It used to be the most lauded transport service in the city. Accessible to all, with routes that ensured that every road in the city was covered and with fares so cheap that it couldn’t be anything but a mass transport system, BEST buses were truly the lifeline of Mumbai.
BEST buses still are the lifeline of the city, but the city’s dynamics have changed dramatically. 67 years ago, Mumbai didn’t have the dominant four-wheeler, private car culture that it does today, where almost every second household owns a private vehicle.
Roads were freer back then, almost all of the population depended on BEST buses for transport, and it was possible to provide efficient service to all because the city was not as crowded as it is today.
The staggering increase in the city’s population on a daily basis, where thousands of people flock to Mumbai for a better life, has taxed the city’s existing resources to the max.
In turn, the old systems for public transport, the Railways and the BEST buses, have had to constantly reinvent themselves to cater to the public’s demand. Merely increasing the numbers of buses does not solve the issue, but we have to think of innovative solutions to keep our customers satisfied.
Increasing the numbers of double decker and airconditioned buses has been the most obvious of solutions; we have also taken to the Internet in a big way, where consumers can not just book a bus online, but can also register and renew their bus passes online, and get Smart Cards with the click of a mouse.
We recognise that merely introducing new initiatives without a proper follow-up and implementation are of no use, and our primary focus remains our customer.
Despite the fact that we are operating BEST buses at a loss, we continue to do so because we recognise that the city really has no alternative means of public transport, and certainly not to the extent we provide.
Women, senior citizens and children feel the safest on our buses, we have a large fleet to cater to the growing demands of the city, and we are the only transport service that nominally increases ticket rates once every two to three years, instead of annually.
We are committed to recouping and bringing the Undertaking out of its losses as far as the buses are concerned.
Though we are operating on a loss – we earn Rs 44 per kilometre of travel, as opposed to the Rs 58 per km that we should earn to make a profit, and of the earnings, Rs 38 goes towards employees’ salaries – we are committed to serve Mumbaikars by not cutting any corners as far as service is concerned.
To this end, we are considering several initiatives, both at BEST and at employee level, that will greatly benefit the city and help BEST grow.
Lastly, we are also focussed on customer satisfaction by providing service with a smile; we emphasise courtesy and politeness towards our customers.
But while we do not tolerate misbehaviour by our drivers and conductors, we humbly request our patrons to be considerate towards them as well. Ours is a mutually beneficial relationship, and neither one of us can grow without the other’s help.