Mumbai: Bring back double-decker buses, say commuters

Updated: Jul 11, 2020, 19:01 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

BEST spokesperson says they have been pressed into service at six depots and all will soon be used

The BEST has just over 100 double decker buses in its fleet
The BEST has just over 100 double decker buses in its fleet

Where are the double deckers? Commuters, fans and transport experts have asked the BEST undertaking to press the iconic double decker buses which are missing in action, into service wherever possible, as they could help maintain social distancing and accommodate crowds.

While the official permitted carrying capacity of a single decker bus as per RTO norms is 51 passengers, double deckers can ferry 88 passengers, including standees. In the era of social distancing, though the passenger-carrying capacity has been struck by half, double deckers can still carry more passengers than an average single-decker bus. Introduced 83 years ago in 1937, the BEST, as of today, has just over 100 double decker buses in its fleet of total 3,500 buses.

Smaller buses introduced

"What the BEST has done is gone the other way round, by introducing smaller buses, which no doubt go into narrower lanes, but at the same time cut down the carrying capacity, which now will be further constrained due to COVID-19 protocols of social distancing and limiting crowds," long-time bus commuter Rishikesh Desai said.

As mid-day reported on Friday, with the daily average figures of bus commuters touching 10 lakhs this week, buses have left behind the once prime lifeline of the city, the suburban railway trains, that are managing to ferry just about 2 to 2.5 lakh passengers daily — combined for both Central and Western Railway with 700 trips in the given limitations. With the BEST opening counters at its 29 bus depots to sell and renew passes, the passenger numbers are likely to touch 15 lakh by month end.

Transport expert Ajit Shenoy of Mumbai Mobility Forum said that the BEST should try and take out the entire fleet of remaining double decker buses on the street. "These are temporary times and social distancing is the norm when these double decker buses could be used to their full capacity. The newer buses inducted by BEST are midi and minibuses that have restrained the overall carrying capacity," he said.

'Will attract more passengers'

"The BEST should be procuring more and more double decker buses, which will help them in improving the carrying capacity. The iconic buses will also go a long way in attracting more passengers. The buses will be important in the long-run, especially post-pandemic," Rohit Dhende, president of Bus For Us Foundation that promotes public transport by various means and makes it accessible to people.

A BEST spokesperson said as of Friday they had started inducting double decker buses into services at six bus depots as lockdown restrictions were being lifted, and more will be added soon. "As of Friday, 3,200 of the total 3,400 buses are on the street and the remaining ones, including all double deckers will also be soon pressed into service," he said.

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