Commuters are abandoning cars and taxis in favor of BEST | Bombay News

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MUMBAI: Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) power buses – mostly AC and non-AC mini and midi buses – have proven to be a boon to daily commuters, who have been forced to pay exorbitant sums to share auto rickshaws and taxis.

Auto rickshaws and taxis operate on a sharing basis mainly on high density feeder roads, especially from business districts to stations like Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) at Kurla and Bandra Station, from the Kurla station at Mumbai University, Churchgate at Nariman Point, Andheri station at the airport and Ghatkopar metro station at Sakinaka.

Passengers said car and taxi drivers charge 30 to 50 per passenger for less than 2 kilometers. However, after the introduction of additional BEST buses and a reduction in fares, passengers prefer to take the buses. The BEST leased these buses with crew, which means they are owned and operated by contractors on a price per kilometer basis.

The BEST currently operates 1,600 mini and midi buses on its feeder lines, connecting the business districts to the city’s train stations and hospitals. Currently, the BEST has a ridership of 3.3 million passengers per day and operates over 3,500 buses. Before covid, BEST had a ridership of 3.2 million passengers

“I paid 40 for a shared auto rickshaw to travel from Kurla to BKC. It is outrageous that motorists charge whatever money they want. After the reduction in fares and the increase in frequency, I only travel with the BEST buses,” said Ribetto Francis, a 25-year-old resident of Kurla.

Passengers also said they used auto rickshaws provided by mobile app-based taxi drivers as a cheaper alternative to sharing and regular auto rickshaws. “I travel everywhere from Powai to Lower Parel, Sion and Thane as well. I haven’t started taking the buses yet due to fear of crowded spaces during Covid-19. Mobile app-based auto rickshaws are more affordable than regular rickshaws,” said 40-year-old Powai resident Anagha Majumdar.

“I paid for collective taxis 25 to travel between Churchgate station and the Air India building. Now I mainly travel with the BEST buses as they run every 5 minutes from Churchgate Station,” said 34-year-old Cotton Green resident Nikhil Mishra.

BEST currently operates buses from Churchgate Railway Station to South Mumbai’s business districts including the World Trade Center (WTC) and National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) at a frequency of three minutes. The organization also plans to introduce new routes based on passenger demand.

“We conducted passenger surveys at bus depots to understand travel habits and bus demand. New routes, including feeder routes, are added as we receive passenger demand,” said Lokesh Chandra, Managing Director of BEST.

Additionally, the organization has redesigned its current existing routes to improve bus frequency.

Meanwhile, shared taxi drivers said they were suffering significant losses, especially after the introduction of additional buses. “I have been operating a shared taxi since 1982. My business has completely disappeared. We charge 10 between Churchgate and Nariman Point and 15 from Nariman Point to Churchgate. Before confinement, we could win 800 a day and now we’re fighting for revenge 400 per day. As bus fares have come down and new buses have been added, we have nothing more to do,” said 63-year-old Borivali resident Sagir Ahmed.

“I have been operating taxis for 21 years. As AC buses have been introduced and are frequently operated, we face constant problems with fewer passengers. Crowds coming from Churchgate station buses. Work and income have gone down,” said 43-year-old Mulund resident Aslam Shaikh.

“We are constantly operating from new locations. As buses have increased and run daily between BKC and Kurla, we have to look for places where buses are not readily available,” said a rickshaw driver, who declined to be named.

Autorickshaw unions have said that with the introduction of new buses competition has increased, but this will not have a significant impact on the autorickshaw and taxi business.

“When mobile app cabs were introduced, there was the same fear and concern that the business would collapse, but rickshaws and taxis survived. The same goes for buses, as competition will increase and stabilize. BEST is a non-profit organization that operates buses in the public interest,” said Shashank Rao, Chairman of Mumbai AutorickshawMen’s Union.

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