If the promise has sufficient muscle, and is indeed kept, commuters in Chennai can look forward to some relief. The AIADMK Government is apparently interested in taking the idea of mini-buses forward, and The Hindu says a report identifying 100 possible routes is “likely” to be submitted to the transport department. Read that news item here.
Mini-buses operating as stage carriages is a decade-old concept in Tamil Nadu. Only, the DMK Government kept it confined to the small towns, to serve as connections with bigger centres. It is anyone’s guess, but the strong autorickshaw lobby in Chennai possibly kept mini-buses out of Chennai for years, and the DMK confined itself to making some weak announcements of intent to go in for such a service in the State capital.
What the system has spawned is an amorphous mix of services, as an earlier post traces.
The present announcement of mini-buses on 100 routes is interesting for two reasons – MTC operates 696 routes according to its website, and what is proposed is mini-buses running on the equivalent of 14 per cent of that route tally. Quite a leap. What is unstated, of course, is the number of mini-buses that will be available.
As we have noted earlier, MTC has failed abysmally in augmenting its fleet in real terms, leaving it with a ‘buses-to-route’ ratio that remains virtually unchanged from the past decades! That post is here.
So what model of service provision will the AIADMK think of, if it decides to move ahead with the idea of mini-buses? Will it be State-run buses under the MTC, or private, as in the case of the DMK-led TATA Magic vans now found in some parts of Chennai? Alternatively, will some new Corporation be formed to run the mini-buses, which would provide the ruling dispensation with the opportunity to build a tightly knit labour cadre? Equally important, how many mini-buses will be permitted to operate?
It certainly seems odd that while there is a law on a Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority, the State government does not arrange for consultations with stakeholders and adopt a transparent method to draw up supply-side solutions.
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