Mumbai's public bus service, popularly known by its acronym BEST, is running into losses of Rs.2.26 crore per day mainly due to declining patronage and high operating costs, an RTI query revealed on Monday.
Considered the lifeline of Mumbai, BEST - with a fleet of around 2,600 buses - rendered remarkable services in times of major crises and natural calamities, but was now facing bad days, said RTI activist Anil Galgali.
It has been serving the residents of Mumbai, earlier known as Bombay, for the past around 90 years.
"For May-June, daily expenditure comes to Rs.6.16 crore while its income through ticket sale is Rs.3.90 crore, leaving a gap of Rs.2.26 crore per day," Galgali said.
BEST, or Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking, is patronised by around 2.83 million commuters daily, working virtually round-the-clock.
The base fare is Rs.8 for regular and limited buses, Rs.10 for express service and Rs.30 for air conditioned service. BEST serves the whole of Mumbai and parts of Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad.
"BEST has been serving the city selflessly and needs to be encouraged as it can help save a lot of time and money. I have written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to demand separate lanes for BEST buses to help avoid traffic snarls and improve efficiency," Galgali said.
BEST is the third 'avatar' of Mumbai's public transport system, which began with horse-drawn trams in May 1874.
These continued till 1905 when the horses gave way to electric trams, which proved immensely popular, economical and efficient.
In 1926, the Bombay Municipal Corporation launched the first BEST bus services which too proved very popular.
Meanwhile, the electric trams shut down in 1964 due to high costs, poor patronage and inaccessibility to many metropolis areas, and growing convenience of Mumbai suburban trains.
In 1947, the then Bombay Municipal Corporation acquired the tram operating company and re-named it the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking, which is presently serving the city.