Mumbai Civic Diary: Know The BEST

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Old BEST Bus
BEST Ferry
BEST Ferry

Our third organisation in the Mumbai Civic Diary series is the city’s beloved Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). Popularly known for its fleet of buses, this organisation also supplies electricity to the entire stretch between Sion and Colaba and runs a ferry service connecting the quaint fishing village of Manori with the mainland at Marve, Malad. Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport is one of the oldest organisations in the city, committed to serve the citizens of Mumbai. But since its inception in 1873 as the Bombay Tramway Company Limited, it has come a long way and transformed into several avatars. The history of this organisation traces its evolution from owning horse drawn trams to buses that run on CNG today.

BEST Tram
BEST Tram

History of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)
The Bombay Tramway Company granted license in the year 1874, a year after it was set up to run tram-cars drawn by horses! The company ran horse drawn trams till 1905 when it was bought over by the newly established Bombay Electric Supply and Tramway Company. This new entity enjoyed a monopoly of supplying electricity to the city and also running an electric tram-car. Two years after the acquisition, the first electric tram plied from the municipal building to Crawford market and back. This development redefined the way people of Bombay travelled. The fares were lower, the seating was comfortable and most importantly it was much faster!

BEST Trolley Bus
BEST Trolley Bus

It was only by 1920 that unique double decker tram-cars were introduced to cope up with the rush hour traffic. Since, 1913 the officers of the Company, Municipal and Police authorities of the city were contemplating on introducing motor buses or trolley buses. The debate stretched for almost 13 years until 1926 when a decision to launch the first motor bus services was taken. The service was received with great enthusiasm by the press and common folk.

However, for a long time it remained out of reach of the masses as trams were a cheaper option. 11 years after the iconic Double Decker bus made its debut on the streets of Bombay and has been popular among the citizens ever since!

In 1946, the BMC decided to purchase the BEST and Company, and in its new avatar it came to be known as BEST Undertaking. Look up the major landmarks of the BEST here or follow the evolution in pictures on this post written by Garima.

BEST Tempo
BEST Tempo

BEST Organization
The company is headed by a General Manager (GM), usually an officer belonging to the IAS. The Transport division is headed by an Assistant General Manager (AGM). The operations of the city is divided in 5 zones with 5 bus depots in every zone. The bus depots serves as a  centre for every area and is equipped with wireless vehicles, control room, maintenance facilities for the buses and convenience facilities for the staff. It also serves as a venue for dispute redressal.

The Electricity Supply division is headed by a Deputy GM and he is assisted by an AGM. The area of operations is divide in two zones. Four chief engineers overlook different aspect of this division for example, operations, customer care, training, street lighting, maintenance etc. A team of 17 corporators belonging to the ruling party are elected to the BMC form the BEST committee. This committee is headed by a Chairman and approves the budget and plays a supervisory role over the management.

Old BEST Bus
Old BEST Bus

Key Services Of The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)
Wide Array of Routes: The BEST is committed to spreadins its bus network as extensively as possible. The current routes link not just the places within the municipal limits of the city but also connect Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira-Bhayander with Mumbai.
Midi Buses: Neighbourhoods with narrow lanes are connected with the other areas through Midi buses which are compact in size and easy to maneuver around in such areas.
Ladies Special: The BEST runs special bus services for ladies on key routes during peak hours.
Reservation of Seats: On all buses a strict reservation policy is followed for women, the specially abled, senior citizens and pregnant women. It also provides concessional fare for the visually challenged and students on all bus services except the air conditioned ones.
Hire a Bus: This unique facility allows any individual to hire a bus from the BEST for a stipulated time duration. Single and Double deck buses along with open air and air conditioned ones are available for hire at reasonable rates. Click here to hire a BEST bus online.

BEST Of Recent TImes
BEST Of Recent TImes

New Initiatives of The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)
The BEST is a highly dynamic company. With changing times, it has adapted itself to meet the increasing demands of the city’s population. Modernization is a key underlying theme of all the changes that have introduced over the years. Most of the buses in the fleet are Bharat Stage 3 vehicles.

CNG Buses: Several new buses that run on Compressed Natural Gas have been introduced as an eco-friendly measure taken to reduce the reliance on diesel. These buses are prone to make less noise than their diesel counterparts and hence add to the reduction of noise pollution too.
A/C Luxury Buses: From its humble beginnings in 1998 and attempts at luring customers to use this service, the AC bus services enjoys a loyal following. The newly introduced King Long buses have made the ride on the bus a much smoother and a relaxed experience. The AC express buses ply long distances and make use of flyovers to reduce the total travel time.
Ferry Bus Services: These buses run on a circuitous route and charge a flat fare. They mostly connect business districts with railway stations.
Smart Cards and Electronic Ticket Machines: The days of fighting with the conductor for change are soon going to be a thing of the past. As smart cards which double as monthly passes for regular travelers aims at making bus travel – cashless. The electronic machines don’t have the same charm as the older metal boxes but they are capable of validating the smart cards and are far more efficient while calculating the days accounts.
Surveillance Systems and Infotainment: CCTV cameras are being installed at both the gates as a security measure. LCD screens which provide entertainment and information have also been installed in the buses. A new system that announces the next stop has also been installed, however, one does miss the conductor’s announcement of the next stop each time.
Day Pass: For a nominal amount one is entitled to travel as many number of times as one desires on all the available routes for a period of 24 hours. This is very useful for travelers and tourists alike.

BEST Charabanc
BEST Charabanc

Contacting The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)
Toll Free Helpline – 1800 227550: A most efficient helpline that can help you with the next bus on  a specified bus route, bus routes connecting places to your current location and numbers of various depots.
Lost Property Claims – 022-24128596: It is only human that one can forget something on the bus. The Lost Property section has been in existence since 1947. It is housed at Wadala Depot and the BEST policy for lost and found items lays down a strict procedure for collecting and returning the objects. Employees are also rewarded for depositing high value goods.
Suggestions – The BEST also welcomes suggestions from the common public for operating newer bus routes. One may contact them on  transport@bestundertaking.com.

The BEST website is extremely user friendly and detailed. It lists most of the information that one may require. It is regularly updated and features remarkable sections. The history section is noteworthy but the Route Network that lets you plan your trip around the city is the best. Another cool feature is the Energy Consumption Chart that helps you calculate the amount of energy that you consume daily and monthly. One may also register/renew their daily passes online. Various application forms can also be downloaded from the website.

Accountability of The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST)
The BEST Committee comprises of Corporators elected by the people belonging to wards of the BMC. They essentially are public representatives and should be reached for all matters of public interest. However, the BEST also encourages suggestions or complaints to be sent to the Public Relations Officer at pro@bestundertaking.com or call them on 2281 6656, 2284 1255.

Complaints regarding errant staff can be lodged at the nearest bus station/depot. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled and the complainant is requested to be present at the depot to which the staff member belongs. If the staff member is found to be guilty by the presiding officer then a letter detailing the action taken is dispatched to the complaint after the hearing.

The BEST is complementary to the Railways and plays a big role in the way the citizens travel. The very nature of this mass transit service is to reduce the pressure on the already congested roads and encourage people to use public transport. This solves a multitude of problems relating to civic amenities, environment, traffic and overall health of the citizens. Even after the recent hike in fares, the service still remains to be one of the cheapest mode of transport, second only to the railways. It is one of the best ways to take in the sights and sounds of the beautiful city that we live.

For more on BEST routes, watch out for our article on the Best BEST routes of the city soon!

Post By Rushikesh Kulkarni (22 Posts)

Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.

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Rushikesh Kulkarni

Rushikesh Kulkarni
Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.