For Gurugaman to work, improve the quality and quantity of buses
A couple of weeks ago, I started using Gurugaman, Gurugram’s city bus service and the experience has not been that bad. Before that, I would usually take a cab to get to the HUDA City Centre Metro station. The 5km trip would cost me anywhere between Rs 110 and Rs 180, depending on the level of surge pricing. My other option used to be to take an autorickshaw. The price would range between Rs 70 and Rs100, depending on my level of negotiation or on the driver’s willingness to travel the distance. But now, I spend just Rs 10 and after five stops and about 25 minutes, I reach the Metro station.
The bus service in Gurugram has arrived more than a decade late, but it’s good that it finally has. Yes, the buses don’t have air-conditioning and temperatures these days are higher than 40 degrees Celsius, but trust me, these buses are nothing short of a boon for a large section of the society — especially for those people who don’t own a car or cannot afford a cab. Therefore, it’s a good start but a lot needs to be done if the buses are to become a preferred mode of transport in the city. So, after two weeks of my usage of the service, here are three things I think the authorities must do to fix the quality of Gurugaman.
The most important issues are monitoring and control of the bus service. Several times, I have seen drivers drive the bus as if they are driving a Ferrari on a Formula 1 track . This is dangerous, not only for vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, but also for the health and safety of bus users. Therefore, it is important that there is effective monitoring and control of the service. All the buses are fitted with GPS — back-end support for monitoring traffic violations, especially speeding, can easily be provided. Private operators running these buses need to be penalised for these violations, and the sooner it is done, the better it is for everyone. Otherwise, it won’t take long for Gurugaman to get the same tag that the Blue Line buses got in Delhi — Killer Buses.
The authorities are building bus stops, but in most of the places the stops are not ready yet. For example, the place from where I board the buses, only has a pole with “bus stop” written on top of it. This needs to change because public transport users need better treatment. Also, some of the locations where bus stops have been created are not places where users prefer to board buses. Therefore, it is important to create an infrastructure where there is demand. The other big problem is the approach to these stops. Several bus stops have broken footpaths with garbage around. This forces people to stand away from the stop, thereby defeating the purpose of the bus stop itself. Also, at many locations, the bus stops don’t have proper lighting. This is a major safety and security issue. Therefore, authorities need to provide a bare minimum infrastructure to the bus users. A safe, accessible and usable bus stop is a good starting point.
Public transport data, such as bus routes, arrival time, schedules, etc., is important in ensuring high usage of the system. This information also impacts the experience of customers, which is important in a city like Gurugram. This is because of the lack of such information forces people to use ‘alternative modes’ like private vehicles. Yes, there is an app to track the Gurugaman service, but it is quite mediocre. Therefore, it is time that the city looks at an alternative approach. One option is to open transit data, which can lead to the provisioning of such information to users on a real-time basis. This results in higher usage of the system. For example, the city of New York saw a significant increase in ridership and therefore the increase in revenue for public transport operators, when the city opened up its transit data to the public. Therefore, Gurugram should also look at opening up real time public transport data, the way Delhi has done regarding its cluster buses.
A good bus system is the backbone of any city. Most cities that have an excellent Metro system also have a good bus system. For example, London’s Metro system is spread over 400km, yet six million people use buses every day, against three million Metro riders. This is because buses are so flexible that they can also act as a feeder system to the mass transit system.
So, while it is good that Gurugram finally has a formal bus service, if it has to make a substantive impact on mobility in the millennium city, its quality as well as the quantity must improve