It may sound like an exaggeration, but you can run faster than the BEST buses plying on Mumbai roads.
The average speed of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) buses has dropped to below 13km an hour, making it the slowest mode of mass transport in the city.
“The average speed of our buses at present is 12.50kmph. Last year, it was 13.04 kmph,” said a BEST spokesperson.
BEST officials claimed that till 10 years ago, the average speed was more than 18kmph. However, increasing number of private vehicles, lack of traffic discipline and illegal parking on roads, among other things, had slowed down their services.
According to the BEST data, in the past six years, the daily average distance covered by a bus has gone down from 220kmph to 188kmph.
Transport experts blamed this on authorities encouraging use of private vehicles and providing infrastructure for them, while ignoring mass transport.
The city has got a freeway, sea link, flyovers and elevated roads in the past two decades, but it little has been done to improve the second-largest mode of mass transport in Mumbai.
“The government has always given the BEST undertaking step-motherly treatment. It is the responsibility of the government to provide BRTS or a dedicated bus lane. Instead, it is giving importance to cars by building freeways and costal roads,” said AV Shenoy, a transport expert.
The BEST seems to be stuck in a vicious circle. As the speed of its buses goes down, more commuters will switch to other modes of transport such as taxis, autos and private vehicles, which will further add to the traffic on the roads.
An official from BEST said in cities like Bangalore, traffic congestion is limited to the business districts. “But in Mumbai, all roads are congested, all the time. The situation is worse in the western suburbs. Buses can go above 25kmph only on routes outside city limit,” he said.