#Pune: Are buses part of Smart City initiative?

Pune, now accommodating a population of almost 3.5 million is facing increasingly acute traffic congestion. We honestly were (and are still not) prepared for the growing population, wider sprawl and increasing income in-turn increasing two-wheelers and cars on our roads.

I remember my grandmother telling me that during her youth, which was some 40 years ago, people chose houses plying on the PMPML routes. It was sad that that statement only made me laugh, I mean only 20 % of our people even use the public transit. Most of the bus stops aren’t even ready for monsoons which are in full-swing now, with many of them unable to accommodate even a dozen of people.

CURRENT STATE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Whatever the state of the public buses in Pune, the credit or complaints as the case may be (should) go to the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited. To make life easy, they’re known as PMPML. The public transport service provider, they also operate in Pimpri-Chinchward, areas surrounding Pune. PMPML was formed after the merger of the Pune Municipal Transport (PMT) and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Transport (PCMT.) If people are to be believed, this was not a good deal and resulted in unhappy employers. Fun fact – the PMPML is now said to be inefficient and underperforming…but they were merged although they never got along…so, I guess were asking for it?!

In February 2008, the Union Urban Development Ministry accepted a proposal to fund 650 public buses for Pune (500) and Pimpri-Chinchwad (150). These funds come from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (you have may seen its boards on many roads across the nation.) As of today, we have almost 1400 buses with 80,000 daily commuters travelling on 282 routes. There are 11 bus depots and 20 major bus stations. All of this is run by the 8,610 staff of PMPML, of which 100 are in offices and remaining all are drivers, conductors and their helpers. Interestingly, the PMPML believes it has a share in ‘city development.’

Currently, they are dealing with the Pune Bus Rapid Transit System, popularised as the BRTS. This was the first of its kind in India, under which dedicated bus lanes were supposed to allow buses to travel quickly throughout the city. It sounds promising, but turned out to be a complete failure. I said PMPML is dealing with the BRTS because a lot of Punekars blame it (and them) for us still not having a metro. (Which may ironically be the reason they haven’t patronised the bus system, leading partly to its failure.)

BRTS was inaugurated way back in 2007, with a lot of political fanfare. A 62-crore project, traffic experts believe it to be a ‘dedicated bus service’ and not BRTS. There were (are) no pedestrian ways, cycle tracks, proper bus-stops, off-board ticketing and systems to monitor bus movements. One doesn’t need to be an expert to know these are necessities. Basically, the so-called BRTS reduced the carriage width of the road as roads had reserved lanes for buses, hence slowing down the movement of other vehicles. At one of the PMC general body meeting, the then Municipal Commissioner, Pravinsinh Pardeshi said, “No provisions were made for underpasses and pedestrian crossings.” Yet, work continued.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS – WHAT THE FUTURE (SHOULD) LOOK LIKE

Pune got its first flyover in 1998 on Karve road which went towards Paud road. Since then, we’ve never looked back. A new four-lane flyover is under construction between Shankar Maharaj Math in Chavan Nagar and Bharti Vidyapeeth in Katraj. Right, because if the issue at hand is vehicular congestion on roads, the best solution is to build more roads to allow more vehicles to ply…to intensify the traffic congestion? There have been speculations that this is an abstraction form the metro rail expansion from Swargate to Katraj.

From the last 10 years, we (well, at least some of us) have been obsessed with the metro. In 2007, we were told that “if all goes well”, we will have the first functioning metro-rail route in 3 and a half years. (India, 2007) Our PMC has done it all – identified corridors, shortlisted them, had discussions with E.Sreedharan, planned an underground metro to pass through the congested city areas, had sites inspected by the Metro Man. There have also been various versions of traffic surveys, funding patterns and costing details. Perhaps the Gods are in my favour and something (read : approvals) is stopping these glorious plans. It has not come to the notice of any of our authorities that Pune has a circular geography like London and Delhi. Hence a 1-2 line metro will not make a difference to the majority of the population. It might be needed, but is not at all adequate. A ring-road could be a much better option with circular ring-road bus routes connecting local routes. For a metro to make sense, we may need a minimum of 7-8 lines, like in London and Berlin. I am no expert, but I think this is extremely unfeasible. At least for the next 20 years.

Also, doesn’t it make more sense to work on something already existing (bus transit) than start something from scratch? New Delhi is proof that with improved bus quality and service, more of the middle-income commuters would be attracted (with sky-rocketing petrol and diesel prices.)

Another plausible solution which surprisingly hasn’t caught the attention of many is a suburban train. We have the tracks, we just need additional stations and trains. This could be up and running in just a year.  Stations could be built in Koregaon Park, Ghorpadi, Sopan Baug and St. Patrik’s Town and a few others further out where housing is cheaper. We could have a train every 10 minutes from Chinchwad to Pune Station to Koregaon Park to Magarpatta to Amanora etc. Yes, I know that not all areas are close to rail tracks, but it could still provide a fast transport system along the prevailing railroads and we could always add tracks later. Let’s fully utilise the existing rail corridor before we embark on metro lines. It is a low-hanging fruit and will save us crores of rupees.

 

Thankfully, all’s not lost and there’s still hope. PMPML is working on a business development plan (prepared by E&Y and UMTC) to ensure (continued) delivery of good service. Unlike most other plans which do not even consider the end customer, this plan is pretty inclusive and people-oriented. Through this process, ITDP has helped put together the scope of work and is a member of the review committee.

Under the Smart Cities Mission, Pune has proposed to invest 88 million USD (that’s around 600 crore rupees) in sustainable transport projects. We are being told that by utilising this money to tangible, area-based improvements, the city would be transformed and bring widespread socio-economic benefits to a large section of society.

A transit hub is also being proposed to facilitate smooth interchange between the BRTS and other buses.

In the coming 5 years, Pune aims to increase the mode share of public transport from 18% to 50% by increasing the number of buses and providing better services using Intelligent Traffic Management Systems (ITMS.) Expanding high-quality BRT network by 30 kms and improving accessibility to transit with a 75 km network of footpaths and cycle tracks are also under consideration.

Something wonderful happened in the 2016-17 budget. Half of the transportation budget was to be spent on BRT, footpaths and cycle tracks next year. From a few years now, the authorities have been spending on repairing bus-stops, buying buses and constructing footpaths. However these were done as extra-benefits are were not tied to the larger, integral part of transportation infrastructure. The major parts of the budget were reserved for ensuring convenience for those with personal vehicles.

Basically, if all this turns out as planned, we could have less than 10 minutes waiting time for all our buses and would be able to experience how easy it is to commute in our public buses.

Ultimately, if provided with hassle-free movement across the city, I’m sure we’d show our love for our red buses!

About the writer:

Aishwarya, a recent graduate in Economics and compulsive reader, writes to make sense of the world and her own self.

Podcast: Own your city: Pune #makeyourcityinclusive

What are some of your favorite spots in the city? Which places do you enjoy going the most to in your city? Hidden Pockets presents,”Own your city.”

This is the first of a series where we will talk about unique and exciting spots in a city that happen to be favorites with the women living in those cities. So where will our first stop be? It is none other than Shaniwarwada: Pune.

“Kaka, mala vachva”, “Kaka, mala vachva” are the first words you’ll hear as you enter this haunted palace called Shaniwarwada. For everyone, who is wondering what these Marathi words mean, it simply means, “Uncle, save me”, “Uncle, save me.” This is the first piece of information our intern, Aishwarya shared with us. Mind you, Pune is her most cherished city. You’ll see how she does a great job of proclaiming her relentless love  to Pune and Shaniwarwada all through this podcast.

This spot has been popular for centuries altogether and it continues to attract people of all generations and from all walks of life. If you are a history buff, an arts enthusiast, an architecture lover, a tourist or simply a seeker of knowledge, this is your go to spot.  If you haven’t already made this trip, don’t worry! This is your chance to get onto a virtual trip by listening to Aishwarya and transposing yourself to this mansion; feeling no less than our Mastani leaping out of the saga Bajirao Mastani.

Stay tuned to listen to Aishwarya describe the scintillating beauty of this mansion and the enamor exhilarated by the edifices therein. Don’t miss a moment of this talk if you want to have this fun filled virtual tour. I am excited to make this trip. Are you? So fasten your seat belts and let’s get ready for our very own city, Pune!!

Host and Voice Artist: Aishwarya Chordiya
Pic Credit: Being Punekar.
Music Credit: Audionautix.com and Bensound

 

P.S.:  Every 2nd Friday of the month we would take you to a different place in your city.
Join us to explore these places 🙂
Contact us if you want to narrate your city’s stories @ aisha.george@hidden-pockets.com

Pune Pride 2017: Out and Proud, a photo story

Pune came onto the streets of its on June 11, 2017 to celebrate its LGBTQIA community with pride. The city marched out and proud on Jangali Maharaj Road spreading only the message of love and celebrating Pride month. Here’s a photo story of the march!

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

 

Photo credit: QGraphy

Aravani Art Project: To the home of transgender women in Budhwar Peth, Pune

They (transgender women) were not comfortable with people clicking pictures because they do not want their identities to be revealed and everyone who has done something like this has shown them in a bad limelight.” – PoornimaSukumar on Aravani Art Project in Pune

*****

After successfully completing the Chennai edition of Aravani Art Project, the project’s next stop was in Pune between 19th-21st, May 2017. The Aravani Art Project’s destination was the Budhwarpeth area in Pune, an area where about 250 odd transgender sex workers live. Aravani Art Project partnered with ArogyaSeva and Pune Biennale Foundation to carry out this edition of the project. Unlike other editions of the Project, the Pune edition was one that was full of surprises and challenges. The main challenge faced by the project was in convincing the transgender women to be a part of the project. The community was concerned about being poorly represented in the media.

According to Poormima Sukumar “This project done in the red light area was a little challenging because they were not ready to come out of their familiar areas and paint. It was a little difficult to gain their trust. We miscalculated the time we would spend with them to gain their trust; we thought they would trust us and come out.”

Working with the community required gaining their trust. This was of utmost importance but also quite time consuming. Sukumar spent time personally, persuading the transgender community to join the project. After being convinced about the camera ban during the painting sessions, the transgender women agreed to join the project and paint.

The intent of the Aravani Art Project was to involve the transgender women in the entire process of the project. Hence, paintings on the walls of the red light area were done as way to get the attention of the transgender women and encourage them to join in as well. Over the course of the project, around 20 transgender women joined in, while the others stood around watching them. They were curious to know what was going on, however they were still a little uncomfortable to get their hands dirty and be a part of the project.

“This was a different ball game, I cannot tell you the atmosphere was so crazy in the sense that they were in the heart of the red light area, and there were men all around. We were painting opposite a bar, We were painting outside a theatre that screened blue films. I do not know how many more layers this could have. We have seen everything possible in these 5 days.”

Amidst the narrow lanes of the red light area surrounded by bars and movie halls that screen blue films are two schools where the children of these sex workers study. The principal of these schools was fascinated with what was going on and came along with a few students to see what was being done. She seemed so pleased that someone actually cared to enter the area and do something for the transgender women.

But the Aravani Art Project did not just stop with the residential area of transgender sex workers. The Aravani Art Project was also invited to be a part of an art show titled “Towards Resistance” that happened at TIFA from 27th to 29th May 2017. The curator of the program was keen on having them for the program. One of the transgender women from the community participated in creating this piece for the show. The painting is of Nirmala akka, a transgender woman who Sukumar had met during Aravani Art Project’s Chennai edition. She had invited Poornima Sukumar and the Aravani Art Project to work with the transgender community in Pune. Being an inspiration for Sukumar to consider Pune as her next destination, she decided to paint Nirmala akka as a mark of respect and appreciation.

Poormima left Pune feeling that she could really do something for these transgender women. She felt a need for them to feel more accepted by society and for people to change their perspectives towards them. People need to see them like any other human being and not look down upon them.

We drew different, simple things like flowers to paint when we are not there. So we have started a coloring book on the wall. It is like a new project in itself. So I was thinking that every place I go I should draw something and leave it for them to complete whenever they feel like. We have left boxes of paint for them to paint. Everybody is decorating their house, their doors and their windows. I am going to go back and visit Pune, probably next month and see what more I can do over there. – Poornima Sukumar, Aravani Art Project.

 

A talk with Poornima Sukumar, Founder of the Aravani Art Project.

Through this audio podcast, get to know more about Aravani Community (Transgender Community) and also about the Aravani Art Project.

About the writer:

Marian Dias is a sociology graduate who hopes to start teaching the subject someday soon. Apart from loving outdoor games like basket ball and cricket, she also loves to travel and visit new places.