Pune to discard private vehicles for a day Thursday

In a unique citizen driven initiative to combat the traffic mess, over two million Puneites will Thursday thumb their noses at self-owned private vehicles and opt for public buses.

The 'Pune Bus Day' initiative has been supported by all political parties, the civic body, corporate houses, police, professionals and homemakers in this Maharashtra boom town, said an excited Abhijit Pawar, managing director, Sakal Media Group.

As 'Pune Bus Day' dawns Thursday, over 15,000 citizen volunteers shall help police and traffic authorities smoothly manage the traffic flow as around two million Puneites forsake their own vehicles to board 3,000 buses to commute for the day.

"Judges, political leaders, celebrities and ordinary citizens, all have committed to travel by bus tomorrow and light the first flame of hope for taming the traffic tiger in the city," Pawar told IANS.

Nov 1 promises to be different.

Pune Deputy Police Commissioner (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhre explained the gravity of the problem in stark figures.

"Currently, there are 33 lakh vehicles in Pune; daily 730 new vehicles, or 22,000 per month, pour on to the limited 2,000 km long road network. There are 23 lakh two-wheelers, around eight lakh four-wheelers, and the rest includes 70,000 autorickshaws and other types of vehicles," Pandhre told IANS.

As Pawar put it, commuting anywhere has become hell. "Recently, I spent 40 minutes to commute just four kilometres, stuck in the middle of traffic and utterly helpless," Pawar told IANS.

This incident planted the first seed in his mind to "do something about the traffic problems" rather than merely fume or write about it.

He contacted corporate houses, the Pune Municipal Corporation and other strata of society to find a solution to the burning issue.

"Surprisingly, I found entire Pune on a single platform as far as the traffic issue was concerned," Pawar said.

As word spread, ideas, support and financial resources started pouring in - even local paanwalahs passed the hat around and collected Rs.11,000.

Interestingly, the 70,000 cabbies of the city - the first to be hit in such initiatives - have come forward to support by way of offering discounted, Rs.5 per head rides to commuters from their home to the nearest bus station.

The already overburdened Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), which plies around 1,250 public buses, has joined the initiative as it would help 'improve' its image and acceptability.

"Another 1,500 buses, including 300 private and 1,200 from Maharashtra State Road Transport Corp, hired at a cost of over Rs.25 million, will join the PMPML fleet tomorrow to show that we can do it," Pawar said.

PMPML has an elaborate plan to attend to any kind of breakdown of buses in the quickest possible time with 14 breakdown vans fitted with wireless positioned at strategic locations whole day, and one stand-by at each of its 10 bus depots.

According to Pune Mayor Vaishali Bankar, despite a dozen flyovers in and around the city, traffic has been growing exponentially.

"The proposed Pune Metro is awaiting clearance from the centre and will take at least another three years before it is implemented," Bankar told IANS.

However, until the Metro starts chugging, the possibility of Pune collapsing is high.

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