Commuters rush to board a BEST bus amidst the lockdown.
Commuters rush to board a BEST bus amidst the lockdown.
BL Soni

To cope up with the rush of commuters, the BrihanMumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking will be plying buses with increased sitting capacity starting this week.

Earlier, on September 18, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) started operating its buses at their full seating capacity. This led to an increase in ridership by nearly 30,000 passengers over the weekend in the satellite cities.

"BEST had internal discussions about plying buses at full seating occupancy from the next week. The management is ready to expand the sitting capacity inside the buses. However, we are waiting for the final nod of the government. If things fall in place, this will start in the middle of next week," a senior BEST official told Free Press Journal.

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, the undertaking had discontinued its bus services for the general public, following the imposition of the nationwide lockdown on March 22. However, it restarted its services in a phased manner from June 7, allowing only 25 sitting passengers and five standees inside the buses.

The official also maintained, once buses start operating at their full seating capacity, standees won't be allowed. "Standees will be curtailed both as a precautionary and disciplinary measure," the official maintained.

A single decker BEST conventional bus has a sitting capacity of 50 passengers. However, to maintain social distance, buses were operating at 50 per cent of their capacity, allowing only one passenger to sit in a seat. This move has been causing sheer inconvenience to daily commuters.

BEST is pressing 3,500 buses into service daily and has a regular ridership of 16 lakh passengers. By expanding the seating capacity, the daily ridership may exceed 17 lakh.

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