Public Transport: BEST Buses

BEST Undertaking Logo

Bright red coloured, big wheels and sometimes many posters, that’s what comes to my mind first when I think  about BEST bus. The parent company of these buses is Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST Undertaking). It is another public transport other than Mumbai’s “lifeline” local trains while covers entire city. It also caters to people living in Thane, and Navi Mumbai. Two other municipalities have their own public service named Thane Municipal Transport (TMT) and Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT). Initially, BEST Undertaking has started as an electric supply company which later extended in transport, starting Bus and Tram services. In 1964 BEST’s tram services came to an end.

Origin of BEST buses:

Idea of public transport was first given by an American company in 1865 but due to low economy in the city at that time the project never got a start.

Then in 1873, the Bombay Tramway Company Limited was given the licence to operate trams in the city. Later, in 1905, the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited (B.E.S. & T Co. Ltd) bought the company. It introduced first electrically operated trams in May 1907 in Mumbai.

In addition to tram service, Mumbai Municipality decided to introduce either trolley buses or motor buses in 1913. In February 1926, the B.E.S. &T Company decided to introduce three routes on experimental basis which received a great interest by public. By 1927 B.E.S.T. Company had a fleet of 49 buses. Double-decker buses were introduced to cope up with the traffic in 1937. The first Limited bus service in Mumbai, started running in 1940 between Colaba and Mahim. BEST has started Air-Conditioned bus service too. On August 18, 2005, BEST introduced the first disabled-friendly buses (five buses with special wheel chair-accessible low floors).

The B.E.S. &T. Company Ltd was taken over by Municipal Corporation in August 1947 and its named was changed to Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking. In 1995, it was again changed to Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (B.E.S. &T Undertaking). 

Interesting facts to know about BEST buses:

  • In 2011, the BEST runs a total of 4,680 buses,  carrying 4.8 million passengers over 365 routes, and has a workers strength of 38,000, which includes 22,000 bus drivers and conductors.
  • The single-deck bus can carry 36 passengers sitting and 22 passengers standing while the double-decker could take as many as 58 sitting.
  • BEST also operates a ferry service since 1981 in northern Mumbai, across the Manori Creek.
  • We know that there are Ordinary buses and then there are Limited buses. But very few know the difference between them. Limited buses skip minor stops and are used on Long routes. These buses provide connectivity beyond Mumbai city.
  • The BEST currently uses 1500+ environment friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses and Diesel powered Single and Double decker buses.
  • Almost all buses have LCD TV’s per bus.
  • In February 2011, Mumbai’s first air-conditioned bus stand was inaugurated at Dadar which caters to over 14,000 passengers per day.
  • After three bomb blasts in and near buses (December 2002, July 2003 and July 2011) BEST has installed an audio-visual surveillance system on its buses to monitor suspicious behaviour. They also have awareness message in buses saying instead of watching outside the window, check for suspicious bag or a person.
  • BEST buses are operated out of the 25 bus depot located in four zones- City, Central, Western, Eastern suburban zones. These depots carry various maintenance practices for buses.
  • One of the most amazing facts which very few people know it that the BEST has their own Bus Museum. Yes, you read it write. Bus Museum. It is located at Anik Bus Depot in Wadala near IMAX theatre. The museum was set up in 1984 at BEST’s Kurla depot. Later, it was shifted to Anik depot in 1993. The museum shows the evolution of BEST. It has mini models of old BEST buses and ancient trams. Entry to the museum is free.

BEST has several options to pay fare-

  • Single journey ticket in which Conductor issue a paper ticket.
  • Daily pass which can be used for a whole in any Ordinary or Limited bus. Earlier the cost this pass was Rs. 15, which changed to Rs. 25/-. And within a short span it increased to Rs. 40/-, that too you should have a special Identity card provided by BEST.
  • Monthly and Quarterly distance-wise bus pass which is mostly used by school going kids.
  • Monthly and Quarterly unlimited bus passes. Their prices have also increased immensely.

It is said that if you are traveling in train at peak hours and you maintain your patience, your clothes are not torn and you safely reach your destination, you have won a war. Same concept applies on buses, including another factor of not harassed by people.

A regular bus commuter Swadesh Kumar Pathak says, “Even though most Mumbaikars prefer local trains to commute, buses also cater to a large group. They are bit time consuming due to heavy traffic in city and sometimes are roller-coaster rides, thanks to pot holes, but to a large extent comfortable rides.”

Since I am too is the regular bus commuter I totally agree with him. Bus ride is roller-coaster but memorable one. One should at least travel once for the lifetime experience.

Anusha Pathak,

TYBMM Journalism.

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