BEST bus commuters aren't pleased with the Undertaking's decision to hike fares in a bid to arrest its losses; they ask for better service first
With the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) Undertaking sitting on losses to the tune of Rs 880 crore, there's no doubt that the Undertaking is in a financial crisis. In a bid to bring some relief to its balance sheet, the BEST approved a hike in fares for distances longer than 6 km, and school and college-going student commuters.
For school students, the hike in fares ranges from 16 to 66 per cent. The monthly pass for students up to class 5 will cost between Rs 150 to Rs 200, quarterly Rs 450 to Rs 600, and six-monthly Rs 750 to Rs 1,000. These fares were earlier applicable to students from class 6 to 10, which too, have been increased to Rs 250, Rs 750 and Rs 1,250 for the mentioned brackets respectively.
Until now, the BEST's subsidy to school and college students, senior citizens, blind persons, and physically handicapped commuters amounts to about Rs 41.7 crore. However, parent organisation, BMC has asked the Undertaking to rationalise its costs in order to bring down its losses, of which the hike in fares is one such decision.
DNA finds out from regular commuters of Mumbai's iconic red bus whether the BEST's decision is a move in the right direction.
This fare hike is important for the financial revival of BEST, and only targets a select section of passengers. We have been taking loans of about Rs 250 crore each month to pay salaries and maintain our assets. The hike in prices will be implemented only once the BMC committee gives its go ahead. We are also working on other measures that need to be taken to control the losses the Undertaking is currently under.
—Anil Kokil, Chairman, BEST Committee
Rather than increasing the fares, the authorities should go for dedicated bus lanes that is lying in the dock for months now. Instead of spending so much money on the Metro, spend few crore on creating dedicated bus lanes. This way they can not only operate more buses but also ferry more people which will increase their revenue by default. The BEST should also consider doing away with routes that are loss-making which will bring down expenditure.
—Ashok Datar, transport expert
Instead of introducing a hike in fares for students and long distances, BEST should instead focus on providing quality service to its commuters. Decisions such as increasing the frequency of buses on busy routes and maintenance of buses are more important if it intends to attract crowds to build revenue and come out of its losses.
—Hanmant Wanole, Santa Cruz
Hiking prices for long distance journeys is okay but increasing the fares for students should be avoided. The school and college students who mostly use BEST's bus services do not belong to affluent families. Wouldn't they be using private bus services if they did? It would mean an unnecessary burden on the parents of these students.
—Salman Khan, Bandra
BEST's management should be privatised. Every time they want to hike fares, they put forth the story of financial troubles. Rather than resorting to this each time, BEST should create other avenues for income generation like transport of private sector employees, school children, offering group discounts for people wanting to go on short trips. They could event reinvent the look of their buses — make them more airy, comfortable and disabled and senior citizen-friendly.
—Apeksha Vora, Dadar
BEST's decision to increase the fares for commuters to make up for their losses is wrong. Students should be given concession as much as possible. Increasing the fares for students is not acceptable. Besides, BEST has to improve its facilities first to target commuters by increasing the fares. BEST has failed to suffice the needs of the commuters and has become an issue of government apathy.
—Sohel F Fidai, Santa Cruz
BEST's decision to hike fares, especially for long distances, to take care of their losses is in the right direction. When the organisation is facing such losses, the only option left is to hike fares in order to increase their income and to mitigate deficit. However, there are chances that BEST may face the heat for its decision and commuters could choose to opt for other means of transport due to the increased fares.
—Rohit Ahuja, Versova
It is silly of the BEST to hike the fares. In a city like ours, there is no shortage of commuters. With better planning and less corruption, it's easy for the BEST to make money without increasing fares. You cannot pass the burden on students. And if they increase fares, they should also match up with the service. The state government should ensure they give privileges to those who do not have them, for any mode of public transport by focusing on just breaking even with their expenses.
—Harish Iyer, Navi Mumbai
The fare hike will further hit people who are already suffering from the effects of inflation and price rise in other areas of daily life. It is the responsibility of the state government to ensure that public transport is affordable to citizens. Hence the government should help BEST in emerging from its financial crunch instead of allowing the Undertaking to pass its burden on to the commuters.
—K Praveish Vishwanath Aiyar, Sion
It is better to leave the future of the country, that is students, burden free in order to have a safe and successful future of our generation. Hiking fares for them is unfair. Also, BEST's long distance routes are usually used by a group of the population who are already average on their income, hence increasing the fare on these routes will further burden them which is not advisable, especially if it's a move for BEST to make up their own losses.
—Prithvi Mhaske, Andheri