in Delhi. Especially buses catering to university routes such as North and South Campus and JNU. An anonymous source from DTC said that the low availability is because most students carry subsidised student passes and it is thus not profitable for the government to run sufficient number of buses on these routes.

The lack of reliable transport in this ever-expanding city has made cars mandatory for citizens, especially for those who work in critical jobs such as medicine, banking and sales and management. The rising number of cars has also made sure that there is less and less space on the roads for cyclists and pedestrians. Footpaths are anyway encroached by shopkeepers and hawkers.

Meanwhile, with private cabs plying brazenly from Noida to Delhi, it is only a disaster waiting to happen.

By arrangement with Governance Now
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