The ‘hop on hop off’ (HoHo) buses launched in Mumbai in December for tourists has had a ridership of just 2,159 so far, an official of the civic-run Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking, which operates the service, said on Monday.
The service with 11 stops and covering 19 spots between 9am and 8pm was launched by Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray and was touted as an important commuting initiative for tourists in the metropolis.
”Of the 2159 passengers who travelled in HoHo buses till April 26, the highest 1187, or over 50 per cent, did so in March, while it was a low of 72 in January. The ridership figure for last month stood at 468,” the official said.
”These buses ply every 30 minutes from Juhu Chowpatty in the western part of Mumbai and CSMT in the metropolis’ south. A ride on the mid-sized AC buses, which have specially designed graphic stickers adorning the exteriors, costs Rs 250. It covers spots like Rani Baug, Girgaum Chowpatty, Siddhivinayak Temple and Gateway of India etc,” he added.
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Even a 10 per cent discount for group booking of 20 or more passengers, which was announced soon after the launch, has failed to enthuse patrons, he said.
BEST General Manager Lokesh Chandra could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
Meanwhile, the BEST’s ‘heritage tour’ service, operated with open double-decker non-AC bus service, has received overwhelming response as 34,406 tourists have used it between November 3 last year, when it was launched, and April 26.
According to BEST data, 12,039 tourists took heritage tour rides between April 1 to 26, as compared to only 2,408 tourists between November 3 to 30 last year.
”Some 76 per cent more tourists enjoyed the bus ride in April as compared to 6,813 tourists in March. The heritage bus service brought 828 per cent more earnings for the loss-making public transport body as compared to the HoHo bus service. BEST ‘s total earning from HoHo buses since its launch is Rs 5,56,560, while heritage services have brought in revenue of Rs 51,67,875,” he said.
Sunil Ganacharya, former member of BEST Committee, the policy making body of the transport undertaking, said that BEST’s first priority should be to provide adequate bus service for the citizens, instead of running HoHo bus service for tourists.
”It is not a duty of BEST undertaking to run buses for tourists. MTDC is there for this. BEST should first provide adequate bus service to Mumbai’s citizens and thereafter if it has some extra buses, it should focus on such services,” Ganacharya said.
Transport activists said the civic-run undertaking should promote its ‘travel as you like’ tickets that are valid for any route instead of running dedicated buses for tourists.
”Though the intent and idea of BEST is good, if the response of the tourists is not adequate then BEST should withdraw the service and instead ask tourists to buy ‘travel as you like’ ticket for the day,” said transport activist AV Shenoy, adding that most tourists prefer travelling in groups by private buses.