Hop - On bus service in Imphal city
- My experience, observation and suggestion -

GKN Chhetry *

Semi-low floor bus  under JNNURM, GOI for ferrying passengers within the market areas in Imphal on February 23 2012
Semi-low floor bus under JNNURM, GOI for ferrying passengers within the market areas in Imphal on February 23 2012
Pix - David M Mayum

Certain pockets of development have been witnessed in Imphal urban sector since the last five years or so of which introduction of HOP - ON BUS SERVICE (Semi Low Floor Bus Service) under JNNURM, GOI may be rated as one significant event - added to the list of developments for providing most economical means of transport to the people of Manipur in view of the traffic congestion and fast urbanization process taking place within 10 Km radius of the Imphal City.

Currently the HOP-ON BUS operates approximately within this limits. Thanks to the Government of Manipur and for that matter Honourable Minister concerned in particular, deserve appreciation for operational of much awaited component of urban development. The bus service not only enhances the standings of Imphal city at par with the cosmopolitan cities of the country and abroad but also make the city free from hustle and bustle due to traffic.

However, for every development, question of sustainability must be addressed and accorded priority, which if not visualized before is bound to collapse in the short run. People's participation and their critical perception are two very important factors among others, that influence the sustainability of any development.

In the present context government did it in the larger interest of the people and it is now up to the people to make the system sustainable. Pertaining to this and in view of the current practices of the bus operators, variety of suggestions, practicable or not, one can offer. Quality of bus is of international standard which must match the quality of management/service they provide.

Currently the bus is operated by a driver supported by two assistants and their practice of fare collection is through printed dateless tickets/boarding pass (yesterday onwards) provided to a passenger who get into the bus through any of the two open doors but mostly regulated from the rear door of the bus. Given tickets are collected back from the passenger. Logic behind this practice is not exactly understood.

Bus stops anywhere passenger raise hands even for a passenger shouting at a distance away from the bus route. Passenger request orally for stop to get down from the bus, bus assistants canvas passengers to get into the bus at the stoppage for designated destinations.

All these practices are fine for initial stages but the same may not be viable in the long run as the bus is likely to be crowded in the near future the way the enthusiast passenger showing interest at the moment. Two supporting personnel to the diver - one for regulating the passenger to get into the bus and the other for collecting the fares operate the bus.

Let the entry of the passenger be made from the front door in queue, provide them ticket immediately, collect fare and request them to go inside the bus promptly. Once the passengers are regulated by providing ticket in exchange of fare at the entry point, there is no point of asking passengers to surrender tickets at the time of getting down from the bus.

It is not only taxing to passengers but also waste time unnecessarily. If there is any apprehension of recycling the used ticket, the authority must evolve a system! mechanism to check the apprehended menace. But collecting ticket back is not a healthy trend to make the bus a passenger friendly.

Further, issued tickets to the boarded passenger becomes not only their legal property but also the legal document. Passenger paid for that and they should not be disturbed during the course of their travel in this matter. Only request to passenger one can make is that they should get into the bus one by one with exact fare in hand.

The advantage of front door entry are: easy to regulate the passenger one by one even in passenger crowded situation, to ensure cent percent ticketed passengers in the bus ,check unmanageable passenger goods like iron parts of a vehicle, explosive like LPG ,etc which not only corrode the bus floor but also imparts hindrance to the free flow of valued passengers as I presumed that Hop-on-Bus is meant for passengers only with handy belongings, fare collector need not to go to each passenger for fare collection and ask them whether he/she is a new entrant, driver may assist guide the conductor and passengers at the time of entry, etc.

Let the rear door of the bus be kept exclusively for getting down the passengers in bulk as it is in the middle of the bus which is much convenient for getting down for all the passengers at a time they converge from the front side as well as rear side of the bus while nearing the requested stoppages without loss of time. At this juncture, conductor manning the rear door must check the entry of new passenger and if any, he/she should guide passenger to enter from the front door.

Any bus service of international standard must maintain the bus timing which is possible only when there are designated bus stoppages to lift and drop the passengers. This practice not only regulates the time efficiently but also passengers realize the importance of the bus, stand in queue, enhance their curiosity, etc of catching/ridding the bus in time. These, of course need waiting sheds for the passengers which I presumed there is a road map and may be made available in near future.

Instead of oral request by passengers in the bus for stop, let there be a rope on both sides of the bus walls which connect the bell to alert the driver whenever a passenger wish to get down from the bus. In that case the passenger simply pulls the rope before they reach the designated bus stop. This signals the driver that there is a passenger to get down in the next stoppage as against the current practice of shouting that too at an exact point of stoppage.

Suggested practice not only reduces the sudden brake impact to bus and passenger but also makes the bus driver and passenger friendly. Passengers value time in hustle and bustle city life. As such maximum stoppage time of the bus may be kept not more than ten minutes at the two extremes/origins and only five minutes in between stoppages. Just come and go process may be welcomed by other transport operators too:

Inclusive growth is another important concept for sharing the fruit of any development. As such, let the front one seat near the front door of the bus be kept for the physically disabled persons in case they turn up, otherwise. Once the passengers are well oriented to the system, authority may think of introducing a Fare - Drop Box Model.

Here, fare collecting box may be installed near driver just in front of the front entrance door with a rectangular hole for easy dropping of exact fare. Once the fare is dropped by a passenger, there must be no way of taking out the fare by the bus operators rather they have no role to touch the money. Key of the Fare - Drop Box must be in the hands of the authority who may collect at the end of the day service. Only requirement in the proposed model is that passengers must have exact fare to drop in the box without any change facility.

This, of course depends on the orientation and perception of the passengers in future. Advantage of this model is accuracy in fare accounts and even diver alone can handle ticketing business by providing ticket to a fare dropped passenger and drives the bus after completion of the fare dropping process at that point of time.

Last but not the least, of course not needed, if suggested practice is followed. A surprise checking once or twice in a month be conducted in the bus in between some stoppages preferably by the uniform personnel(TP) to assess the sincerity of bus operators and passengers. This ease the management, improves the standard of bus, enhances the revenue from the bus service and make the system viable and sustainable in the long run.

I garagged the car, HOP-ON the bus and enjoy the semi floor bus service everyday from koirengei to Manipur university. The bus I suppose, is blessing in disguise to many as to me.

* GKN Chhetry wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Life Sciences, Manipur university, Canchipur, Imphal and he can be reached at gknc2004(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)in
This article was posted on July 15 2012

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