In the last two articles, I have tried to suggest a few measures which would help develop the two gateways of Patna – Patna Junction and Patna Airport in a passenger-centric manner. This article would try to explore possibilities of improving the facilities at third important gateway – Bus Terminuses.

A few months back I had to visit the ISBT at Kashmiri Gate in New Delhi. It was in deplorable condition with crumbling infrastructure, leaking lavatories and small enquiry cum ticket cabins devoid of the relevant personnel. The unsheltered area was either flooded (I went during the peak of Monsoon season) or strewn with filth. I wondered how this important landmark was left behind of the beautification drive led by the various authorities of Delhi in the run up to the Commonwealth games.

"Perhaps they thought the international tourists would not avail the bus facility from ISBT" – my friend tried his hand in the root-cause analysis.

I pointed out the group of tourists standing at a corner visibly upset with the facilities available at the terminus. I illustrated the incident above to drive the point that while developing other important gateways to a state/city, one cannot ignore the Bus Stand(s). Any gateway should at least ensure basic amenities to all the passengers and make their stay as comfortable as possible.

Take for examples, my experiences at the bus stands of Chandigarh (Sector 17) and Bangalore (Majestic) – while I do not claim that they offer world class facilities, there seemed to be an effort to address the concerns of passengers by providing decent amenities (I do not know about the present as my experiences are a bit dated).

Coming to the topic – what do the bus terminuses in Patna offer to its passengers? Patna as we all know has two major intercity bus terminuses – one for the state owned vehicles near Gandhi Maidan while the other for the private operators at Mithapur.

At present I do not think they offer anything other than the facility to board and de-board buses in the name of passenger amenities. There have been news reports to suggest that the state government has been planning to give a facelift to the government bus stand by providing better facilities including a shopping complex. It is a welcome move but we need to be cautious in switching to the celebratory mode considering the past records of various departments in the state.

While one can be hopeful for the upgrade of the government bus stand, there is no sign of relief for passengers at the Mithapur private bus stand. This stand has always been in news and mostly due to wrong reasons – news reports suggest that criminals rein the place and the passengers are usually a harassed lot. There were some reports a few years back about the relocation of the existing bus stand to two different locations (on 10 acres plot each) – one at Pahari and other at Saguna More area. Nothing substantial have been heard since then.

Let us look what basic facilities an ideal bus terminal should offer to both the passengers as well as the operators:

Passengers:

1. Ticketing facilities including advance reservation
2. Cloak rooms, waiting rooms
3. Toilets, washrooms
4. Public addressing and information system
5. Clean, hygienic surroundings

Operators:

1. Parking facilities for buses
2. Offices, rest rooms and facilities for operating/running staff
3. Fuelling station
4. Maintenance facilities (bus washing/minor repair and servicing facilities)

The above mentioned are the minimum facilities that should be present at any bus terminal. Both the existing intercity/interstate bus terminuses in Patna do not offer many of these at present. My last tryst with both these (almost a year back) were not pleasant – I had captured the chaos, filth and mismanagement on my camera phone but could not publish the same as I lost the access due to memory card corruption.

As stated previously above mentioned factors are must for any bus terminal but as a gateway to the Capital City of a state which has a rich tradition and glorious past, I think Patna’s bus terminuses should offer more to the people. Let us ponder over the next few points and see if these can be viable (and hopefully valuable) addition to the amenities, infrastructure along with the discussed few:

1. The existing compound of private bus stand in Mithapur does not boast of concrete floors – it results in inconvenience to the passengers especially during the rainy season. Is it that difficult to provide concrete flooring and boundary to the entire compound?

2. Chaos runs supreme with each bus operator competing to ‘grab’ the next passengers. With no proper demarcation for buses to various destinations passengers are usually the confused lot. Why can’t we have a platform system where platforms are dedicated to the buses of specific routes thereby reducing the chaos and the resulting confusion? With proper display system about the schedule, availability and fares of buses, it would act as a delight factor for the passengers. Further, each platform should have shelter and seating arrangements for the benefit of the passengers.

3. Administration in consultation with the operators (both private and government) should come up with viable schedule for each route to ensure optimal availability of buses round the clock.

4. A capital city represents the culture and heritage of the state and a gateway should allow people to experience, cherish the feel of the state. It would make sense to have a government operated memorabilia, or artifact shop in the premises to allow people to carry the memories with them. It would also give a boost to the artisans of the state (especially with the plan to introduce bus services to the neighbouring states).

Also, quality shops for delicacies of the state (Maner ka laddu, Silao ka Khaja etc.) at such gateways would allow passengers to take ‘sweet’ presents back home. This can be a small way of marketing different aspects of life in Bihar.

5. It also brings me to the important topic of food – the bus terminuses should boast of standard facilities for refreshments for the passengers and others. Thousands of passengers board buses daily from these two terminuses. A food plaza would be ideal for this setting.

6. As I have already suggested in the article on Patna Junction, engagement with the passengers becomes very important in turning a transportation hub into a cultural center. The aspect of entertainment/engagement ranks very high on the list of hapless passengers waiting for their transport. The availability of entertainment avenues like a sports zone, multiplex, theatre, shopping center would not only charm the passengers but would also draw residents of the neighbouring areas to such gateways increasing the viability of such ventures.

7. This would mean integrating facilities for parking of private vehicles as well for other public transports like city buses, autos and hand rickshaws within the premises for the benefit of the general public.

8. Another important aspect would be the availability of lodging facilities. While both the locations have hotels, lodges in the vicinity, it would make more sense if the administration would be able to develop decent budget lodging facilities within the premises itself.

9. The topping would be to add another dimension hitherto missing from the existence of the two terminuses – Security. With increasing engagement of the general public with such gateways, it would become important to ensure their safety. Administration would have to work hard to earn the trust of normal public in this aspect.

Patna is on a growth path and with each passing day its gateways would cater to more and more people. It becomes extremely important that these gateways act efficiently and present a good image of the capital city / state. The planning should be made keeping the future in mind with the objective of catering to the aspirations of the people.