On day 1 of commute, long wait greets office-goers at bus stops in Mumbai

Commuters rushing to board BEST and MSRTC buses outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on Monday.

Commuters rushing to board BEST and MSRTC buses outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

BEST increase frequency of buses after more than anticipated demand; physical distancing norms ignored as passengers scramble to grab limited seats

Long queues were seen at bus stops in many parts of the city on Monday, as private office employees were allowed to travel on buses run by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking and the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) after two months.

With more lockdown restrictions lifted on Monday as part of the State government’s Mission Begin Again, several Mumbaikars stepped out to work. But commuters complained of poor frequency of buses and said they had to wait at least 30 minutes for a ride. Many had to change buses once or twice to reach their destination.

Umesh Bhugaonkar, who works in a bank at Nariman Point, said he needed to change buses at Goregaon during his commute from Bhayandar. “The waiting time today was a lot more and there was also more traffic. At Goregaon, I had to wait for nearly an hour before a bus came. It took nearly three hours to reach office,” he said.

BEST officials said they increased the frequency of buses as soon as they realised the demand was more than they had anticipated.

As of 8 a.m. the BEST had sent out 1,778 buses as against the pre-lockdown schedule of 2,514 buses. By 10.a.m., as many as 2,132 buses were put into operation, however the number dropped to 1,711 by 6 p.m.

Staff shortage at BEST

Sources said the BEST is facing a staff crunch and has issued a circular stating that 100% attendance is expected from Tuesday.

The BEST had added around 250 trips to key long routes to compensate for the Mumbai suburban train operations being closed. However, this failed to mitigate the issues faced by travellers.

In many areas, passengers jostled for the limited number of seats available. “The responsibility of maintaining physical distancing falls on us, and commuters often fight with us when we ask them to get down,” a BEST conductor said on condition of anonymity. He said there was often no option but to ferry more people than was stipulated as commuters would not relent.

The BEST has stipulated only one person on each seat and five passengers to be standing. Passengers who couldn’t board from originating stops had to wait even longer, as buses running with full seating and standing capacity did not stop unless a passenger wished to get down.

Gatakala Bhanya, who works at Grant Road, said it took her two hours in the morning to reach from Lower Parel to Opera House. “They should just start the trains if the passengers have increased,” she said.

Chaos, confusion

At 5 p.m., there was a large crowd outside the Mantralaya bus stop as employees from the Secretariat scrambled to get a seat in the first bus to leave. One employee said since the buses were for far-off areas like Shahpur and Nallasopara, everyone tried to get into the first bus so as to reach faster.

Most buses did not bear the destination names, leaving commuters searching frantically for the right bus.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 12:20:15 AM |

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