How we Re-imagined the BEST experience for Mumbai citizens?
The City of Mumbai moves starting 4:30 a.m. and continues till late night and spilling over into the early hours of next day. The City never sleeps, they say. With over 2.7Cr population (2022)1 , Mumbai has a strong and efficient public transport system. BEST buses with a fleet size of over 3000 buses and over 500+ routes play an important role in helping people reach their destinations. Typically these buses move around 40 million people across the City. But over the years, the BEST buses have seen their services and revenues debilitating. There have been no real upgrades, only few route extensions. Having an office in one of the prominent commercial hubs of mumbai, Nariman Point, we were witnessing something heartbreaking. The Bus operators were calling out to people to use their bus services. We were reading in the news about the situation faced by the BEST understaking. Article 1 , Article 2
We thought how can Design help in this situation? Design has the power to influence people, their perception and their behaviour while eliminating negative or limiting biases. So can Design truly help create an impact - for BEST Undertaking on one hand and the citizens on the other hand? Can Design help in creating a scenario where everyone wins?
What started as a candid intellectual discussions soon turned into a self-commissioned project. We didnt know about what we wanted to achieve. We only wanted to explore the possibilities through design. We were all driven. We started putting in our own efforts for research. Some of team members were already using the bus services. But couple of them actually spent few hours traveling long distances using only bus services. They conversed with fellow passengers in the bus as well as at bus stops, conductors, drivers, ticket checkers and others who use/used the services.
The next 4-5 months were spent in benchmarking world class cities and their transportation systems, reading reports for City Infrastructure Development, and also reaching out to few people on their vision of Mumbai City 2030 or 2035.
We started building scenarios, ideating, sketching designing systems that can be taken up for immediate implementation - in phases - within a span of 5-7 years thus helping build a foundation for future growth. We were conceptualising multiple solutions to address all the issues that we found. We finally had book of solutions. We touched upon bus quality, ride quality, passenger wait time and wait experience, bus ride experience for passenger, for conductor as well as the driver.
The solutions came in the form of redesigned EV buses with on-the-go charging facility, redesigned bus stops that made the waiting experience for passengers more productive and meaningful, micro-bus services, premium bus services, express services, digital control room for bigdata display and analysis, essential value added services within the buses and enabling digital solutions. Through a rough calculation of the impact of few of these solutions, we realized that the BEST buses can be made profitable. And we deliberately kept the advertisement as a revenue model out of the equation. We wanted the beautiful buses to be seen and recognized for what they are and not wrapped in any advertising material. And all these solutions required multiple Government bodies and Private Companies to work in together for achieving 100% success. And although we believe this is possible, we knew that even if we implement 50% of these solutions it would change the face of BEST buses in Mumbai city for good. And may this could pave the way for implementing the rest of it.
We were happy to see our effort published in the 77th issue of POOL Design Magazine in January 2016 in India.