For commuters who use the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses every day, the addition of 221 swanky new buses to the BEST’s fleet in the next two months is an assurance of a more comfortable daily commute in the near future. For the BEST administration, however, the new buses are an addition to its serious administrative problems.
Consider this: Across the city, the BEST has 25 bus depots with an ideal capacity of holding 3,677 buses. As against this, 4,166 buses are being parked inside them. The remaining 519 buses out of its total fleet of 4,685 are being parked in the alternative 26 ‘satellite parking’ locations, which often do not have the security arrangements of a bus depot. As such, ensuring adequate parking arrangements for the 221 new buses would be quite a task.
The transport undertaking, believed to be Asia’s best urban bus service, is clearly struggling to make parking arrangements for its swelling bus fleet. According to BEST committee member Ravi Raja, the reason why the transport body stares at such parking troubles is because of a lack of foresight.
“The administration should have foreseen this problem and made arrangements accordingly. Additional depots to accommodate new buses should have been built,” he said.
A BEST official told DNA that the BEST may have to phase out at least 245 15-year-old buses to make way for the new ones. However, committee chairman Sanjay Potnis denied that there was any serious parking problem. As the BEST buses were not being parked on roads, it cannot be said that there is any parking problem, he said.
“Initiatives like the satellite parking system and redevelopment of old BEST depots have been undertaken,” Potnis said. “We need to work with the future in mind. There is no point in simply criticising the fact that no decisions were taken in the past.”
Some of the attempts at making available parking spaces for buses include a new depot being built at Chincholi Bunder in Malad. This is expected to be completed by December this year and could accommodate 105-110 buses. The BEST is also working to increase the number of ‘satellite parking’ locations across the city.
Raja suggested reserving plots for the BEST across the city in the Development Plan (DP) for Mumbai which is to be finalised next year. This could help in making available more places for parking buses. Even underground parking could be tried in some areas, he said.
Potnis agreed with Raja on the need to earmark plots for the BEST in the DP. However, only open plots, which are free of encroachment, should be reserved for the BEST, he said.
The BEST’s general manager OP Gupta said, “We are evaluating the present needs of the undertaking. After this, necessary additions to parking spaces and depot maintenance facilities will be made.”