Deciphering the bus route number displayed on the electronic route indicator is the toughest job for commuters waiting at the bus stop.
Now, five years after these electronic indicators were first introduced in 1,084 buses of the 4,700-strong fleet in a phased manner, they have ceased to function in 675 buses. With the warranty period of many of these indicators coming to an end, presently BEST has been pasting printouts with bus route numbers and writing with chalks on the window panes, and procuring 29,166 metres of cloth.
Of the 1,084 buses, 675 buses do not have working electronic indicators. Of these, 514 are non-AC and 161 are air conditioned. “We are talking to the manufacturers of these LED route indicators about this issue. This is a new technology even for us to get hold of and are training people to repair it,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity.
On December 17, 2012, BEST general manager OP Gupta accepted that the agency that provided the indicators had failed to take into account the fact that buses are are washed with spray washing. When the water enters the indicators, it makes them malfunction.
To combat this problem during the monsoon, BEST had installed rubber brackets around the indicators last year. This year, they have resorted to more traditional methods. With the monsoon just four months away, the 40 lakh regular BEST commuters are waiting to know, what’s next.
Rukmini Bhatia (27), a graphic designer by profession, who travels regularly from Santacruz to Lower Parel says, “When the LED indicators don’t work, they stick printouts with small print or write the number on chalk. I need to know which bus is approaching before it reaches the stop so I can get ready to board it but I can’t read the printout or the chalk.
Worse, sometimes buses have the numbers stuck on the side so you are not at all prepared for which bus is approaching. It has reached a point where I now recognize my bus as the one that never has a name. They should use bigger printout or revert to the older method of cloth indicators. That was much easier.”
Adds Arwa Chhil (29), a freelance assistant director, “There are lots of buses from my home in Madgaon to Bhendi Bazaar or CST but there is always a problem since their indicators don’t work and the officials write the number of the bus in chalk on the windshield.
It is not readable from a distance. By the time the bus comes close enough for me to read it, people are rushing to get in and I miss it. The problem gets worse especially with bus no. 3 - three of them follow each other within 5 mins and then there is none for an hour.
If I miss it because of this problem, I have to wait an hour for the next one. I’ve noticed this chalk problem with bus nos. 45 and 124 too. They should sort it out before the monsoon otherwise the chalk will get washed off and we’ll have more rouble.”
Cost of installing LED indicators in each bus: Rs 1.5 lakh
Number of buses with LED indicators: 1084
Number of buses with malfunctioning LED indicators: 675
First bus was installed with LED display indicator: December 2007