In Focus

Commuter Satisfaction For The BEST

By Manu Shrivastava

True to its wont as Mumbai’s lifeline, Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) bus service fired with all guns blazing throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns in Mumbai, even when the much-talked-about train service came to a screeching halt for months on end, the city’s Red Giants hurtled along.

Risking their lives at a time when few would, BEST’s drivers, conductors and staff worked literally round-the-clock transporting essential service staff ranging from members of the medical fraternity, the police, the BMC, the media, pharmacies and essential goods providers.

Today, as the nation’s financial capital opens up, albeit cautiously, Juhu-resident Kanwalpreet Kaur Puri is pursuing a full-time PhD, titled Commuter Satisfaction of BEST Bus Service in Mumbai Region. The Mumbai University-affiliated Dhirajlal Talakchand Sankalchand Shah College of Commerce student says she “has been commuting since 2015 when she joined her first teaching job and she had to travel early morning at 6.15 am.”

PROMPT: Kanwalpreet Kaur Puri has always used the BEST bus service to commute in Mumbai
“The bus service was very prompt and I always reached my workplace in time,” recalls Kanwalpreet, adding, “I had no other mode for travel and didn’t want to spend a fortune on private modes.” The city’s bus service worked out to be her “BEST option.”

“In recent times, BEST has been incurring losses and losing customers owing to increasing competition. To meet this challenge, they reduced ticket fares (with effect from 9 July 2019), introduced air-conditioned buses, mini buses, electric buses, conductor-less buses even launched the BEST Pravas App, the Ridlr APP and so on,” offers the researcher.

The recent measures undertaken to increase ridership, may act as a shield and help them tide over the crisis posing a threat to its existence.

Kanwalpreet’s Research Guide and Principal of Patuck Gala College of Commerce and Management Dr Meeta Pathade shares her student’s sentiments. Why, even as a child, Dr Meeta says, her parents trusted the BEST bus more than any other mode of transportation within the city. 

Dr Meeta relates how she travelled by BEST bus to school at a distance of five kms from home in Malad, from Standard 5 to Standard 10. On one such occasion, she recalled how a male passenger misbehaved with her and the BEST bus conductor immediately intervened, reprimanded the miscreant and made sure he got off the bus.

LIFELINE: Dr Meeta Pathade feels BEST buses have bailed out Mumbaikars on several occasions
"Considering most commuters take the same bus from the same spot regularly, they know the staff well too. BEST bus-drivers and conductors are like extended families to their customers,” she says. 

“At one point, when I would live at Mira Road and had to take an early morning bus to Santacruz, I would often catch up on my sleep during the ride. I would take a 6.30 am bus and tell the bus-conductor to wake me up before my stop arrived. Then, I wasn’t sure of the route and bus-stops but the conductor would always make sure I got down at the right stop. I really appreciated that.” 

Why, so often the BEST bus service ensured their passengers reach destinations safely even during the monsoon as they waded through water-logged roads, adds Dr Meeta. And now, during the pandemic the BEST bus service continued to ply and transport essential service providers, throughout Mumbai.

Where customer satisfaction is concerned, Kanwalpreet’s PhD notwithstanding, BEST has been living up to its name. A study undertaken with regard to its customer satisfaction is in order. It underlines the Herculean works undertaken by the humble service even in the face of cut-throat commercialism in India’s financial capital.

The Mumbaikars have many modes of alternative travel that are a direct threat to the BEST bus service. A lot of variables such as the present state of roads, metro work construction, traffic congestion due to other means of travel are beyond the control of the BEST bus service provider. “It’s a matter of time before things on Ground Zero improve and the commuter returns to his favourite travel lifeline – the BEST bus service,” says Kanwalpreet summing up the reality of the situation.

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