Last month Sabrang India had reported about the BMC’s decision to ply BEST buses on feeder routes only which meant that buses would supplement other modes of public transport like railways, monorail and Metro rail. BMC Chief Praveen Pardeshi had said in September, “The red buses should ply on bare minimum long-distance routes where Metro does not operate.”
This was a shocking statement to come from the BMC especially after the BEST services were given a push by reducing bus fares, expanding its fleet and introducing new buses which was done in response to citizens support movements as well as a nine-day protest strike. It also came as a shock because BEST buses are the cheapest mode of transport for the common Mumbaikar and it would not be convenient to keep changing modes of transport, from bus to train to Metro rail. Sabrang had, through its article, urged the BMC to not go ahead with its plans.
Citizens have taken up the cudgels again to stand for their BEST. An open letter signed by 54 activists under an independent citizens’ forum, Aamchi Mumbai Aamchi BEST (AMAB) urged the BMC Commissioner to not restrict BEST as merely a feeder service. They also urged the civic transport provider to run additional long route services, which can act as an alternative to the existing railway and Metro corridors. Vidyadhar Date, convenor of AMAB, said, “A city like London, which has one of the oldest Metro networks, also has a very robust bus network, which is available even late in the night.”
The letter suggested that the buses which are wet-leasing may be kept for feeder services and the regular buses of BEST be kept running on their usual routes and also urged that the cancelled routes be revived for convenience of commuters.
Ideally, the public transport in any city should not just complement each other but should provide a range of alternatives for its residents, so that every income group can, by volition choose to use a particular mode of transport depending on their affordability. By reducing BEST to feeder services will amount to compelling people from lower income groups to use a service like metro which charges more than a BEST bus for the same route.
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