Ab, Bus Karo Yaar !

Pune Traffic


We went to Phoenix Market City the other day, which happened to be a Sunday.

There are demographers who will dispute this, but it is quite true, I assure you.

There are more people in that mall on Sunday than is the sum total population in all of China and India put together.

Don’t ask me how that is possible, you skeptic – take your car to Phoenix Market City on a weekend, and then we’ll talk.

And speaking of cars brings us to the topic du jour. There are far too many of them in our city. Way too many. Infinitely too many. We are not yet Bangalore, thankfully, where traffic jams the size of Africa is what they call an average weekday, but allow me to assure you, we are getting there.

And we’re all equally guilty, myself included, for our little family of three owns two of them. And one of the three of us is four years old.

But what is one to do? If your job involves having to visit multiple locations in one day, as is the case for me, then a car is all but inescapable in Pune city. And that’s not just me: I and approximately 3,50,000 other car owners in this city agree. That’s right, there’s three hundred and fifty thousand cars that have been registered with the Pune RTO, roughly speaking. And that’s just cars. Add in two wheelers, vans, lorries, trucks and buses, and it’s a miracle we make it from one part of the city to the other.

And why do we have such a profusion of vehicles? It’s because we don’t have good enough public transport. Here’s a question for you: do you know the bus number that will take you from where you are right now to Deccan Gymkhana? Which bus stop you should go to to take that bus, assuming you know the number? The frequency of said bus?

Of course you don’t (and neither do I). It’s because, and let’s be frank about this, the condition of the local bus service in Pune is worse than the roads they ply on. The buses are ramshackle affairs, dangerously crowded, gloriously irregular and massively understaffed.

In an effort to quantify these statements, I visited the PMPML website.

They have a page called “Performance Matrics (sic)” where information about our bus fleet is made available to a disbelieving public.

As on 21st June, 2017, PMPML informs us, there were 1944 buses plying on Pune’s streets. And that’s a good start, you think to yourself, only to find yourself rudely disabused of this notion on the second line, wherein we are informed that 460 of these are “Off Road”. They go on to helpfully inform us that this means that 24% of the total fleet is Off Road, but remain resolutely silent about why this might be so. Of the remaining buses, about 13% were shown as being  of “Breakdown” status. As to cause, and more information about when these buses may be ready to ply again, we have no information.

All of which is to explain why we are not going to be giving up either of our cars anytime soon. And also to anticipate that a follow-up to this column five years hence will report a comfortably higher number of cars registered in Pune.

What’s the solution, you ask? Well, I’m no expert, but I have two suggestions, one for dear old PMPML, and one for you, dear reader. Here’s the first: buy more buses, and repair at the earliest the ones that are Off Road/Breakdown.

And here’s the second: online shopping.

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni

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