This is the backbone of every city. Every single major city has a well-entrenched public transport system. A good public transport system eases traffic congestion, reduces air and noise pollution, and moves large masses of people efficiently, regularly and cost-effectively from Home to Workplace and back, regularly. No city has grown beyond a certain point without a mass transport system. Mumbai has BEST and the local train network. Delhi has the DTC, private buses and now the metro. Abroad, Singapore has its MRT – the Mass Rapid Transport system. Pune has nothing. Nothing except for the Pune Municipal Transport Corporation buses. This fleet has run the same set of buses for as long as I can remember. The exact same buses that used to ply the roads of the city when I was a wee five-year-old on my occasional Pune visits, still ply the same roads. Belching smoke, tired twenty-year-old engines struggle to power dented, dusty, rutsy buses with broken seats, windows and panelling, across the city. Sometime this year, the corporation made a feeble, half-hearted effort to bring in a bunch of new buses and announced that it had “upgraded” the fleet. That is a downright lie. The vast, vast majority of buses on the streets are the old rickety ones. And it is a HUGE pain to travel by them. There are long lines for infrequent buses, the bus stops and bus depots are dirty nightmares. Pune needs double the fleet size, first-class buses, a three-fold increase in fares, and a complete route-remap. Pronto. The older this fleet gets, worse becomes the fuel-efficiency, more become the maintenance costs, pollution, driver and staff stress. Unless the PMT becomes something that the whole populace relies on and trusts, there’ll be far more people buying two- and four-wheelers, making traffic problems worse. There is also a thriving 6-seater and 8-seater rickshaw business, almost a parallel public transport system. I don’t know how far this is illegal, but the vehicles themselves are a complete menace.
When none of the above – Roads, Electricity, Urban Planning, Public Transport – function at even a fraction of the minimum quality and reliability that is expected of a city of this size, how in the world does the administration intend to build it up into the “next Bangalore”? If things persist, forget progressing to compete with Bangalore, Pune might not even be able to be remain what it was a few years ago. Wake up!