#AppKaraBusKara: Pune campaign calls for bus app to make commute easy

Check out how a bus app can make your commute in Pune seamless and hassle-free, and raise your voice to ask for one. For more details, read on.

Pune, with its vibrant culture, historical significance, and dynamic population, is a city of contrasts. On one hand, the city has stood as a beacon of progress and innovation amidst the picturesque landscapes of Maharashtra. On the other, just like many bustling metropolises across the globe today, it faces the daunting challenge of balancing rapid urbanisation with sustainable development, particularly when it comes to mobility.

Pune boasted a rich legacy of promoting eco-friendly modes of transportation and was once celebrated as the “cycling city” of India. Since as early as 1966, visionary plans for cycling infrastructure were already on the drawing board, demonstrating a proactive stance towards sustainable mobility. However, the winds of change have blown unforgivingly, and today, the city finds itself grappling with a new reality.

In a disheartening turn of events, Pune has now earned the dubious distinction of being one of India’s “non-attainment” cities, signifying alarmingly high levels of pollution. The city’s once-pristine air now hangs heavy with the exhaust fumes of an ever-expanding fleet of vehicles. In 2018 the number of registered vehicles in Pune surpassed the number of  its human population — a grim milestone that underscores the urgent need for intervention.

Read more: Pune Air Action Hub calls for free bus day to herald clean air, blue skies

For many Punekars, navigating the city’s congested roads has become synonymous with stress and frustration. Daily commutes that should take minutes often stretch into hours, leaving commuters exhausted and drained before they even reach their destinations. As one resident aptly put it, “Every day feels like a battle just to get from point A to point B.”

But the outcomes of vehicular proliferation extend far beyond mere congestion and gridlock. The health implications are dire, with respiratory ailments on the rise among citizens. Quality of life overall has diminished. 

The #AppKaraBusKara (a word play which can be loosely translated to “Do the App”) was born out of a collective recognition of the need to find a way out of this alarming state of affairs and transform Pune’s mobility landscape. The campaign is being conducted under the project ‘Mobilising community support for low carbon mobility in Maharashtra’s cities’. The project has been initiated with the belief that a successful shift to low carbon mobility in cities requires greater engagement and demand from a wide section of civil society. 

A road with heavy traffic congestion in Pune
Proliferation of private vehicles in Pune has led to congested roads, creating stress and frustration. As one resident says, “Every day feels like a battle just to get from point A to point B.” Pic courtesy: #AppKaraBusKara campaign

Why the bus?

India has already implemented policies and initiatives at the national level such as the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework. However, at the city-level, climate concerns are not the drivers of solutions. Since urban transport is a state subject, projects and budget allocations are driven locally. Unless there is vocal and demonstrable public support for low carbon mobility initiatives from the grassroot-level, the political economy is likely to pursue private vehicle-centric solutions, rapidly increasing urban transport emissions.

Read more: Lip service to sustainable transport, as government neglects the humble bus

Pune has a sustained dependency on buses as a primary mode of Public Transport. The average daily ridership in buses of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) has been fluctuating between 10-12 lakhs for a good part of the past decade. This reveals that although there is a steep rise in private vehicular ownership, there is still a significant number of Punekars who rely on buses as their primary mode of public transportation. This reliance on buses is crucial for Pune, given that it provides an affordable mode of transportation and addresses the issues of traffic congestion simultaneously. 

Bus-based transport is in fact pivotal in addressing more than one issue. It contributes to saving road space and reducing energy consumption per passenger-km, playing a vital role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the country’s climate change commitments.

Problems with bus services

However, a common challenge faced by many cities, including Pune, is the inadequate number of buses and subpar service. 

One, there is a need for improvement in both service quality and bus quantity. 

Secondly, a series of consultative and participatory workshops point to the fact that the unreliability of bus timings, routes and the lack of real-time information keep people from embracing buses as their primary mode of transport in the city. 

Despite its reputation as an IT hub, the city lacks a comprehensive application for accessing information on available public transport options. Punekars have long been awaiting the introduction of a bus app promised by the administration, only to be disappointed as the promise remains unfulfilled.

Moreover, commuters also find it difficult to navigate bus routes and infrastructure in the absence of updated and adequate wayfinding signages. Wayfinding signages which display basic information about bus numbers, routes and timings are either outdated or altogether missing, and this makes it more difficult for residents and visitors alike to take the bus.

Addressing all these gaps will be critical to ensure an uptake in usage of bus services by city commuters.

The campaign and how to lend your support to it

As a crucial component of the #AapKaraBusKara campaign, we’ve gathered stories from a diverse array of commuters, each representing unique backgrounds and reasons for utilising bus transport. These narratives provide a comprehensive glimpse into the daily lives of Pune’s residents and underscore the importance of reliable public transportation options.

In order to amplify our message and cultivate grassroots support, we will be establishing interactive installations at five key bus depots across Pune from 15th March to 23rd March. Through these engaging installations, we aim to provide the public with a firsthand experience of the convenience and affordability they would experience in their daily commute with the launch of an app by PMPML. This, in turn, can mobilise individuals to advocate for the urgent implementation of such an app. 

Commuters and non-commuters will get an opportunity to experience how they can seamlessly plan and incorporate bus travel in their everyday commute. The prototype of the bus app at these installations will showcase an interactive screen highlighting six bus stops, such as MaNaPa, Swargate, Deccan, Kondhwa, Kothrud and Bibwewadi. The designated destination stops will be Pune station and Shivaji Nagar. 

Users will then see a list of bus numbers serving these selected destinations, along with their corresponding arrival times. Upon choosing a specific bus number, the screen will display a map illustrating the route, bus stops, distance, estimated travel time and  fare. The members of the public who have interacted with our installation will be asked to fill in ‘demand cards’ addressed to the PMPML administration, urging them to expedite the app launch process. 

Following our grassroots outreach efforts, we’ll compile all the demand cards collected from participants and submit them to the administration. By fostering direct interactions between the community and authorities, our goal is to highlight to the administration the urgent necessity to close the information gap.

We encourage everyone to join us in this endeavour and lend their voices to the call for improved public transportation services in Pune. However, the journey towards a more sustainable Pune will not be over with the end of this campaign. It will require sustained effort, unwavering commitment, and active participation from citizens across the city. Together, we can build a brighter, more sustainable future — one bus ride at a time.

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  1. Ashwin Baindur says:

    Great initiative. We wish you the very best for this initiative.

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